Construction begins on campus for alternative placement program

Carlos Cohen stands near the site of where the new Middle School Opportunity Program classroom will be built. Credit: Emma Huebner/The Foothill Dragon Press.

Emma Huebner

Carlos Cohen stands near the site of where the new Middle School Opportunity Program classroom will be built. Credit: Emma Huebner/The Foothill Dragon Press.

Carlos Cohen enjoys a challenge. After teaching AP and honors classes in Santa Barbara for eight years, Cohen felt the tug to work with those who were less fortunate.

He is a firm believer that any student can succeed.

With these beliefs, he began teaching in the Middle School Opportunity Program five months ago. The program is alternative placement for Ventura Unified middle school students who have not been successful at their current middle schools.

“These kids have the potential,” Cohen said. “They just need the tools…care, and a lot of love.”

The program’s current location is at the Boys and Girl’s Club on Johnson Road; however, the district plans to move it into a portable classroom behind Foothill’s parking lot in the near future.  The program is moving to Foothill perhaps as early as March so that Cohen and his students will be connected with the academic resources that they need.

“That’s why Foothill is a perfect place,” Cohen said. “They have so much.”

The portable classroom will look similar to the other buildings on campus, with the same stucco and paint. “The inside will be up to speed with the campus here,” Cohen said.

Currently, there are 11 students on Cohen’s roster. Foothill students will probably interact with them in a variety of ways.

“Serving as mentors, going on field trips together, helping out in the classroom, possibly being TAs,” Cohen said. “And hopefully just hanging out too.”

The middle school students will have nutrition time on campus and will have access to the media center and labs.

Cohen works hard to help his students find success in a structured environment.

“It’s heart-warming and fulfilling to see the students turn around. It’s nice to know that you’re a key component of that,” he said. “It’s a program that’s had different lives in the district…but obviously here it is going to have a home, its own home.”

What do you think?