Other Voices: What Bitney College Prep is all about | TheUnion.com

Other Voices: What Bitney College Prep is all about

I am constantly amazed when I speak with parents and discover they do not really know about Bitney College Prep High School (formerly Bitney Springs).

Unfortunately, some parents I have spoken with had the misconception that Bitney is an alternative education high school. Bitney is a college prep, public charter school. Bitney’s difference is about being a small high school and offers students an enhanced learning environment.

When my oldest daughter was in eighth grade, I wanted to make sure I was enrolling her in the best possible choice among area high schools. I researched Bitney and read the school motto, “Where Students are Known, Respected and Educated.” I read those words a second time and really absorbed them, also taking into account that teen issues include depression, sensitivity, aggression, lack of sleep, eating disorders, suicide and pregnancy.

I realized that being known and respected – in essence, having a sense of self – as well as being educated, was definitely something I wanted for my daughter. It was also very important to me to be able to walk into the school office and have the staff know me and know which student was my child. If I approached, called or e-mailed a teacher, I wanted ease of communication discussing my daughter’s grade. I found these great qualities at Bitney.

Last year, our family hosted an exchange student from Belgium who attended Bitney with my daughter. During the application process, I specified that Bitney was a small school so that my “host daughter” would not arrive expecting to attend a large American high school. I did not know at that time that Sarah and her parents did not have a choice of host families.

Sarah had attended large schools in Belgium and in Holland but she took immediately to the small school experience. In fact, she absolutely loved it. She joined Bitney’s Ultimate Frisbee team, Air Traffic Control, and spent wonderful weekends traveling to and participating in college-level tournaments. At one tournament, the team was voted the friendliest, and it is no surprise.

Sarah made friends very quickly and enjoyed the close-knit camaraderie among Bitney students. She took art classes and was involved in painting the beautiful mural the Bitney students created in the Bitney Bistro lunch café.

For me, an annual highlight has been the talent show. Student art is displayed and the students put on a show that is more than worth the price of admission – which includes dinner! Not only is the talent always entertaining and impressive, the support shown to fellow students is nothing less than heartening. The musical finales the past two years have been great – one year, the dean took the stage with a group of young musicians and closed the show with “Let It Be” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling.”

We have begun our third year at Bitney and yes, this is still the school I want my daughter, and her sisters, to attend. When I walk it the office, I am recognized. When I walk through the small campus, teachers and parents greet me by name. My daughter has not been lost on an overcrowded campus. For this, I am grateful.

Toward the end of last year, my exchange student related this event to me: She was with some fellow students at the Bitney campus when one of them waved to an Nevada Union student who was standing some distance away. The NU student did not respond, so another Bitney student waved without response. Soon a number of Bitney students were smiling and waving to the NU student. When she finally gave a slight wave in return, the Bitney students cheered. They had stuck together and accomplished their small goal. Sarah told me, “That’s what Bitney is about.”

Carol Fulkerson lives in Penn Valley.

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