Points of View

Inclusive school culture leads to student success

Sam Stebbins

A recent Washington Post article explains why San Diego’s Health Sciences High and Middle College was one of the winners of the 2017 Schools of Opportunity project. This school uses innovative methods to create a positive and inclusive culture, which helps students succeed academically. Health Sciences High and Middle College (HSHMC) enrolls 584 students, and 67% of them are considered economically disadvantaged.


Supporting students

In addition to a “broad and enriched curriculum,” the Schools of Opportunity project looks for schools which provide physical and mental health support for students and utilize fair discipline policies. HSHMC has built a culture which prioritizes students’ self-regulation and agency and “asks the same of its students, faculty and staff that we ask of doctors: to do no harm.”


The school utilizes restorative practices to bring students and teachers together when there is conflict which “focuses on healing through cooperative dialogue.” This allows students to resolve issues quickly and return to learning. Students comment that they feel supported and valued by their teachers, often saying that the school feels “like a family.”


The school encourages diversity by actively seeking out students with disabilities. Resources are provided to these students to ensure their success in the classroom, and they are encouraged to join clubs and build connections with their peers.


Supportive culture leads to academic success

HSHMC has “no admissions requirements or other barriers to access.” Students choose to attend based on their interest in pursuing careers in health care.


Students at HSHMC follow a rigorous curriculum that includes free community college courses as well as internships beginning in ninth grade.  Internships allow students to “gain valuable experience and have the opportunity to explore their passions.” Through the internships, students may try careers early and gain an understanding of the path they want to pursue after graduation.


HSHMC has a four-year graduation rate of 98%, and seniors typically graduate with 12-24 college credits.