A local public school's unique program is giving many students a head start on learning.
Registration is under way for the 1,300 students at Black Mountain Middle School, with the first day of class next Wednesday.
But some students on campus, like eighth-grader Ana Cherry, are already ahead of the game.
"We all love to learn so we have a lot in common," Ana said.
Ana and about 330 others are all a part of what is called the Academy, which is basically a school within Black Mountain Middle School in Rancho Penasquitos.
The Academy serves sixth- through eighth-graders and they start two weeks earlier than their Black Mountain Middle counterparts and get out an hour later every day.
So why would a youngster choose a longer school day? Many of the students are self-motivated.
"If I learn as much as possible, then I'll be successful for high school and college and the world beyond," Ana said.
The school is in the Poway Unified School District, which already has some of the highest test scores in San Diego County. Students in the Academy program even top that with state test scores 10 to 15 points higher on average than others in the district.
But not anyone can get into this elite group.
"We've always had more applicants than we have spots available," said Black Mountain Middle School Principal David Hall.
Those interested in getting into the Academy have to enter a lottery, followed by an interview. The interview is not just for the student, but also his or her family. The Academy requires the student's family to volunteer for the school.
"When they see that commitment, they tend to take it more serious, they tend to see this is a commitment the entire family is going to support," Hall said.
The first crop of Academy students is just entering college, so it remains to be seen how well the students do, but administrators believe it is a step in the right direction.
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