University High School celebrates 20 years of excellence

Head of school, James Bushman, holds a copy of The Collegian with the grand opening of University High School 20 years ago on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. (Larry Valenzuela/The Collegian)

Toward the end of the late ‘90s, the concept of starting a college preparatory charter school on the campus of Fresno State was conceived, thus University High School (UHS) was born out of the necessity “to create a school that articulated a vision for education in the 21st century.”

After 20 years, UHS has never lost sight of the commitment to its philosophy. Today, the school will be celebrating its 20 year anniversary after opening its doors in the fall of 2000-01.

“What we are looking for is for a special student who is interested in a very strong, rigorous college preparatory class and [who] has a love of music,” said former head of school Brad Huff, in an article of The Collegian from 2000, which highlighted its opening.

UHS was able to find those willing to be challenged, with its initial freshman class of 100, and the goal of pushing its students through a rigorous required curriculum that includes emphasizing the arts, as well as courses on the Fresno State campus.

In 2019, 56% of UHS’s graduates had a cumulative GPA of 4.0 or above, 98% had a 3.0 or above and 100% had a 2.75 or above. The class of 2019 also had 105 students (88%) attending 4-year colleges and 14 (12%) attending 2-year colleges, with 41% percent funneling into Fresno State specifically.

“Our student will leave our campus having completed nearly two years’ worth of college work,” said current head of school James Bushman. “When you look at the graduation rate from students from other high schools at Fresno State, our student’s four-year graduation rate is three times higher than the average student.”

Once housed in three portables west of the Music Building, it is now home to nearly 500 students from 15 cities.

“Our reports say it [UHS] is rigorous. They’re [our students] getting good grades, they’re all going to college, they’re graduating at higher rates,” Bushman said. “So, I am proud of that, because not everybody can say they achieved what they said they were going to achieve.

Bushman has been with the school since 2005.

“This has become the home of many folks who, like me, love developing a school for students that we serve,” Bushman said. “We are out to create the perfect high school experience we can for our students, and all of our staff are committed to working on that goal.”

As the years pass, UHS has continued to offer students opportunities to hone their musical talent with skills ranging from reading music, composing and using musical technology programs that students wouldn’t learn any other place.

“Studying the arts is an important thing. Why should math, science and history get all the love from the students,” Bushman said. “It is from the arts that we learn creativity, learn how to create, learn how to understand the beauty.”

The student body of UHS will be showcasing those talents during its annual “Magic of the Arts” celebration, an event held at Saroyan Theatre on Oct. 19. Every student will be on stage in a variety show atmosphere in accordance with the 20 year anniversary of UHS.

“We book out Saroyan Theatre, and our entire student body will be on stage putting on a big show,” Bushman said. “We will sell out the theater, and this year we plan on making the show all about our 20th year.”

The list of invitees who will be attending the event include Fresno State President Dr. Joseph I. Castro, newly appointed Provost and UHS board of directors member Dr. Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, also board members Dr. Xuanning Fu and Dr. Ram Nunna and President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Dr. Frank R. Lamas. It is also open to the public.

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