Mount Tom Academy

An alternative high school at Holyoke Community College

Established in 1999, the Mount Tom Academy program at Holyoke Community College is an alternative high school for students at risk of dropping out of school. Mount Tom Academy is designed to serve students who have been unsuccessful in a traditional high school setting and may benefit from alternative placement. The program offers an open, diverse environment that challenges students while providing a high level of support.

The program utilizes self-directed learning methods that engage reluctant learners in their own educational process. The goal of the program is to provide a learning environment that addresses and removes students’ objections to study and learning, engages them in self-directed learning, and promotes achievement among students who would otherwise be likely to drop out. The strengths, talents, and unique abilities of each student are identified so that learning may proceed at the pace best for each individual. Modern technological tools and methods of education provide opportunities for remediation and individualized enrichment.

Mount Tom Academy was the first alternative high school in Massachusetts to have a setting in a state community college. The program was started through a grant from DESE, and has been located at HCC for the past 12 years. Since 1999, Mount Tom Academy has assisted numerous students in qualifying for an MCAS high school diploma.

Services Provided

The program offers a small, flexible and individualized learning environment that accommodates a wide variety of learning styles. Students and teachers work together to build individual learning packets and schedules for completion of schoolwork. Course work is matched to the sending high school curriculum.

Students participate in the selection of study methods and time frames for their work completion.

Qualified teachers and college staff provide instruction and remediation to the students. The program utilizes standard high school textbooks and is assisted by the college-level Plato online curriculum learning system. The Plato system offers remediation practice, review of material, accelerated learning and methods for credit recovery.

Students are encouraged to attend regular college classes for dual credit opportunity. Ninety percent of Mt. Tom Academy students achieve success and graduate from high school.

Academic studies are reinforced when learning meets developmental needs and is connected to real life experiences. Our program includes School-to-Work opportunities that allow students to explore aspects of industry, model workplace behavior, and achieve job skills. Through mentorships, job shadowing, workplace visits, volunteering, and part-time employment, students develop a sense of community and social responsibility that build self-esteem, respect, and regard for others.

Population Served

Mount Tom Academy serves students from school districts throughout the Pioneer Valley.
Sending districts have in the past included Gateway Regional, Hatfield, Northampton, Easthampton, Agawam, Granby, Gateway Regional and Hadley.

Students considering our program should:
• Be between the ages of 16 and 22
• Be unsuccessful in a traditional high school setting
• Have completed at least one year of high school
• Demonstrate maturity and a willingness to attend classes in a college environment

How can I learn more?


To apply for admission to Mount Tom Academy, start by scheduling an appointment with the guidance counselor at your local high school. The counselor can provide instructions and help with your application, which must inculde:

  • A copy of your high-school transcript and a copy of your most current report card
  • A copy of any Chapter 766 Individualized Education PLan (IEP) and/or a Secton 504 Accomodation Plan
  • Approval of the principle or director of the sending high school (required if currently enrolled)
  • Students who have previously left school must obtain a referral from their high school to be in a diploma program
  • Complete the College Placement Test and the Career Assessment Test (at your high school or at Holyoke Community College)

While attending Mount Tom Academy students remain on the enrollment roster of the school district sending the student. Students follow the course of study of their sending high school. The local school district determines credits required for graduation and issues the high school diploma.

For more information about Mount Tom Academy and how to pursue enrollment, contact:

Matt Rigney, Program Coordinator, Mount Tom Academy, 413.522.8322

or William Diehl, Deputy Executive Director, Collaborative for Educational Services, 413.586.4900, X110