Over 750 people walked through the doors of Eastside High School Thursday evening to attend the annual Career Academy Showcase. Alachua County Public Schools faculty welcomed prospective eighth-grade students and family members to visit different displays to familiarize themselves with the 15 career academies spread amongst all the county’s high schools.
From the Academy of Criminal Justice to the Academy of Robotics and Engineering, career academy programs are intertwined with high schooler’s regular curriculum to give them learning opportunities within their chosen field of interest. Generally, the programs take up one elective credit out of the entire school day, and the rest of the class periods consist of graduation requirements such as English, math and social studies.
Shannon Ritter, the director for college and career pathways for Alachua County Public Schools, said she hoped the event would educate parents on all the benefits that career academies can offer their children.
“We will be able to tell parents and students what kind of industry certifications align with each of the different academies and what kind of internship they may get to do, according to which program they’re interested in,” she said.
She mentioned that a large incentive for students and parents alike is that students do not have to be zoned for the high school if they get in for their designated academy.
Fourteen-year-old Kevin Camps was bright-eyed and optimistic touring the showcase with his mother, Khadija. As a student at the Einstein School, Kevin is excited about high school.
“I’ve been dreaming about going to Loften [High School],” he said.
He is eager for applications to open so he can apply for the Institute of Graphic Art and Design.
As a mother, Camps feels the program will broaden her son’s perspective.
“I think it allows him to have a full perspective of what’s offered in the county,” she said. “A lot of kids coming out of middle school are not quite sure, and it’s great that a lot of these academies are kind of tailored towards what they may want to do as they get older.”
With a similar sentiment, Kathleen McNamara believes the program will unlock a new path for her middle schooler son.
“I think he’s really undecided whether he wants to go on a four-year school or looking for a vocational program so this will just give him some more opportunities,” she said.
Jayson Douglas, a 13-year-old student at Howard W. Bishop Middle School, was visiting the Academy of Health Professions display, after his affinity toward physical therapy led him to the event.
“When I was in seventh grade I hurt myself, and I went to a physical therapist, and I told them that I wanted to try it out when I got older,” he said. “So, they said to come here [the event] and look at the programs and see how I do during high school.”
He was excited about the academies offered and the potential to learn more about each of them.
“I’m pretty excited because you get to try out different programs,” he said. “Once you go to that one high school that you want to go to for the program, it’d be pretty fun.”
As a senior in that same academy for the past four years, Mia Cassle is appreciative of the opportunities has given her.
“I got to choose my clinical, and I’m doing electrocardiogram,” she said. “I’ll be certified in two weeks, and I’ll be working at Shands next semester.”
While she is unsure about her future in the medical field, she is sure about how the program has set her aside from other potential candidates.
“I’m gonna have so many hours by the time I’m finished,” she said. “I know you need a lot of hours to get into med school at the hospital, so that’s knocks out so many, and then Shands hires right out of this program so it’s really cool.”
With a similar sense of appreciation for the career academies, Alana Sanchez is a junior in the Academy of Future Teachers at Gainesville High School. Three years ago, she attended the same showcase and was struck by the academy’s display. As a lover of children and social work, she believes the program was a “perfect foundation to build off,” she said.
Now a veteran in the program, she highly recommends it to prospective students, but advises that time management skills are necessary for success.
“Your 11th and 12th grade year you do get to (complete an) internship,” she said. “So, it’s an actual feel of what it’s actually going to be like one day when you’re in the classroom. Not only do you learn about the students in your classroom, but you learn how they learn. So, what’s going to help them become a better learner? What’s going to help them understand the material that I’m teaching?”