Wrapping a high school curriculum around a special subject such as art, design, engineering, leadership, health care or entrepreneurship can make high school a better experience for students, said Daniel Barnett, director of the Visual Arts and Design Academy at Santa Barbara High School.
“High school doesn’t have to suck; if that’s your opinion, you just haven’t found the right spot,” he told eighth-graders at Goleta Valley Junior High School on Tuesday morning.
“It’s fantastic,” Goleta Valley Junior High School Principal Veronica Rogers said. “We’ve been trying to get this at the junior highs for a few years now.”
Since the transfer deadline is in early February, the district wanted to introduce junior high students to the programs now, when they have a chance to choose a school.
Academy students will show off their skills at a special showcase and open house Wednesday night from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Earl Warren Showgrounds. Families and community members are invited to check out the different programs and get more information about the transfer deadlines.
Amir Abo-Shaeer, director of Dos Pueblos High School’s Engineering Academy, said his program is the place for people who like to create things and make things with their hands. Classes combine engineering with art, have industry mentors visit and teach students to create high-functioning robots from scratch.
“We’ve built a facility and environment where you can dare to dream,” Abo-Shaeer said.
None of the directors brought students — they’re all taking finals this week — but academy students will be on hand for the trade-show-style showcase on Wednesday night.
Dos Pueblos’ International Baccalaureate program lets students put an international focus on all their classes, coordinator Karen Beckstead said, adding that there are practical lessons with opportunities outside the classroom and community service projects.
Santa Barbara High’s VADA incorporates art into core subjects with special projects, such as creating a mural of a book’s theme for an English class.
The Multimedia Arts and Design Academy students at Santa Barbara High focus on digital media doing web and graphic design, photography, videography and community service projects, director Dan Williams said. He hated school as a kid, he said, so he wanted to find a way to make school engaging and educational for students interested in digital arts.
For San Marcos High School, Health Careers Academy director Marcene Newman showed a video of students practicing blood draws on a plastic dummy, “Alex.” This academy gives students experience in nursing and pre-med courses, access to local health-care work and internships, and an opportunity to get certified as nursing assistants while still in high school.
“The kids get really close over the three years of the program,” she said.
San Marcos’ AAPLE Academy (Accelerated Academic Program for Leadership and Enrichment Academy) is a place for students who want to take Advanced Placement, honors and Santa Barbara City College courses during high school, director Erik Nielsen said. Traditional courses have a focus on leadership and getting out of the classroom, he said.
The newest program, San Marcos’ Entrepreneurship Academy, started this year. Director Alex Sheldon said the classes get students ready to start their own businesses after high school. Members of the business community work with them individually while students take SBCC dual enrollment courses in marketing, economics and finance, he said.
The district’s transfer application period opens Jan. 6 for the 2014-15 school year and the deadline is Feb. 18. The Santa Barbara district lets students transfer from school to school within the district, but hasn’t accepted people from outside the district since 2009.