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Santa Barbara High’s MAD Academy Takes Multimedia to the Next Level

The program grows on despite a pending $1.5 million state grant ensnared in California's budget standoff

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Santa Barbara High’s Multimedia Arts and Design Academy (MAD Academy) and its director, Dan Williams, recently announced a $1,500,000 Career Technical Education Grant from the state Department of Education. Unfortunately, California’s budget crisis froze the pending grant.

“The grant will eventually allow the Multimedia Academy to modernize and expand its current facility, opening up new opportunities to address the evolving educational
needs of students in the Santa Barbara community,” Williams said.

“We are continuing our fundraising efforts to match the state’s grant. The goal is to have the expanded facility available for students enrolling in our 2010-2011 academic year.”

Students at Santa Barbara High's MAD Academy make an annual housing-building trip to Mexico as part of their community service outreach.
Students at Santa Barbara High’s MAD Academy make an annual housing-building trip to Mexico as part of their community service outreach. (Cawthon family photo)

The Mulitmedia Academy is an academically integrated, career focused “school-within-a-school” at Santa Barbara High School, which also offers a Visual Arts & Design Academy and a Green Academy.

Academy teachers collaboratively create innovative, relevant and meaningful curriculum that engage students in learning. The MAD Academy offers multimedia courses that include animation, digital imaging, video editing, Web design, digital photography and video production for 50 students per grade beginning in the sophomore year. Each year the combined efforts of the parents, Williams and a Board of Directors raise more than $200,000 to cover equipment and operating costs.

In their ninth-grade year, both GATE and non-GATE students apply to the MAD Academy through a competitive process that includes teacher recommendations and an interview with Williams.

“We are looking for a diverse student body with students who have an interest in multimedia and a willingness to perform at a high academic level and to participate fully in a small learning community,” Williams explained. “We have already accepted 28 freshmen during an early admission process for next fall. We are currently reviewing applications for the remaining 22 openings and will announce acceptances in March.”

Suzy Cawthon, parent of sophomore Bennett Cawthon, describes the opportunity.

“Parents really love the MAD Academy as a school within a school,” she said. “Our kids get individualized attention with courses that offer real work experiences. Their access to internships at local businesses develops leadership and team-building skills. One of the favorite aspects of the academy is the annual community service house-building trip to Mexico.”

“The Multimedia Academy prepares students for the globally competitive economy by focusing on American strengths: entrepreneurship, creativity, cross-cultural appreciation, and compassion,” Williams said. “The house-building trip to Mexico also confronts student apathy by putting them in the midst of a problem, giving them the necessary tools and allowing them to meet the immediate, basic needs of others.

“The confidence and inner peace derived from meeting the basic needs of others has been life changing for many of our students and their parents alike.”

Students will present the academy’s 2009 Winter Showcase from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s Ridley-Tree Education Center, 1600 Santa Barbara St. Exhibits will include animation, design, film and photography projects. Admission is free.

Click here for more information about the MAD Academy or contact director Dan Williams at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Melissa Marsted is a Noozhawk contributor, author and freelance writer.

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