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Santa Barbara High MAD Academy Hits Record Enrollment

Students, teachers, parents and community partner to make multi-media program a success

Students help build homes during 2017 MAD community service trip to Mexico.
Students help build homes during 2017 MAD community service trip to Mexico. (MAD Academy)

Founded in 1996 with 46 students, Santa Barbara High School's Multimedia Arts & Design Academy (MAD), now in its 21st year, has grown to maximum capacity of 350 students.

The MAD program is a distinctive educational community combining the best cultures of public and private schools.

It is housed in a state-of-the-art multimedia facility, complete with the latest software and equipment, and prides itself in providing an academic environment in which students find their passion while acquiring professional media arts skills.

MAD’s close-knit culture and learning environment is experiential, project-based, innovative and fun. Academic classes are offered at the AP levels with college credit as well as college preparatory.

MAD graduates are attending prestigious universities, premiere art schools and the top media art programs in the country. Alumni are working in careers as diverse as film, music, animation, education, and private business.

The MAD Academy consists of a diverse mix of students from a broad range of social, cultural, economic and academic backgrounds, many coming from homes where English is a second language.

MAD’s success depends upon the partnerships among students, teachers, parents and the community, who contribute through a combination of financial support and service.

The emphasis on giving back to the community is highlighted by MAD’s annual community service trip to Mexico, where students travel to help build housing for local families.

“The trip to Mexico is definitely a bonding experience," said Matty Pierce, a Santa Barbara High senior who attends the MAD Academy.

"During the trip you get to know other MAD students in different grades, meet the families who will be living in the houses we help to build, and then all share meals together,” she said.

MAD’s director Dan Williams, emphasizes the cross-culture importance of the experience. “The community service trip gives our students a sense of empowerment that they can change the world for the better,” he said.

The MAD Academy is one of numerous specialized academies’ offered within the Santa Barbara Unified School District.

All MAD Academy students graduate with workplace, internship and community service skills, while 99 percent of MAD students go on to college.

For information about the MAD Academy, visit, or contact Pablo Sweeney at [email protected]

— Kim Clark for MAD Academy.

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