The Academy Showcase may have outgrown its venue at the Earl Warren Showgrounds, as hundreds of families packed the informational event Thursday night boasting the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s academy programs.

Organizers said about 700 people attended the event last year, and it was clear Thursday night that this year’s event would beat that.

SBUSD has a transfer deadline in February, so it offers the showcase of special programs to help local eighth-graders decide where to attend high school.

Santa Barbara High School’s Computer Science Academy is the newest academy in the district, still in its first year, and students worked to educate families and recruit students to the program.

“You get to create anything you want,” said Anna Brewer, a current student in the academy. “I’ve heard people say that learning to code is the new literacy.”

Brewer and Maria DeAngelis, another Computer Science Academy student, are founders of Dream It, Code It, a nine-week Saturday lesson series for local girls in grades 5 through 9.

Students taking the Advanced Placement Computer Science class talked about learning Java and preparing for the AP test later this year. If they pass, they can get college credit for the course. 

“Going into it, I knew nothing about computer science,” Evan Heffernan said.

The academy has expanded a lot over its first year, growing from a small lab to an organization with two classrooms — including a new lab with Apple computers — and five courses for students.

Classes on iOS and Android programming, including creating apps, are developing, too, said Makala Heishima. She also pitched the SBHS Robotics Club, but she and Heffernan reminded potential students that no programming experience is necessary to come into the academy.


Students take some time to sketch at Santa Barbara High School’s VADA (Visual Arts & Design Academy) booth during Thursday night’s Academy Showcase. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

All the booths were packed with people asking questions, and San Marcos High School’s Health Careers Academy was no exception.

Sophomores Lorenzo Contolini and Delilah Kirby were both interested in medicine before they enrolled in the HCA, and their first semester of experience has only strengthened that belief, they said.

Most students came into the program with the same aspirations, to become a pediatrician or physical therapist, but now everyone has their own interests, Contolini said. He’s interested in becoming an emergency room physician or perhaps an orthopedic surgeon, and Kirby wants to pursue a career dealing with infectious disease or trauma.

They both tauted the classes, guest speakers and the emphasis on hands-on experience, saying they were very excited for the upcoming internships with local medical facilities. 

At Thursday’s second annual Academy Showcase, there were students to talk about programs at Dos Pueblos High School, including the Engineering Academy and International Baccalaureate program.

From San Marcos High School, there were representatives from the AAPLE Academy (Accelerated Academic Program for Leadership and Enrichment), the Entrepreneurship Academy and the Health Careers Academy.

Santa Barbara High School had booths for the Computer Science Academy, the MAD Academy (Multimedia Arts & Design) and the VADA Visual Arts & Design Academy.

Student interpreters from Dos Pueblos High School attended to help families get information in Spanish.

For more information about the different academy programs, click here.

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Managing Editor

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at