County students get a head start

Published: Monday, January 22, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 21, 2007 at 10:32 p.m.
On any given weekday in an Alachua County high school, you may find students whipping up a souffle, developing a business plan or building a storage shed. They may be learning to put out fires, care for an infant, or perform CPR. They may be repairing a transmission or feeding livestock. But whatever these students may be doing during the school day, the ultimate goal is the same; to prepare them for successful careers.
Nearly 1,000 Alachua County students are enrolled in one of Alachua County's Career Magnet Academies. While working toward their high school diplomas, these students are also developing highly marketable job skills in a wide range of fields, such as health care, finance, construction and criminal justice. They also have the opportunity to earn certification and/or college credits while still in high school, meaning they will be well on their way toward lucrative careers by the time they graduate.
Many local high school students also are able to put what they are learning in the classroom into practice in the workplace. With the help of local businesses, the district is able to provide many career academy students the opportunity to work in their chosen field during the school year or over the summer. That kind of real world experience makes such students highly marketable in today's competitive world.
As a result, some students move right into the workplace after high school, while others take advantage of agreements the district has with Santa Fe Community College and other institutions to continue their career training. Many also receive valuable scholarships as a result of the work they've done in high school. Either way, Alachua County's career academy students have an enormous head-start on their futures thanks to the skills and experiences they've gained in high school.
Recognizing that the jobs of the 21st century will require both academic and technical skills, Florida will require all students entering high school in the fall of 2007 to declare a major area of interest. Alachua County's career academies are all among the high school majors approved by the state. And because the academies are magnet programs, Alachua County students are not limited by where they live. They can apply to any academy, and if they are accepted, they'll be provided with a zoning exception and transportation to their chosen school.
The families of all Alachua County Public School 8th graders have been invited to the district's annual Career Academy Forum, which will be held at the Buchholz High School auditorium on Thursday from 7-8 p.m.
Representatives from each of the programs will be at the forum with displays and information about eligibility and the application process.
The academies will also hold open houses between the end of January and mid-February so that students and parents can visit them in person. A full schedule and a description of all academies is available on the district's website at or by calling the Department of Career and Technical Education at 955-7600.
I encourage all families to take advantage of these activities to learn more about the opportunities available to their students. It's never too early to begin planning for a successful future.
Nancy Iafrate is director of Career and Technical Education for Alachua County Public Schools.

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