Nancy Ifrate: Preparing for success after school
Published: Monday, January 11, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 8, 2010 at 11:43 p.m.
On a recent Saturday morning, 17-year-old Tabitha Rivera was in uniform, working crowd control for an event in the city of Hawthorne.
As an Alachua County Sheriff's Office Explorer, Tabitha has worked many such events and even gone out on patrol with local deputies, gaining valuable law enforcement experience in the process.
She's also had a chance to put into practical use the many things she's learned in the Academy of Criminal Justice, a career academy located at Newberry High School and open to any student in Alachua County.
"In class we learn defensive tactics, handcuffing, things like that," she said. "Everything we do in the classroom, we're also doing it in Explorers."
That melding of school and real-world career experiences means Tabitha will have a big advantage over other young people when she applies for college and for a job in law enforcement afterwards.
Currently the district offers 13 career academies serving more than 1,100 high school students. The academies provide a rigorous curriculum in a wide range of fields, including health care, information technology, marketing and finance.
Like Tabitha, career/tech students have access to real-world experiences through internships and other school-to-work programs. Many earn college credits and scholarships along the way. Some even come out of high school with state certificates in their chosen fields.
Patrick Treese, the director of Newberry's Academy of Criminal Justice, says more students should take advantage of the opportunities the career academies offer. "These programs weren't around when I was in school," said Treese. "They're great because they give students so many choices and experiences that they wouldn't have otherwise."
Alachua County Public Schools is offering families of current eighth-graders the opportunity to learn more about the Academy of Criminal Justice and the district's other successful career-tech academies. The district's annual Career Academy Forum will be held Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Buchholz High School Atrium. Students and parents will view displays, talk to teachers and current students and learn more about eligibility requirements and the application process.
Each career academy will also have its own open house in January and early February. A link to the complete open house schedule is available on the district's Web site at www.sbac.edu. The link can be found under 'Upcoming Calendar' on the right-hand side of the home page. More information is also available through the district's Career and Technical Education office at 352-955-7600.
Tabitha says her time in the career academy convinced her that law enforcement was what she wanted to do with her life and put her on track to reaching that goal.
"I didn't want to be a plain old student," she said. "I wanted to be something more. This program opened my eyes and made me think hard about what I really wanted to do," she said.
I'd like to encourage other students and their families to find out how they too can get the most out of their high school careers and prepare for successful futures by exploring all that our career academies have to offer.
Nancy Iafrate is career and technical education director for Alachua County Public Schools.
Comments are currently unavailable on this article