Forum introduces students, parents to possible careers

Chef Pam Morris, left, gives Bobbie Mehan and her daughter, Lillie, 13, information about the institute of Culinary Arts on Tuesday at Buchholz High School. Parents and students were able to learn about the different Career Academy options from Alachua County Public Schools and Santa Fe College.

Matt Stamey/Staff Photographer
Published: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 8:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 8:34 p.m.

Amber Pena-Logan visited the Academy of Design and Technology booth at the Career Academy Forum with her son Max Logan, a 13-year-old Fort Clarke Middle School student.


Open houses

Alachua County Public Schools offer more than a dozen high school career academy magnet programs. Applications must be sent to the school district by Feb. 25. Decisions are sent to parents on March 17. For more information, go to

Institute of Culinary Arts at Eastside: Jan. 18, 5:30 p.m.

Professional Academies Magnet at Loften: Jan. 25, 6 p.m.

Academy of Fire and Emergency Medical Services

Academy of Automotive Technology

Academy of Design and Technology

Academy of Early Childhood Education

Academy of Environmental Engineering

Academy of Criminal Justice at Newberry: Jan. 27, 7 p.m.

Academy of Agriscience at Santa Fe: Feb. 1, 6:30 p.m.

Institute of Biotechnology at Santa Fe: Feb. 1, 7:15 p.m.

Academy of Entrepreneurship and Academy of Finance at Buchholz: Feb. 3, 6:30 p.m.*

Academy of Health Professions at Gainesville High: Feb. 15, 7 p.m.

The School of Construction at Santa Fe College

*Choice programs at Buchholz requires students to provide their own transportation.

“What kind of careers can you enter?” she asked.

That was the question hundreds of parents and students asked about career and technical magnet programs offered in Alachua County schools during the annual Career Academy Forum on Tuesday at Buchholz High School.

Nancy Iafrate, teacher specialist for career and technical education, said magnet programs give students a head start on their careers.

“A lot of kids are in school and want to know, ‘Why am I doing this,' ” when it comes to math and other classes, she said. “It just really makes learning more relevant for students.”

Many programs are linked to Santa Fe College, allowing students to earn several college credits without paying tuition or stepping on campus.

“They've got a step up on other kids,” she said. “We have professionals that teach in these programs, like Chef [Billie] DeNunzio. She's a real chef.”

Max said he just wanted to explore the possibilities, although his face perked up at the mention of programming and designing video games.

“Design and technology looked cool, but I was just checking it out,” he said.

The Academy of Biotechnology at Santa Fe High School will be one of the magnet programs displayed as it becomes a full-fledged magnet program in the upcoming school year after four years of pilot.

June Camerlengo, director of the program, said she hopes to double the number of students enrolled next year to 130.

“We have an amazing collection of state-of-the-art equipment and the kids use it all the time and become really proficient in them,” she said.

Biotechnology, which studies cells and DNA to create new products and processes, is the industry of the future, Camerlengo said.

“We need our workforce to grow to the potential to take advantage of it,” she said. “The world needs people to learn how to do it and work in this industry.”

Ashlyn Crenshaw, a 16-year-old junior in the Professional Academies at Loften's early childhood education program, came to the forum when she was an upcoming freshman.

“It could help out with a career you want to do,” she said. “I could actually go to a preschool and work.”

Michelle Brothers, director of Buchholz's finance program, said her students run a Florida Credit Union branch from the school. The branch opened nearly 200 accounts this school year.

“I bank there, the principal banks there, the assistant principal banks there,” she said.

Applications for each magnet program are due Feb. 25.

Decisions are sent to parents and students March 17.

Contact Jackie Alexander at or 338-3166.

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