Wake County Schools

Raleigh high school focus is on science, engineering

Posted August 15, 2011 4:48 p.m. EDT
Updated August 15, 2011 7:41 p.m. EDT

— Wake County's newest high school does not have any sports teams or drama or art classes, but students will graduate with a diploma and two years of college credit.

The Wake-North Carolina State University STEM Early College High School, a partnership between the Wake County Public School System and N.C. State – opened its doors last week on the N.C. State campus to 55 high school freshmen wanting to focus their high school careers on science and engineering.

All of the students applied to go to the school, which is part of the national STEM Program that aims to help prepare students for the global economy by specializing in curriculums focused on science, technology, engineering or math.

School administrators say the student population is racially and economically diverse. About half are male, and 70 percent of all students are non-white. Forty-three percent will be the first in their families to go to college and 45 percent qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch.

Wake County has several STEM programs throughout the school system, 10 of which started at schools this year. The Wake-N.C. State program is the only one that has its own campus.

"I thought it would be a good chance to be different and stand out," said student Camaya Matthews.

"It's amazing," said Alyssa Sanchez. "I like the environment. I like being around other people that want to do the same thing I want to do."

At the school, students take the same basic requirements that all other public high school students do. The difference, however, is that all courses carry the theme of science, technology, engineering and math.

Teachers, like Carrie Horton, say it's a unique experience for them, too.

"The students are really enthusiastic," Horton said. "They're excited about being here, because they got to choose to come here."

Principal Rob Matheson says the school plans to double the student population over the next several years.

"This school is really a great opportunity for the students of Wake County, and hopefully it will become a model for other students in North Carolina," he said.