High school preps students for science, arts careers

Posted March 7, 2010 8:57 a.m. EST

Project Education: Edutopia, a partnership between WRAL-TV and the George Lucas Educational Foundation, features a Texas high school that gives students a head start on their careers.

Whether learning how to teach a first-grade science lesson or how to give emergency medical care, students at South Grand Prairie High School, outside Arlington, Texas, are pursuing possible careers.

As sophomores, students can chose to enroll in one of five career academies focusing on different fields: Business and Computer Technology; Communications, Humanities and Law; Creative and Performing Arts; Health Sciences and Human Services; and Math, Science and Engineering.

"We were really fighting the concept that moving to career academies was dumbing down and just catering to vocational skills and that we were throwing academic rigor out of the window," Dean of Instruction Debra Cannon said. "And that's not it at all."

Most of the academies invite professionals, including flight paramedic Chuck Skinner, to volunteer as mentors.

"Rather than this pie-in-the-sky kind of education where we all hold hands singing 'Kumbaya' and read Socrates, we actually are talking about stuff that really matters," Skinner said. "They'll come out of school ready to do work. We have jobs waiting for some of these guys."

For example, South Grand Prairie High students can graduate as certified emergency medical technicians. Students in the arts academy graduate with an impressive resume.

"By their senior year, they were able to walk out of high school with a completed portfolio and able to possibly get college credit from that portfolio," teacher Barbara Hagle said.

A unique program call Ready, Set, Teach also provides coursework and in-class training for future teachers.

"It provides an individual (with) an opportunity and a reason and a desire to come to South Grand High School," Principal Roy Garcia said. "That's what's exciting: to see that everyone can, and they do, succeed."