Special to the Recorder
St. Johns County is one of the fastest growing counties in the United States, drawing families to the area who are eager to experience the desirable climate, booming economy and the excellent-rated schools.
St. John’s County school district consistently ranks as one of the top in the state, as well as in the country. Many high school students say it is due, in part, to the academies.
An academy, by the county’s definition, is a “school within a high school,” where students follow a structured and personalized sequence of elective courses that are tailored to their chosen career theme. For example, students in the Academy of Information Technology, at either Ponte Vedra High School or Bartram Trail, will follow the Program of Study designed for Information Technology, which is provided to help each student select courses and a plan for their postsecondary (college or career) experience.
An academy is much more than just a group of elective courses, however. Academies offer students opportunities to earn college credit through Dual Enrollment classes, as well as industry certifications. Academy students also have opportunities to participate in field studies and summer internships, which will help connect them to their community business partners and leaders in their industry. Since academy classes are designated as academic elective courses, students have the potential to graduate with special distinctions not offered elsewhere.
On Thursday, Jan. 9 a High School Showcase was held in the evening at World Golf Village. Each high school had the opportunity to educate prospective students and families about the academies they offer. There are seven high schools in the county, offering more than 25 individual academies. Each school had their Academy Directors and teachers on hand, as well as current academy students, to answer questions. The current students were excited to share their experiences.
Nease High School sophomore Joseph Faranda, who is part of the Communications Academy and designer of the cover of the 2020-2021 St. Johns County School District Programs of Choice Guide, said he is learning real word skills and gaining certifications in each program. “It will help me flourish in my chosen career of Graphic Design,” he said, adding that he plans on furthering his education at the University of North Florida when he graduates.
According to Theresa Dodd, Executive Secretary for Career and Technical Education with St. Johns County School District, “more than 40% of students in St. Johns County are part of an academy.”