Eighth-Graders Face a New Problem: Too Many Choices; Students Explore Ninth Grade Academies at a Showcase Last Week

Article excerpt

Byline: maggie fitzroy

So many opportunities surrounded Talie Lamolinara that she didn't have time to explore them all.

As the Landrum Middle School eighth-grader and her friends cruised the St. Johns County High School Showcase Jan. 26 at World Golf Village near St. Augustine, they heard information about careers in fields such as criminal justice, health, culinary arts, early childhood education, automotive services, landscaping, Web page design, carpentry, interior design, fashion, business and finance, the arts, marketing, multimedia and the military.

Talie stopped at an information booth to check out careers in cosmetology.

She said she would normally attend Nease High School next year, but is instead considering St. Johns Technical High School in St. Augustine, which offers studies in the science of hair and skin.

The county's high schools -- Nease, Bartram, St. Augustine, Pedro Menendez and St. Johns Technical High School -- all have special programs on their campuses that are open to students from all zones. Some of the programs are new, some are still in the planning stage, others have been around for a while. This was the first year students were presented with those programs, called academies, in an organized way.

All St. Johns County eighth-graders took field trips to the showcase to get a taste of what the academies have to offer.

Students had about a half-hour to explore a large convention room filled with teachers and academy students eager to give them information.

That evening, the showcase was open again to students and parents.

School Board member Bill Fehling, who represents the Ponte Vedra Beach area, said the academies are small learning communities, where clusters of students have some of the same teachers each year and share classes. They are part of academically "comprehensive high schools" that offer special curricula for students who may be interested in specialization, Fehling said.

Although most students elect to follow a standard curriculum, academies give students who have special interests an opportunity to try out various career options for free, before they go on to college.

Fehling said students and parents are not yet familiar with many of the programs, but once they develop reputations, their popularity will grow and kids will elect to attend them.

At St. Augustine High School, students who have an interest in visual arts, music, singing, dance, or theater arts can audition to attend The St. …