At an all-boys high school, everything, including academics, is competitive. If competition breeds excellence, Christopher Columbus High School is a case study in proving that axiom to be true.
“I think the fact that it’s all boys, it really encourages the kids for their true inner self to come out, there’s no inhibitions, they don’t have to impress anybody," said principal David Pugh. "There are fewer distractions, too."
There's undeniably a lot to brag about at this private, Catholic school. Columbus has more than 40 academic programs, including an award-winning broadcast journalism program called CCNN Live. It's the Christopher Columbus News Network. Students produce a daily newscast from the ground up, reporting on school events and outside news, learning to use camera equipment and a studio which includes an old news desk donated from the NBC6 studio.
Next week, the CCNN team is competing in the national high school TV news championships in San Diego. How did they get there? Practice, working hard, and by selling ads on their news casts.
Columbus High has a long tradition of academic excellence, from winning science fair projects to a top-notch robotics club, a championship debate team, numerous Silver Knight winners, and high AP test scores.
“We had an 82 percent passing rate, which is incredible, we have five national merit scholar finalists," said Pugh, obviously proud of his boys' success.
"When I came down in ’66, we had 500 students, now we have 1,500 students," explained Kevin Handibode, the school's President.
Known simply as Brother Kevin, he is the legendary figure that every Catholic school seems to have, the one person who symbolizes the straight and narrow, the guy who better not catch you goofing off. Mention his name, and alumni shiver.
“I don't know if that's true but I did have the nickname The Shark when I was dean of discipline," Handibode said with a smile, denying with a laugh the widely heard rumor that students back in the day could get out of serving detention if they could sing the Notre Dame fight song.
Columbus High has amazing facilities, including a $10 million fitness complex that rivals the Miami Dolphins' strength center.
"We've got a great athletic tradition here at Columbus, a lot of that is the fact that we've been blessed with great student-athletes," said athletic director Chris McKeon, pointing out that this year's football team made it all the way to the state championship game.
Columbus has a committed alumni base which is always donating money to the school and willing to help students with mentorship. The school's Mas Scholars Program takes the top 10 percent of students and immerses them in a college prep experience that includes internships, research opportunities, community service, etiquette, and more. The student body seems eager to excel.
"The various programs that we have, the academic programs, makes it very competitive for them," said Brother Kevin.
With so many activities, programs and sports from which to choose, the CCNN team has plenty of good news to report, right on campus.