Forgive yourself if you’ve never heard of Westland Hialeah High School. It just turned 10 years old, so as high schools go, that means it’s just getting started. Yet, the Wildcats have already established a tradition of excellence.
"This year, Westland Hialeah Senior High had the highest growth in graduation rate in the district," said principal Giovanna Blanco. “And I attribute that to a lot of great teaching, a lot of amazing teachers, students that do see the value of an education, that want to be part of this society."
It also helps that the school provides programs, like dance, music, cheerleading, and sports, activities which motivate students and make them excited to come to school every day.
Westland’s magnet program in health sciences is one of those motivator programs. Students learn first responder basics from a Hialeah firefighter. They also learn nursing and medical assistant techniques that make them ready for the job market or for college, and it’s incredibly popular.
"We have full classes, all of our classes are really full and sometimes we have a waiting list, we have students who say 'miss, I want to be in your program but your classes were full,'" said Margarita Carrasco, the lead health science teacher. “I have a student who went to the University of Florida to do pre-med, and he’s always complemented on his skills that he learned here."
Westland Hialeah also has one of the biggest dual enrollment programs in Miami-Dade County. Students can graduate with a diploma plus an Associate of Arts degree, through partnerships with Miami-Dade College and FIU.
"So students can, in essence, be enrolled in the A-P Capstone program, FIU, and Miami-Dade College all at the same time,” Blanco said.
With a full range of AP classes, Westland sends graduates to the nation’s best colleges every year, and with an 8-period day, they can choose electives such as television production. The students in that class put a full newscast together every day, learning the basics of broadcast journalism.
It’s all part of creating a comprehensive educational environment, and the principal knows there’s no time to slow down or stand pat. Next year, she’s adding a robotics program.