A pillar of the Hollywood community since the 1950’s, the McArthur High School Mustangs have added tons of horsepower over the years. Students have their choice of more than 90 clubs, activities, and sports.
“The neat thing about that is when you have that many clubs, you have created 90 leaders on your campus, so each one of those organizations has a leadership structure, so now you have leadership and pride both being developed on campus, it makes for a powerful combination and I think that’s what makes McArthur special,” said principal Todd LaPace.
When you hear the Herd of Sound, you know you’ve heard something special. That’s the school’s marching band, with more than 120 musicians blasting a wall of sound at football game crowds.
McArthur has a wonderful chorus and a dance team which has achieved state and national recognition. So there’s a commitment here to the arts, but the school also started a unique program to give high-performing but low-income kids a boost to the nation’s best colleges. It’s called SPIDER, an acronym for Success, Promise, Initiative, Determination, Experience and Resources.
SPIDER provides SAT tutoring these kids might otherwise not be able to afford. The students in the program go on college tours, they attend seminars on how to write application essays, and they’re required to do a project such as designing an app or starting a business or doing research.
“So whatever it is that these kids are passionate about, whether it’s helping other people or just making money, whatever it is we encourage the kids to do that and we give them the resources so we can do it, we’re their rich uncle,” explained the program’s founder, Peta-Gaye Bisset, who also teaches AP calculus.
And it looks good on a college application, right?
“Absolutely, because it shows that they’ve got that initiative and determination that colleges are looking for,” Bisset said.
“And now I’m proud to say we have kids going all over the country,” added LaPace. “We have ‘em going to Yale, we have ‘em going to Harvard, and the best thing is when we go out to those schools to visit them once a year we now have those students being walked around by our own students on the campuses.”
McArthur added a speech and debate program five years ago and the team is already gaining national recognition. When we visited students were discussing the Kavanaugh appointment to the Supreme Court. That’s one of the beauties of speech and debate, it gets kids thinking.
“For me as an educator I get to see these students care and really take an interest in what’s going on in today’s society,” said Sarah Beauchamp, the debate teacher.
Speaking of societal problems, the expansive horticulture and aquaculture program, which has more than 80 students involved, is showing how using fish to fertilize plants could alleviate world hunger.
It’s clear that the McArthur Mustangs are a thundering herd of innovation.