When a school’s been educating students for 45 years, it becomes a pillar of the community, the kind of place generations of family members attend. That’s what Piper High School in Sunrise is to central Broward County.
“We're a school that services the community around us, we’re not a magnet school, but we have many programs to offer the kids,” said Angel Gomez, Piper’s principal.
For example, Piper’s JROTC unit, the Bengal Battalion, provides a top-flight leadership training experience. Last year, this group finished in the nation’s top 25 for academic achievement.
“They learn academic rigor, they learn how to be successful in academic and life challenges that adults must face, they learn how to take leadership roles,” said Lt. Col. Jennifer Kimmey, the JROTC commander.
Piper High has evolved to the point where it’s going to an all-academy system. Kids who are shooting for the highest level of academic rigor might opt for the AP Capstone academy. Those who want to pursue careers in business or perhaps major in business in college might enroll in the Finance Academy. There are also academies in journalism, dual enrollment with Broward College, and more.
It’s part of the school’s evolution.
"Every student that comes in, right now every 9th grader is part of an academic academy based on their interest, that actually narrows down the path, it makes this world that’s so large in a high school, it brings it down to manageable size,” Gomez said.
The academies give students college prep, career prep, or both.
"The idea is that when they leave here, they’ve got something that makes them more marketable,” said Mark Ophaug, the school’s academies director. "Like those kids back here (in the finance academy class) are getting certified in Quickbooks, so when they graduate high school they’ll have a Quickbook certification they can use on the job in a career.”
They pay attention to the changing demands of the work force, the requirements colleges are looking for, and then try to prepare their students to meet those challenges.
That may as well be Piper High’s mantra.