Every school has something that makes it distinctive. Southwest Miami High School has an Academy of Finance magnet program, but beyond that, it has an astounding 42 members of its faculty who were once students at the school.
“This is truly more of a family atmosphere than anything else, I’ve never worked anywhere like Southwest,” said principal Carlos Diaz. “The teachers are so very dedicated, they put in countless hours, teachers and coaches here, to insure that our kids not only excel academically, but in whatever kind of club or activity they’re participating in.”
Southwest has everything expected of a community school, including a full roster of AP and dual enrollment classes, clubs of every sort, a drum line, marching band, and an arts program which nurtures creativity in its students. Right now, a group from the class is making a large-scale mosaic mural on a wall facing the school’s yard, learning lessons in the process.
“I think the most important thing is they work together as a group, it beautifies the school, it gives them a sense of ownership, and they also can start talking about aesthetics, colors, ideas,” said Shelly McCoy, one of the art teachers sponsoring the project.
The Eagles of Southwest High have been flying since 1956, long enough to have built a base of tradition, including distinguished alumni such as baseball Hall-of-Famer Andre Dawson and U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. That base is being expanded now with vocational programs such as building construction, cosmetology, and auto mechanics. The school has a full-scale garage with real cars on which the kids work and tinker.
Southwest also has an actual bank on campus, a credit union which uses real money. Students run it and staff it, and graduate with something few high school kids have: financial literacy. They spread the wealth of knowledge among their peers and families. It’s part of the education they receive in the Academy of Finance.
“What they learn here at southwest, they take it home and they apply it within their households,” said the program’s director, Doristine Williams. “It’s a win-win situation, I wish this was around when I was in high school.”
Southwest High thinks of itself as a school for future Ivy Leaguers and future hair stylists and every possible career. The Eagles are soaring in every field of endeavor.