Most high schools have drama clubs. Very few have produced their own musical, written and created by students. Nova High School’s “Weight of Words” is a powerful statement against bullying, delivered by teens for other teens to absorb.
“We never expected it to be the hit that it is,” said drama director Nina Zakrzewski, explaining that Nova High students wrote the show six years ago, and it’s still enjoying a popular run.
Students perform “Weight of Words” at least twice a month, often taking the show to other schools. They’ve also played at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts and at Disney World. After each performance, there’s a cathartic talk-back session with the teenage audiences.
“They start telling all the stories and how they're being bullied and it really has helped many students," Zakrzewski said.
Nova High is an all-lottery school. That means any student in Broward County can apply for admission, but the luck of the draw determines who gets in. For decades, Nova has enjoyed a sterling academic reputation. Students from all walks of life converge on the Davie campus, which has programs for everyone.
“Wonderful kids in this school, kind kids, kids that are about the right thing,” said the principal, Dr. John LaCasse, describing his student body.
Nova has a full range of AP courses and electives, including an engineering program which includes robotics, computer-aided manufacturing, 3D modeling and more. It’s set up to get kids college-ready and career-ready. Students do everything from making prosthetic legs for Barbie dolls to designing bridges to flying rockets.
“This is what stem is, we tie in all the stuff that they learn in their other classes and apply it here and do all the fun hands-on projects the other teachers don't have time for,” said the engineering class teacher, Adam Handler.
Nova’s concert band is a top-shelf group, part of the school’s award-winning music program. The school has a speech and debate team ranked in the top 10 nationally, and fields competitive athletic teams in all the traditional sports. Mix all that together, and you have a formula for greatness.
“You almost have to be here to experience, there's no recipe, it's difficult to define, you gotta live it and know it to really get a picture of how special this place is, and it is special," said LaCasse. “People ask me sometimes, boy, you’re a high school principal, those kids must be tough, and I say, it’s the kids that make me love coming to work.”