Ari Odzer

Lauderhill 6-12 STEM Magnet Has Intimacy of a Private School

If you're looking for a public school with the intimate feel of a private school, Lauderhill 6-12 STEM Magnet fits the bill. It only has 33 seniors in this year's graduating class.

"Yes, 33, and that's what makes us unique, it's a boutique high school, it's small, it's intimate, personalized," said the principal, Dr. Ryan Reardon.

The school has a partnership with Lauderhill Fire-Rescue, which runs a fire fighter training course at the school. On this day, we watched students using fire extinguishers to put a diesel fuel fire. The kids get a full immersion into the profession.

"Today we're doing fire extinguishers, the other day we did search and rescue, we do ladders, we do ropes and knots, so they learn the various aspects of the firefighting career, and again it gives them the opportunity to test drive a career before they graduate high school to see if it's really what they want to do," explained Jeff Levy, the assistant chief of Lauderhill Fire-Rescue.

It's all hands-on, in and out of the classroom. We watched students learning the "Stop the Bleed" protocol in class. This year Lauderhill Fire-Rescue is giving three graduating seniors full scholarships to the fire academy.

"It's a hot career, no pun intended," Levy said.

So the fire academy is flashy, literally, but at this school the bread and butter is computer science. For instance, one student just won a national award in coding.

Computer science students design their own games, they create apps and websites, and they learn from experts. Professionals from Oracle, Citrix, and American Express mentor the kids, keeping them up to date on rapidly changing technology.

"They make sure that what the students are learning is preparing them for entry-level positions," said Randall Deich, the computer science guru at the school.

"Just to see kids get into the future careers and pathways of where they really want to go in life, we know there's a big drive for computer industry right now and to see kids take that step into the career of their choice, it's great," added Reardon.

The Junior Achievement class is designing products and marketing plans, and some of the students have been in the school since they were 11 years old.

"So we're able to actually design seven years worth of education for a student, where they get high school credits in middle school and college credits in high school," Reardon said.

Because it's a middle school, the school day starts at 9:30 a.m., not 7:20 a.m. like regular high schools. So they may not have sports, and the band program is just starting, but the high school kids get a lot more sleep than their counterparts at traditional schools.

For some students, that may be the biggest selling point at Lauderhill 6-12 STEM Magnet.

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