It seemed fitting at the time, and it still fits now. They named it American Senior High School because it opened in the nation’s Bicentennial year, 1976. So the school has had time to build a legacy of success, but it’s not interested in history, it’s looking forward.
For example, they started a culinary arts program this year, they’re making a push to expand the drama club, and they’re adding four more Cambridge Academy courses to bring the total to 13.
They have four other academies, including engineering, fine arts, law, and medical sciences.
“Each of those academies is one that allows the students to grow in the field they’re interested in, and to be able to showcase what they know,” said principal Francisco Garnica.
In recent years, American High has made a concerted effort to bring more extracurricular options to campus.
“We have so many ways to express yourself, non-academically heer at American Senior High, even if you have an idea, and you want us to take it on, we’ll go ahead and do it, we have a fishing club that just started,” said Samuel Gbadebo, the activities director, citing an example that is rare among scholastic clubs.
Speaking of hooks, the Mighty Marching Patriots Band can lay down a groove or blow the doors off the gym, depending on the occasion.
The cheerleading team is the pride of American High right now, because they’re the reigning international champions. Is that good? We’re pretty sure that’s good.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what it is they’re gonna bring this year!” Garnica said.
Obviously, it’s a special group, but there’s a unique program here that makes special needs kids feel ultra special. It’s called the American Patriot Runner, a fitness and nutrition club that gives its members, some of whom are non-verbal, some of whom have autism, purpose and a huge dose of self-esteem.
“What it’s done for them, being on a team gives you that belonging and makes you feel confident and you have the power of family,” said Annie Perez, the physical education teacher who runs the AP Runners.
A school called the Patriots has to have a strong JROTC program, and American High has one.
“They know exactly what it is that is expected of them and they live up to a higher standard,” Garnica said of the team’s members.
Speaking of higher standards, we saw an AP Literature class which had only 15 students, an optimal learning environment. Garnica says these days, providing challenging academics isn’t enough, schools have to offer more.
“The idea is that it’s not just academics, we have to make sure that we showcase what is it that we have in the building that is additional to academics,” said Garnica, emphasizing the need to attract students and keep them engaged.
In a part of Miami-Dade County which has five other public high schools in nearby proximity, the competition for students keeps all of them on their toes, constantly looking for ways to innovate and separate themselves from each other.