Even people from the neighborhood think of Southridge Senior High School as an athletic powerhouse. College coaches certainly know how to get to the school in Cutler Ridge. These days, however, the script is changing.
The Home of the Spartans is enjoying a renaissance. The Ridge just had its best graduation rate ever, at 88 percent, so they're on the right trajectory.
"All the studies show that students that are engaged, students that are in extra-curricular activities, the graduation rates are higher, the GPA is higher, the attendance is better so it's the total package," said Humberto Miret, the school's principal and the reigning Principal of the Year in Miami-Dade County. "When you offer that at a school, at an all-American, all-inclusive school like us, it has a recipe for success."
The strategy to promote Southridge culture includes hiring alumni as faculty. There are 30 on staff right now.
"Oftentimes you have to go to a school and know that you want to go to a magnet program for dance, or I want to go to magnet program for health science, here at Southridge you actually get to come in as a 9th grader and explore what we have to offer here and then decide what's the best fit for you," said alumna Xiomara Disla, who teaches in the AP Capstone program.
They have three brand-new magnet programs which debuted this school year: Mobile App Development, Business Innovation and Management, and Gaming Design and Animation. The school spent roughly $1 million on computer equipment and the build-out to create the programs.
"Some kids come out of here, since they have industry certifications they'll be ready for careers but it also leads them to college, to any STEM-related field," explained Mercy Ortiz, the lead STEM magnet teacher. "Engineering, web development, Android or IOS development."
"So those are areas that will attract students that want to come to Southridge, we're also expanding our AP Capstone and our AP offerings," Miret added.
In the AP Capstone program, kids take a deep dive into a topic of their choice.
"So Capstone allows our students for the first time to own what it is that they're doing in a classroom and really tailor it to what they're interested in," Disla said.
Southridge also has magnet programs in health science and criminal justice. The school also expanded its arts and music programs, part of its effort to appeal to every interest and to make Southridge a destination school.
The emphasis is on the "four A's."
"So the four A's, it's about academics, activities, athletics and the arts, it's about building the whole child, and the magnets and the academies that we have do just that," Miret said.