New School Programs Provide Hands-On Experience

42 new programs in Miami-Dade; 11 in Broward

With classes officially back in session, a few South Florida high schools are taking education to the next level.

Miami-Dade kicked off 42 new programs this year and Broward created 11 new ones.

Schools like the new iTech@Thomas Edison Educational Center, for example, are treating students like they're already in the business.

Students at the new magnet high school in Miami wear business casual attire to the school, where classes are called sessions and the sessions mimic the business world as much as possible.

“I talk to a lot of industry groups," said iTech Principal Sean Gallagan. "They want students that are ready to go to work. They do not want a person to come to work, then have to train them on how to act and how to look and how to be professional.”

iTech's program is exactly what it sounds like and is driven by the needs of the business world.

On the roster: Geo-spatial information systems, enterprise resource planning and business software development solutions, among others.

"They're going to be learning about advanced concepts that are typically only learned in universities and college at higher levels," Gallagan said. "[They are] programs that ninth-graders never get to touch, let alone think of as a career path.”

Another school leading the way in hands-on education is Everglades High School in Miramar. The school's new sports medicine program helps future physical therapists, athletic trainers and orthopedic surgeons get ahead of the pack by providing a rigorous science curriculum.

"Competition is really good," said Everglades High Principal Haleh Darbar. "It gives choices to parents and choices to students and that's the whole purpose of it."

"I wish I had this when I was in high school, because I would've been in it from freshman year," said teacher Ginette Menendez, who started the sports medicine program.

The program, funded by a grant from Toshiba, is expected to grow exponentially in the years to come.

Innovative programs like these have a stamp of approval from Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie, who said public schools need an infusion of fresh programs to attract new students and keep the students they have from transferring to private and charter schools.

"We're trying to meet the demands of the marketplace," he said.

Runcie added that Broward is expanding debate programs to all if its middle schools and adding scholastic chess for students starting in the second grade.

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