Academies bring students together

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 25, 2003

Barriers between city and county schools are slowly being eroded as the two school systems are now in their fourth year of cooperation on a project that will ultimately result in the establishment of four "academies" that accept students from all three public high schools in the county.

The academies range from well-established – the Global Studies Academy is in its fourth year – to the still hypothetical – the Agricultural Academy is not yet up and running. In between are the Culinary Arts Academy based at Charles Henderson High School and the Finance Academy at Pike County High School.

Though the Pike County Board of Education has purchased the land for the Agriculture Academy at Goshen High School and early talk involves development of a marine biology curriculum, according to Director of the Troy-Pike Center for Technology Deborah Huggins, that project is currently "on hold."

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"Even though agriculture is the number one industry in the state, it's hard to get students excited about row cropping, which is basically a thing of the past," she said.

She pointed to the possible development of aqua-culture as a viable educational project for the Agriculture Academy.

Still, for the other three academies, career-focused learning is under way and the students are in full swing.

The nine students that participate in the Global Studies Academy have been busy since the Fall Semester began. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, the students from Charles Henderson, Goshen and Pike County High Schools all take classes at Troy State University.

According to Phyllis Wilson, facilitator of the program, the students are taking English and history classes and getting a real look into the lives and course work of college students.

"It's a two-year program and they have to commit to it," she said. "By the time they are done, they'll have had a literature class and macroeconomics, in addition to the English and history work they are doing."

The students, who are selected from a pool of applicants, end up with 24 hours of college level courses and dual credit for their high schools that counts as Advanced Placement credit.

Participants in the program must score at least a 20 on the ACT and receive recommendations from teachers and be able to provide their own transportation between their high schools and the Troy State campus.

On the days they aren't at TSU, the students attend enrichment sessions at the Troy-Pike Center for Technology. Wilson said the students use the time to study for their college classes and are exposed to a wide variety of fine arts and communications-related activities.

"We do everything from technical and career development to public speaking and field trips," she said.

Students took a tour of a local radio station and are composing a public service announcement and later will complete a unit on photography. According to Wilson, the nine students' activities are being recorded in a scrapbook that will document their non-traditional adventures in learning.

As for the traditional barriers between city and county schools? Wilson said they were immediately dismantled and the four Charles Henderson students, two Goshen students and three Pike County students are all good friends.

"You'd never know they all come from different schools," she said. "We all got each other's phone numbers and we all take care of each other."

Stephen Stetson can be reached at stephen.stetson