FHS ignites the engine for students’ futures

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By Sheyanne Romero
@Sheyanne_SGN
farmersville – 21st century learning has been the model in which high schools across California have integrated into their curricula. Students who graduate will not only have a diploma but a real life skill. In the fall of this year, Farmersville High School (FHS) will roll out four new skill academies.
For the last two years, principal Lisa Whitworth, assistant principal Manuel Mendez and learning director Rachel Chapman have been on the forefront of researching and implementing applicable skill academies at FHS. After collaborating with students and staff, the Aztecs have chosen “FHS IGNITE: Your Career, Your Future, Your Academy” as the launch motto for these additions to the academic program.
“We are ultimately excited for this. We have crafted a curriculum that will shape the students in a meaningful way,” said Chapman.
The four new 21st Century Skills Academies will be for incoming freshmen at the start of the 2016-2017 academic year. The students will join cohorts, which they will be part of throughout their high school career. Incoming freshmen can select to participate in law, justice and protective services; agriscience; digital media and communications; or the residential and commercial building trades academy. According to Whitworth, staff strategically selected these programs based on staffing and student interest.
Agriscience, digital media and communications, and residential and commercial building trades were natural academies due to preexisting programs on campus. FHS currently has a strong ag program and many can see the well kept sheep roaming near campus. Additionally, Whitworth shared that both students and staff recognized the importance of agriculture to Tulare County.
FHS has a strong digital media and communication classes. Whitworth shared that through their digital media classes, students have won awards at the annual Slickrock Film Festival. Slickrock brings students throughout Central California together to compete with middle and high school students in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced and Tulare counties. “Our kids are already performing at high levels. We felt we had the strength to launch that academy,” said Whitworth.
The high school’s building and construction class is “an elective on steroids,” laughed Whitworth. Students who take the class have the opportunity to join the Carpenter’s Union and are ready for the work force upon graduation. Naturally, FHS felt that with the current staff in place, students who selected the residential and commercial building trades academy would have the opportunity to be leaders in their industry. Whitworth remarked, “We have access to carpenters, and the students who go through this academy will immediately be ready for the work force.”
When staff began surveying student interested, law, justice and protective services was by far the most requested academy. With such strong partnerships between the City’s fire and police, FHS began to reach out for additional community support in order to make this academy a reality. According to Whitworth, “This academy is 100% student and community driven.” In addition to local law enforcement, FHS is planning to partner with the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office. Currently, FHS is working closely with two schools in Tulare County have this type of academy, Porterville and Dinuba.
On April 15 FHS will break ground on its new vocational education building, which is expected be complete in December. “You need a dedicated space to provide quality programs,” said Chapman. The vocational ed building will house both the agriscience academy as well as the residential and commercial building trades. The new work space will allow students access to learn welding and electrician skills.
The academies are made possible through the California Career Incentive Grant and the active involvement of local businesses and community leaders. Each academy is designed to provide participants with the rigorous academic and workplace skills and experiences necessary for successful entry into college and/or a career field. Whitworth, Chapman and Mendez shared that although rolling out four new academies has been a huge undertaking, staff can’t wait to turn their vision into a reality.
For more information contact Lisa Whitworth, principal, Farmersville High School at 594-4567.