Eighth-graders get their first taste of high school at APS showcase

(UPDATE: APS’ Scott King talks with parents at the High Schools Showcase. Listen here.)

Natasha Radford (pictured above, bottom row/middle) is an eighth-grader at Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy. She moved diligently with the rest of her classmates from an orientation session in a conference room on the Atlanta Metropolitan College campus over to the school gym for the “showcase” part of APS’ annual High Schools Showcase. And she was excited about what she was about to experience.

In the orientation she learned the basic requirements of high school: the number of units needed to graduate, the number of community-service hours, etc. But then came a sneak peek at the high schools and the gateway to her future. “You don’t want to be off track or behind when you start high school,” said Radford, who’s slotted to attend Douglass High School next fall. “You want to be able to know what to expect in high school. I’m excited about high school because I want to be a pediatrician.”

Inside the gym, Radford and her classmates walked by the Douglass High School booth, with a video providing highlights of the newly transformed school. Under APS Superintendent Dr. Beverly L. Hall‘s High School Transformation Initiative (HSTI), Douglass now features schools of Business and Entrepreneurship, Communications and Journalism, a Center for Engineering and Applied Technology, and Hospitality, Tourism and Marketing.

Celeste Brown, a broadcast video teacher at Douglass who helped produce the segment, was equally excited about welcoming her new potential students. “We want them to come to Douglass bringing their excellence, maintaining their high standards, and to come with their gifts and ready to work,” Brown said. “They’re being given an advantage here because they have an opportunity to choose what they want to focus on. This smaller-schools model will allow the students to pre-pave their education direction. It gives them an opportunity to choose.  The showcase gives them a chance to get information so they can make an educated choice.”

Across from the Douglass booth stood Emmanuella Revolus, program coordinator for APS’ 21st Century Atlanta Scholars Program, answering student questions about scholarship opportunities. She’s noticed how the showcase grabs the students’ attention as they prepare for the next step in their education.

“They realize they have options now,” Revolus said. “As we transform high schools into smaller learning environments, they realize they have not just one but three or four schools to choose from. The showcase is an opportunity to look at the programs that will support their school, whether it’s 21st Centural Atlanta Scholars, or the Posse Scholarship, or Communities in Schools, or Project GRAD. The students I’ve spoken to are intrigued about all of that. After I speak to them, they go, ‘I didn’t realize I had all these opportunities.”

Revolus anticipated the evening session with the parents, who also will be thinking about that next step and how APS plays a role in their children taking that step. “Besides all of the national recognition that we’ve received in recent years, I think they’ll also get a chance to learn about how transforming high schools is making a difference in students’ lives,” Revolus said. “We want to show them how APS will offer rigorous courses, a relevant curriculum for a student’s career path, and a meaningful relationship with adults at the school, and how they really care about all of the students and not just the ones in their class.”

Abigail Crawford, APS’ executive director for operations in the Office of High Schools, served as an MC of sorts, welcoming the students by their respective schools as they came in and out of the gym. In between announcements, Crawford stressed the need for this kind of variety for students. “The High Schools Showcase gives students an opportunity to view the information that’s pertaining to high schools they’ll be attending,” Crawford said.  “So they’re learn the particular pathways to graduation at their feeding school, and see what it looks like, and learn more about the school’s community partners. For the parents, we want them to get a quick snapshot of what we’re about, and to give them a chance to talk to our student ambassadors.”

The High Schools Showcase concludes with Friday’s morning session, which runs from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

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