Last year, Demetrius Hill chose to go to John F. Kennedy High School because he thought the magnet high school offered the best path to his long-term goal of becoming a doctor. Now a sophomore enrolled in the school’s Health Career Academy, he feels as if he made the right choice.
“I really like it,” said Hill.
As a magnet school, Kennedy offers four academies – Health Career, Creative Enterprises (digital and visual arts), ProStart (restaurant management) and Construction and Design – that enable students to graduate from high school ready for an entry-level position in their chosen career or give them a solid foundation to reach their career goals by going on to a community or four-year college.
“If you’re interested in going into a career, this is the place for you,” said Sam Hermes, a sophomore in the Health Career Academy. “You can start early and end up where you want to be in life.”
Kennedy is in the process of making the transition from a middle school to a career-technical high school that serves grades 6-12. In 2011-12, Kennedy added grades nine and 10. This year, it has students in their junior year. Next year, the school will have its first class of seniors. Next year, it will also begin offering a pharmacy technician program that will prepare the students for the national board exam that will qualify them to work as an assistant to a pharmacist.
“We’re the only high school in Forsyth County that offers it,” said Principal Leslie Atcher.
Today (Nov. 8), from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Kennedy is having a magnet fair to introduce potential students to all that it has to offer. Along with providing students with a head start on a career, Atcher sees Kennedy as a place that can serve students who would prefer to go to a smaller high school. At present, the high school has about 65 freshmen, 55 sophomores and 25 juniors.
In working to promote Kennedy throughout the school system, Atcher and others have found that some people have lingering misconceptions about the school because, over the years, it has been home to a number of different programs.
Before Kennedy began the transition to becoming a career/technical high school, the school was known as Kennedy Learning Center and was home to four alternative-education programs for middle school students. Two of those programs – the English as a Second Language (ESL) program and the Millennium program for students with disciplinary problems – have moved to other locations.
Kennedy is still home to the Learning Enrichment Acceleration Program (LEAP) Academy, which offers students who have been retained somewhere along the way, the opportunity to catch up; and the Gateway program, which helps students not at their grade level in math and/or reading.
As Carolyn Cotton, the school’s parent-involvement coordinator puts it, “We don’t want to be a well-kept secret anymore.”
Assistant Principal Nathan Burton said that coming to Kennedy has been a transformative experience for some students.
“It makes a big difference when you’re going to be excited about what you’re going to learn and how you connect it to the future,” Burton said. “You see some light bulbs come on. It’s been wonderful to see that.”