Visalia Unified launching career-focused academies

VISALIA, Calif. -- Visalia Unified School District is launching a brand new style of learning for high school students that has an intense focus on the future.

Students at Visalia's technical high school weigh a young board to track his growth, as part of their curriculum for the school's agriculture programs. V-TEC will be an active school that will be part of Visalia Unified School District's new academy program that's launching next year.

Superintendent Dr. Craig Wheaton explained, "This is a huge change for our district it'll actually change the way, I think, our students will experience high school."

Dr. Wheaton said next year, the district will offer six different academies: Ag Engineering, Health Science, Computer Science, Architecture and Engineering, Agriculture Bioscience and Technology, and Media Arts.

Each of Visalia's high schools will have a different academy. Visalia Unified is hoping to recruit between 60 and 70 students for each one. Recently, the district presented the information to all eighth graders. The career-themed academies last all four years of high school. Students can choose which school -- or academy -- they want to attend.

Administrators say they want the program to give students focus, motivation and support towards a successful path after high school.

Dr. Wheaton said, "I think the next big breakthrough is tapping into motivation into what kids want. So, this career-themed academy is, I think, our ability to tap into what a kid can see."

A state grant is helping Visalia Unified launch the new academies. The district will hire specialized teachers, change some current courses and bring in guest speakers for the programs. Students in Vislaia's ag programs at VTEC said the career-themed curriculum works for them, giving a hands-on approach to a possible career.

Sarah Rook, a junior at VTEC said, "Even if you don't want to do agriculture, there are still very good skills to have."

Karina Valencia, a senior at VTEC, said, "When I got in here, I really did like it because they're really hands on and that's something I do like."

Visalia Unified's new academies are still accepting applications for this fall.