In recent years, much has been made of the need to train more people for careers in science, technology, and engineering in this country. Fear that the U.S. is losing its competitive edge in the “hard sciences” has led to concerns that the nation will lose its dominance as an industrial world leader.
While those fears center on the big picture, educators everywhere are turning their attention to smaller concerns, specifically, school kids. In classrooms in Jersey City and elsewhere, teachers are working on ways to stimulate interest in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.
To this end, Jersey City will next year welcome Great Futures High School, the city’s first academic institution dedicated exclusively to the health sciences.
The school, which is a collaborative effort between Jersey City Medical Center and the Boys and Girls Club of Hudson County, will open its doors in September 2014 with a freshman class of approximately 125 students.
When Great Futures opens next fall it will become the eleventh charter school to operate in Jersey City.
Boys and Girls Club President and CEO Gary Greenberg, the school’s founder, said the impetus for Great Futures came from his 30 years of working with teens.
“What we were seeing were kids who, as they entered high school, were kind of drifting. They didn’t really know what they wanted to do with their lives and weren’t very focused on what they wanted after high school,” said Greenberg.
The idea for a health-oriented charter high school began to take shape about five years ago when the Boys and Girls Club of Hudson County formed an alliance with Jersey City Medical Center that allowed students to do internships with the hospital’s staff. Now those short-term educational opportunities will be expanded into the Great Futures curriculum.
When Great Futures opens next fall it will become the 11th charter school to operate in Jersey City.
Preparing for the health path
Greenberg said Great Futures was founded to give high school students the foundation they need to pursue college-level majors in pre-med, biochemistry, chemistry, and other degrees that will ultimately prepare them for a career in health. Students will have opportunities to focus on one of three major health field areas: clinical, technical, or administration.
Ninth and tenth graders will take their classes at the Boys and Girls Club, while students in the upper grades will spend their days at Jersey City Medical Center shadowing professionals in their chosen area of concentration.
The charter school has also formed a partnership with William Paterson University that will allow some students to earn dual high school/college credit for certain courses.
“We know that the health field is one of the top emerging professions right now,” said Greenberg. “We expect that this curriculum will give many of our kids an opportunity to have a career, and a good career, that they might not have otherwise.”
The curriculum will also adhere to the New Jersey Core Curriculum Standards required by the state, but will be specialized to bring in lessons from the health field when applicable.
“The students will still be required to take social studies, for example,” he said. “Some of our lessons might look at the impact of disease on migration or population at a specific time. Whenever feasible, our lessons will do that.”
As the school grows, Greenberg said that new students will be allowed to transfer into Great Futures in the tenth grade, but as a general rule the school will not add new students in the eleventh or twelfth grades.
Although the Great Futures board has selected a principal for the school, Greenberg said he was not at liberty to name that individual because he/she has not yet given notice to his/her current employer.
Applications available later this month
Ninth grade applications to the school were not available at press time last week, but school officials said they should be available sometime this month.
For now, Greenberg said, applications will only be accepted from Jersey City residents.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at email@example.com.