Some students can go out of school to take up various projects - internships, jobs, even college courses. But in the past, doing so has meant that they no longer could participate in high school activities, like graduation activities and sports.
Secaucus, fortunately, recently became one of 40 districts that will participate in what state officials call the 12th grade pilot program, which will allow seniors to take up some out-of-school opportunities, but without losing those experiences they will remember for the rest of their lives as part of their graduating class.
"We're one of seven schools in Northern New Jersey selected for this pilot program," said Patrick Impreveduto, principal of Secaucus High School. "This will allow some of our more gifted students to get ready for college or work."
The program would offer students a chance to get a head start on their careers, whether that means taking college courses or taking on jobs that will help them save money towards college.
"Students could even take up internships," Impreveduto said. "Yet the students would not lose all those things other seniors get while remaining at school."
This program would allow students to overcome the restlessness many seniors feel during the last part of their high school terms, and put their energies towards productive ends.
In a status report issued to the Board of Education in December, Impreveduto noted, "current options to our traditional senior year which are being considered will allow students to take college courses [an arrangement is in place with St. Peter's College] for the spring semester and still enable them to participate in any and all co-curricular activities."
Under the program, which Impreveduto is calling the Senior Initiative, students would have the option to spend each day with a mentor as opposed to the current school education block. They could also perform volunteer service in the community or as part of a job-training effort.
"Although we have an agreement with St. Peter's, students can go to the college of their choice," Impreveduto said.
While the state program would allow students to take up to 12 credits, the agreement with St. Peter's would allow Secaucus High School students to take up to nine credits.
"Our kids can participate in all the high school's goings on, and yet go to college and benefit from higher learning as well as partake in activities at the college."
Students would go to St. Peter's campus in Jersey City at a substantially reduced rate. Secaucus High School students would pay $450 for a three-credit course.
Students are eligible for the program if they have finished all their required courses with a minimum B grade average and have scored at least 1000 on their SATs.
"If students have met all high school requirements, which is four years of English, math, science etc., we will tell the them can stay here in Secaucus High for the spring semester by taking electives," Impreveduto said, "or [they] can go to St. Peter's, where we worked this deal for them, or NJIT or Ramapo or Stevens or any other college that will accept them and take as many credits as the college wants to give them."
If they want to go out to work for six months, students can do that.
"All we will want from them in that case is a log," Impreveduto said.
This could be paid or unpaid. Or if they have a specific interest in which they'd need time to do research, Secaucus High will let them do that as part of this program.
"Come June, they can go to the prom, they can still play baseball with Secaucus teams or whatever it might be," Impreveduto said. "This is very different from the way things were done in the past. In the past, if you went to college you were not allowed to participate in anything in high school. Now the state is being flexible."
This program is slated to start in 2003-2004.
"We have also arranged for those students who have not yet finished all their required courses, to take the remaining course here in Secaucus and then go off to college or work," Impreveduto said. He added, "We're excited to be part of this program and we believe it will benefit our students."
Advanced Placement kids can get credits today
Secaucus High School already has an arrangement with St. Peter's College for students attending the high school this year.
"For our high school students, in lieu of their taking the AP test in English and environmental studies, St. Peters College will accept our courses as part of their college program and give our students credit," Impreveduto said. Thus, students get credit from St. Peter's College just for taking the AP-level high school course, rather than for passing the AP test at the end.
Students would pay the college $100 per course.
"So we have potentially kids leaving this year with 12 college credits," Impreveduto said. "In English, students can get three credits in poetry and drama and three credits in fiction. In science - three credits in human environment and contemporary topics in biology."
Secaucus High School is required to submit course outlines as well as the resumes of teachers involved in each program to St. Peter's College for approval.
"The college wanted to see what areas our courses cover and whether or not our teachers had their masters, etc.," Impreveduto said.
College officials came into the high school last week and were expected to sign up as many as 12 students to the program.
Impreveduto said Secaucus High School is currently using the courses for a test of the program, and hopes to expand it to other areas as well as to other colleges.
"We're currently talking to NJIT," he said. "They would like to come on board in a mathematics program. Ramapo is also interested in coming on board with us."
Advanced Placement Courses are college-level courses given at the high school level. A student who passes a standardized AP test with a sufficiently high grade receives college credits for them in participating colleges. Secaucus currently offers up to 13 AP courses, with 11 of these running this year.
"If you don't score high in AP test, you risk not getting the credits," Impreveduto said. "Here you're guaranteed credits based on high school academic programs."
If this pilot program succeeds, then the school will seek agreements with other colleges.
But Impreveduto said this program would hurt the school's ranking in the New Jersey Monthly, which bases part of its choice of top schools by how many students take AP tests.
"This is how many take the test, not how well the students do," Impreveduto said. "Because we're not going to have as many students taking the AP tests, it will have a negative effect on our ranking. But in this case, I'm less concerned with our ranking than in providing something that will benefit our students."
A field trip for Secaucus High School students
Instead of a special events day held over the last several years in the Secaucus High gymnasium, students interested in exploring local colleges recently were taken on a trip to various campuses around the state.
About 400 students from Secaucus journeyed via school buses to eight campuses during a two-week period in January. Students were taken on tours of the facilities and listened to presentation by college administrators. They also received lunch. Groups of about 50 students went to Monmouth County College, Rider College, William Paterson University, St. Peter's College, the New Jersey City University, School of Visual Arts in New York, Fairleigh Dickinson in Madison and Stevens Institute in Hoboken.
These students were from the lower grades and have not yet selected colleges. The trip allowed them to see campuses first hand.