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Used to be you had to wait until university to pick a major. But an innovative program lets students do so while they’re still in high school.
The “specialist high skills major,” now at 27 sites across the province — including in Scarborough and Oshawa — offers students six to 12 credit courses in a specific area, including arts and culture, hospitality and tourism, and manufacturing and construction.
The major program also includes co-op placements, “dual credits” giving students a high school and college credit in the subject area and allows teens to audit university courses.
The program is a Liberal government strategy to prevent teens from dropping out, as well as motivate them to pursue post-secondary studies.
After a successful run this school year, the province plans to expand the number of sites this fall, and add majors such as health and wellness, business and the environment.
At R.H. King Academy, at Kingston Road and St. Clair Avenue East, about 20 students have been taking an arts and culture major that focuses on arts management and technical production.
Principal Tommy Jutcovich said he was thrilled to learn all the students passed the digital technology class they took at Centennial College.
“A year ago, we didn’t know this was going to happen and now a group of our students have this dual credit. ... (The program) has already changed many of our students’ lives and their goals.”
English teacher Alice Walter called it “a really cool opportunity” that teaches students that what goes on behind the scenes is just as important as what’s on stage. “They learn they don’t all have to be on The O.C. next year,” she joked.
As for next year, the school hopes to offer dual credit courses at the University of Toronto in Scarborough.
Money from the province enabled R.H. King to purchase a portable, state-of-the-art sound system and new lighting, while funds from the Toronto District School Board are paying for a renovation to the drama studies room.
Justin Amirkhani, 18, who earned a college credit at Centennial, recalled one project where students had to be “digitally deprived” for three days: no cell or cordless phone, no iPod, no computer, no video games. Even the assignment had to be handwritten or typed.
“It was gruelling,” he said. “I’m a person who is very steeped in technology.”
The Durham District School Board offers one high skills major at Oshawa Central Collegiate in hospitality/tourism and cook/chef to 21 students.
The province spent $2.75 million this school year for the 27 pilot sites.