Photo by Sydney Cromwell.
SPHS IT Academy
Jane Bruce teaches students in the IT Academy at Spain Park.
Starting this fall, students at Spain Park High School have a new opportunity to gain exposure to what it’s like to work in the information technology (IT) and finance fields.
Spain Park has added a Finance Academy and IT Academy option for its 1,650 students. These options join career academies already available for the 2015-16 school year, such as law, engineering and health science.
“It’s another opportunity for our students to be engaged in a passion that they like and become leaders in our school,” Principal Larry Giangrosso said. “All students need to learn how to manage their finances more effectively. Through the Finance Academy, they will learn there are so many career pathways they can take. With IT, we’ve got students here who are way far ahead of the curve on technology.”
IT Academy instructor Jane Bruce spent the past four years as an instructor at Hoover High School’s award-winning IT Academy. Finance Academy instructor Jill Bertella spent the previous two years as a Spain Park co-op and career prep teacher.
“Both of these teachers are the best in their field, and we are happy to have them,” Giangrosso said. “They are not only great teachers, but wonderful people.”
Bruce has created a website link for Spain Park’s new IT and Finance academies, sphsbiz.com, that provides information to ensure both programs are successful. She encouraged businesses and individuals interested in supporting the new academies to go to the website for information on how to help. They currently need volunteers for guest speakers, Future Business Leaders of America competition preparation and job shadowing opportunities.
Bertella said in researching for the Finance Academy, she discovered 22 percent of students at the University of Alabama major in business. At Auburn University, 19 percent of students major in business.
“So there is a huge need at Spain Park for this academy as we prepare these students for future careers,” she said. “The curriculum will give our students a leg up when they go to college.”
It also can be personally helpful to students.
“Through our Finance Academy, we are creating knowledgeable consumers, giving students information they need to make wise decisions daily with their money. We dabbled in financial literacy in our Career Development course in ninth grade, and it was really eye-opening how little children know about the basics of saving and how to manage your money,” Bertella said.
The IT Academy will give Spain Park students who participate a competitive advantage, no matter what career they choose, Bruce said.
“If you can be that employee who knows how to troubleshoot your own computer problems, it sets you apart,” she said. “You can be more productive in your workday because you don’t have barriers to understanding and troubleshooting technology as others do. You can fix your own problems.”
The IT Academy will offer courses in basic computer skills, graphic design and web design, networking, programming and database management, Bruce said. Students will have the opportunity to earn skill certification in various programs. Bruce anticipates between 100 and 120 students in the academy.
The IT Academy will incorporate hands-on learning and field trips. Students will visit places such as the National Computer Forensic Institute in Hoover, tech business incubator Innovation Depot, web-design company Kinetic and Teklinks, a managed IT and cloud services company.
The Finance Academy will start off with 40 students this year and include courses in business and personal finance, accounting and entrepreneurship. The goal is for senior members of the Finance Academy to get internships to prepare them for future careers.
Bruce said the academies, like others available at Spain Park, offer many benefits to students.
“The academies help build confidence, earn certifications, develop leadership skills, attain work experience, network with in-field professionals and provide community service,” Bruce said.