"We're here to support Ribault and Raines High Schools, "said Jaguars second-year wide receiver Ernest Wilford on Thursday, July 14 at the "Welcome Home to Excellence" reception held at Raines High School.
The reception honored high-achieving students who have met the academic criteria required to participate in two rigorous academic programs Early College High School (ECHS) at Ribault, or Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) at Raines, both to be instituted in the fall.
The Early College High School (ECHS) program in partnership with Florida Community College of Jacksonville (FCCJ) – North campus begins this fall at Ribault High School.
Students enrolled in the ECHS program will follow a curriculum that is fast-paced and challenging and integrates high school graduation requirements with courses that prepare students for a broad range of careers in health sciences, information technology, and liberal arts. Upon graduation, ECHS students will earn a high school diploma, up to 60 hours of college credit and/or an AA degree from the Florida Community College of Jacksonville.
"I would have grabbed it with both hands and held on as tight as possible," said long snapper Joe Zelenka when asked if a similar program were offered when he was in high school would he have participated.
"To get this opportunity and have this opportunity to get some college credit before you are in college… Take tough classes and to challenge yourself. You can't beat it."
The Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) program in partnership with University of Cambridge begins this fall at Raines High School.
AICE prepares students to enter college with up to 30 hours of college credit and is recognized as pre-university curriculum that provides students with a broad, balanced preparation for college honors-degree programs.
Students enrolled in the AICE program select subjects from three areas: math and sciences, languages, and arts and humanities. Those who select six subjects from these areas and pass six credits-worth of exams in each within a 13-month period are awarded the AICE Diploma directly by the University of Cambridge, the program sponsor. Those students who do not earn the AICE Diploma are given credit for the examinations they do pass and are awarded General Certificates of Education by Cambridge.
"They started programs similar to these when I was in high school," said linebacker Tony Gilbert. "I like the program, I like the initiative they are bringing to both schools; bringing them back to excellence."
Alumni from each school along with school board members took on the task of attracting students back to these high schools, and they took it on as a personal mission.
"There is great tradition and pride at these schools, based on academic excellence," said Marsha Oliver, General Director of Communication for Duval County Public Schools.
"Last year, nearly 2,000 students living in the attendance area of Raines and Ribault High Schools chose to attend other schools for their high school education. We had to come up with a way to attract and entice them to come back."
The Jaguars are advocates of Jacksonville youth succeeding and achieving in all they do, especially when it comes to education.
"They are in a situation where they are getting students in the middle schools to help build a legacy that's from the past and that's what we're here for, to help support them in their education," said Wilford.
These programs to be implemented during the 2005-06 school year are equipped to encourage the academically talented students in the northwest quadrant who elect to attend other schools for a perceived higher quality high school education to return to their home school where they can also reach internationally recognized standards of achievement.
"It's our hope that we'll have a large participation," said Oliver.