Castro wasn’t sure how many students would go the extra mile, or if the certificate would be much of a motivator.
But of the 127 seniors on Dozier-Libbey’s campus, Castro estimates that roughly 90 percent are on track to earn the certificate of excellence. About 50 percent of the graduates will attend a four-year university, including prestigious institutions such as Stanford, the University of California at Davis and the University of Arizona. Many others will attend junior colleges or other places of post-secondary education. Only four or five students are at risk of not graduating on time.
“It’s really inspiring to see all that they’ve accomplished – it all went so fast,” Castro said. “It’s finally nice to have some students leaving here and going out into the world to see what they can do with what they’ve learned here.”
On June 8, Dozier-Libbey will graduate its first senior class – one that has accumulated myriad accolades. Antonio Hernandez, who wants to become a surgeon one day, was named Antioch’s Youth of the Year.
Tuyen Mai will be the school’s first valedictorian; Cameron Jacobsohn the first salutatorian.
Dozier-Libbey, which opened in 2008, has been a shining jewel for AUSD and a leader in the district’s focus on linked learning academies. Dozier-Libbey students receive a high school education with an emphasis on medical application. Senior English teacher Lisa Kingsbury – who previously taught at Antioch High School for 18 years – said most students who attend Dozier-Libbey plan to study or work in the medical field, whether as a doctor, nurse, pharmacy technician or several other vocations.
Dozier-Libbey is one of several linked learning academies at AUSD, such as the Deer Valley Law Academy and the Delta Academy for the Performing Arts. Academy students believe they get a head start in the job market by being well-educated in their chosen field before starting college.
“If you set high expectations for students and support them in reaching those high expectations, they can do great things,” Castro said. “That’s one of the goals we had when we started this school: to increase the number of students meeting (college) requirements and increasing the number of students attending post-secondary programs, and we’ve accomplished that.”
As the success rates become more evident, more school districts across the nation have opened linked learning academies. According to a 2010 study by the University of California’s Career Academy Support Network, the number of state-funded career-based academies has grown from two in 1981 to 29 by 1990, 45 in 1995, 290 by 2000 and 500 in 2010.
Antioch’s district plans to expand its offerings into media technology and environmental sciences, hosted at Antioch High School.
At Dozier-Libbey and other linked learning academies, students learn the basic curriculum of English, Math, Science and Art – but from a career-oriented perspective. For instance, when Kingsbury’s class read Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” students engaged in a debate about medical ethics.
Seniors must write a medical or health-related research paper for their senior project, as well as create a five-minute documentary.
While the students are eager to turn the tassels for the first time, many of them are just as excited about May 31, when the community will be treated to a film festival showcasing student documentaries.
The students want to show the fruits of their strenuous efforts. “I had a lot of friends coming in my first year, but I lost a lot of friends my sophomore year, because they saw that it was a lot of hard work,” said senior Tatiana Lejarza, who plans to enter the Los Medanos College Nursing Program. “Dozier actually pays off.”