• Bethany Smeltzer

What Sets You Apart? (Part 1)

When I about to start high school, I know, that was YEARS ago... we sat in one of the auditoriums at my middle school where high school representatives came and met with us and talked about their programs. They had us in different rooms based on the high schools we were zoned (the district had determined) for us to attend.


Most of my friends were going to the same high school as me, Dana Hills High School in Dana Point, CA and the other half went to Aliso Niguel in Aliso Viejo. My middle school was zoned where our student body went to one or the other and it was about an even 50/50 split.


As I sat there listening to the different options, we learned that depending on our current course schedule we had the options of honors English or freshmen English, regular science or biology, etc. We learned that AP classes started our sophomore year.


We then learned about Dana Hills' special Academies: SOCSA and HMO. SOCSA is the Southern Orange County School of Arts which has multiple departments to help students that want to learn about dance, instrumental music, theater arts, visual arts and and vocal music. They also learn about staging and production. Many students have gone on to perform on broadway and in tv shows and movies from this department. It is an amazing and free academy. Then HMO is the Health and Medical Occupation academy that is partnered with a local Kaiser Permanente. There are specific classes that students take during their 4-years to learn about the medical field and different options.


My older sister had been in HMO and I knew how much she loved it. At the time, I didn't know what I wanted to be but it at least gave me a chance to explore my options. HMO introduced us to professionals in the medical field, taking harder classes and gave us something different on our transcripts. About 80% of my classes on my transcript were specified as HMO so colleges knew I was in an Academy all 4-years of high school.


Throughout my time in the program, I went from wanting to be a lawyer to a physical therapist to a respiratory therapist to unknown to marketing. As my interests changed, I stayed in the academy because I knew it was important for my college applications. I wanted to show my commitment, even if I wasn't interested in the medical field.


The school district I graduated from, did not require volunteer hours but the academy did. So most of my classmates in the program had well over 60+ hours and I personally had over 100 hours of volunteering when I finished high school.


I was fortunate to go to a school with many opportunities, like two different Academies. Joining programs like this is an amazing way to not just stand out but also to learn about careers.


Now, I know not all schools have Academies but there are ROP courses and after school college credit courses that some schools offer.


Check out the next blog coming soon "What Sets You Apart (Part 2)" to learn more about other ways that you can

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