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Stepinac High School's New Honors Academy Empowers Students with Unique Real-World Learning Experiences



Inaugural Group Enjoys Stimulating Field Trips and Lectures

From gaining a rare inside look about how one of the nation’s top hospitals runs to witnessing a day in the life of a judge of a major municipal family court house, the inaugural group of Stepinac High School’s Honors Academy students has been enjoying unique learning experiences this school year.

When Stepinac announced a year ago plans to launch the first-of-its-kind Honors Academy, a primary goal of the new initiative was to empower students to see the relationship between their academy studies and their application to the real world.

The inaugural group comprises 44 high-achieving sophomore students who needed a cumulative average of 90% or higher in their freshman year to qualify for acceptance.

Paul Carty, Principal, explained: “Meeting and learning from experts in their respective fields of engineering, health sciences, law and economics and finance is an integral component of this three-year personalized learning program which is designed to foster the development of skills that the students will need to become globally competitive.”

Among the eye-opening experiences was the visit by engineering academy students to the headquarters of Plumbers Local 1 of New York City where they learned about the facility’s state-of-the-art rain water capture system and urban rooftop blueberry farm. Their take-away was an enhanced understanding of the far-reaching benefits of water conservation for society.

Similarly, when law academy students spent a day at Yonkers Family Court House (New York 9th Judicial District), they witnessed justice being rendered by the Honorable Judge Mary Anne Scattaretico-Naber. She related to the students the important aspects of cases she presides over.

And health sciences academy students came to appreciate the complexities of running a major hospital when they were given a tour of the various operating departments of Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City

Presentations and lectures by experts have broadened the students’ knowledge of their chosen fields. At Mt. Sinai, Dr. Sameer Sheth, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Neurological Surgery, spoke about the path he took to become a cardiologist, the experience of getting into and attending medical school and the challenges it presented. Student Peter Astriab noted, “It was interesting to hear the doctor say he wished he had a program like ours when he was in high school. It made me feel like I was doing something right.”

The journey to becoming a physician was also shared by Stepinac Alumnus, Robert Tambone (’06), who is completing his last year at New York Medical College.   He visited his alma mater and met with health science academy students to discuss his personal experience about the process of getting selected for an internship. 

Via video conferencing with another Stepinac alumnus, George Kandilou (’08), engineering students learned what it takes to be a project engineer. Kandilou, who works for Turner Construction in Boston, stressed that engineers were in great demand. He walked them though construction design, review and revision of blueprints and pointed out the importance of math skills in his profession. Commenting on Kandilou’s presentation, student Nolan Defreitas said it was very helpful to “get an idea from an expert about what it will be like when I pursue engineering in college.”

By attending a college lecture series by Andy Serwer, Yahoo’s Finance Editor-in-Chief, at the Bard College Manhattan campus, economics and finance students were given a unique perspective by a leading journalist about how technology has impacted the news media. Student Colin Sharkey remarked, “It was a very exciting experience to hear what this expert had to say about how technology is changing the newspaper and magazine business around the world.”
    
And during a visit to the leading law firm of Cuddy and Feder, law academy students were provided an overview of the responsibilities of litigation lawyers by Troy Lipp and Lucia Chiocchio, using the highly publicized McDonald’s Restaurants product liability lawsuit involving hot coffee to illustrate the process of logically analyzing a case. An elderly woman who received third degree burns when she spilled the coffee on her lap was awarded a large monetary settlement. Mr. Lipp explained: “While the amount might seem unfair, when you look at the underlying facts you can understand why she received so much money. Repeatedly, McDonald’s was told to lower their coffee temperature but they did not heed the warnings and paid the price.”

Student Tyler Justic observed, “Being a lawyer is not just about knowing the law but it is about being able to think on your feet and dig up the underlying facts of a case.” He added: “Stepinac’s law academy is uniquely different from any program in the area. I think it is a great way for students to be able to learn what a lawyer does. Getting firsthand experience in the profession I am interested in feels like a great advantage that many other high school students do not have.”

The three-year Honors Academy program will culminate in the senior year with an internship and a final capstone research project and presentation that will be judged by a panel of faculty members and outside professionals in the fields that correlate with the respective academy. Each student will be assigned a faculty mentor as well as an outside mentor for the capstone project.

To learn more about Stepinac’s Honors Academy visit the Honors Academy page.