By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
To say Friday, July 28, was a red-letter day for Escambia County High School would be putting things mildly.
Just minutes after ground was broken for an athletic fieldhouse renovation to upgrade the building that has stood at Herbert Barnes Field for more than 50 years (see separate story, this edition), county education officials cut the ceremonial ribbon for what could be one of the school’s most important programs in years.
After Superintendent of Education Michele McClung explained the setup, she turned things over to Assistant Superintendent Michele Collier, for whom the new IT Academy was a dream she brought with her when she was hired in 2022.
“As part of our career tech at Escambia County High School, these two rooms will serve as the teaching, learning and instructional room for the IT Academy,” McClung said of the newly furnished area. “In the next room is our help desk, and there will also be a lounge for (IT Academy) students that is being put together now. This is one of the dreams Mrs. Collier brought with her.”
Collier said “about 60” students had already enrolled in the two-year program, which is being funded through a partnership with Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Travis Kelley will serve as instructor for the academy, which will allow students to enter the job market at the entry level or higher immediately upon graduation.
“I’m super-excited about this phase for our entire system but also for our Escambia County High School students who are going be first to actually complete the five classes,” she said, noting the academy is also a partnership with Coastal Alabama Community College. “Students will receive credentials, as well as a certificate for the help desk. They will be immediately employable when they walk out the doors of this high school. I am so excited for the opportunity our kids will have.”
Students will complete an internship with a local or area business during the last semester of their senior year and will be “college- and career-ready literally when they graduate,” Collier said.
The program will teach digital literacy (“soft” skills, how to talk with people on the phone, how to help people remotely, etc.) and is going to also offer some “really innovative” ideas.
She said IT Academy students would have access to Oculus ghost (virtual headsets) in order to experience a degree of virtual reality. They will also work with drones and will even venture into robotics.
“In September of last year, we started an IT help desk at the district level,” the assistant superintendent explained. “We’ve now expanded that idea so our students will be prepared to work our help desk and help our teachers and our parents. It’s a great program and a wonderful opportunity for our kids.”