A special visitor got an up-close look this week at the special opportunities offered to high school students in Madison.
James Clemens High is the only school in Alabama to get such a visit from the president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
Gregg Wieczorek is on a cross-country tour. He's going to at least one school in every state in search for innovative ideas to share with principals across the country. James Clemens Principal Brian Clayton said JCHS' faculty and staff wanted to really highlight the ways in which they put students in the right environments for hands-on learning.
"I think that's the best thing that we do," Clayton said.
The high school offers several career-focused classes to make sure students have an idea about what they want to do by the time they graduate.
"Kids have an opportunity to see what careers look like in those particular areas of study," Clayton said, "rather than waiting until they're in college and spending great deals of money to see what that looks like."
On Tuesday, the principal gave Wieczorek a firsthand look at some of those programs. The tour included an engineering class, a bank that's run by students and even a health lab, where students learn how to treat patients portrayed by other students.
The programs eventually lead to internships in which students get real-life experience in their chosen career track. Clayton said even if it doesn't work out and the student doesn't pursue that profession, the programs still benefit them in some way.
"That's usually reserved for tech schools and college. They are getting that opportunity here," Wieczorek said. "I've never seen something like that at a school before."
Wieczorek plans on taking those ideas and putting them in a document along with other ideas from schools across the country. He said education is changing and evolving from seven classes a day to a more career-oriented system.
By sharing ideas like those at James Clemens, Wieczorek aims to show principals don't have to create everything themselves and can instead explore opportunities to connect and work with one another.