Chris Van Horne, NBC 5 Fort Worth Reporter
Fort Worth ISD launched its gold seals program, allowing students to focus on areas they're interested in, such as culinary arts, aviation or biomedical sciences.
Fort Worth Independent School District says while it's still early in one of its newest endeavors, there are already signs of success.
The district launched the Gold Seal Programs of Choice two years ago, which allows students, in addition to their required classes, to pick an area of study or focus, like aviation, culinary arts or biomedical sciences.
For students at the Texas Academy of Biomedical Sciences, or TABS, they chose to take on a rigorous area of study as their program includes includes work at UNT Health Sciences Center and Tarrant County College. But the students that chose to come here, knew what they were getting into and know what they want to do.
"I hope to become a pediatrician," said Rachel Donison, a TABS freshman.
"I hope to become a physician, a surgeon," said Nicholas Muga, a TABS Sophomore. "But don't quite know what my specialty would be. That's part of the reason why I came here, I want to explore different careers."
The Gold Seal Programs and Schools of Choice allows all students to pick a school or program to explore their future careers and often gain college credit in the process.
There are three schools of choice and 13 programs for high school students. And between middle and elementary school students, they can choose between nine schools and nine programs.
"We are responding to the interests of students and responding to the interests of parents," said Michael Sorum, the district's deputy superintendent of teaching and learning.
He said the program offers magnet school quality programs to all of the district's students. And while it's only the second year of the program, students are already buying in.
"They are driven to do well, they want to do well in anatomy and physics and pre-calc, they also want to do well in my class, mainly because they value their grades," said TABS English teacher Amie Sheffer.
"The results from last year were very successful and we'll know that we'll continue to grow and be successful," said Troy Langston, TABS principal.
While individual student success on campuses are evident, the district says the real sign of success is in the interest in the program.
"We're really encouraged," Sorum said. "Last year we had thousands of applicants within the district, that was our second year of recruiting. Not only did we have thousands within the district we had 500 applicants from private schools and 200 applicants from districts outside the Fort Worth Independent School District."
Sorum says the program and the courses offered has the potential to improve graduation rates and give students a reason to succeed in other classes as well.
"If this can be a hook for a student, just like athletics can be a hook for students, fine arts can be a hook for students, many programs in gold seal initiatives are hooks for students," Sorum said.
The programs real goal though is to prepare students for when they leave the district, be it for a career or college.
"We call it gold, because it's money in the bank," Sorum said. "It's either increases students' earning power or saves on the bank account when going into college."
And while it may be a few years before the district knows the true impact of choice these students are already on board.
"It was going to offer opportunities like no other school would," said Muga.
"It was a really good opportunity," Donnison said.
The district is preparing to start its third application cycle. Presentations on the program to students and parents begin in November. Applications are due in January. For more information, click here.