Students at Polo Park Middle School have the opportunity to graduate eighth grade with two industry certifications, high school credit, and even college credit through the Internet Technology (IT) Academy at the Wellington school.

The Choice program includes curriculum to prepare for the CIW Site Development Associate certification exam in seventh grade and the CIW Internet Business Associate certification in eighth.

“These students have had access to the Internet their entire lives, but never really learned how the networking works,” said Kathryn Gilbert, a teacher in the academy.

She says that students are both eager to learn, but also gaining experience in the IT field, which continues to be one of the fastest growing industries.

“[Students] see so much tech in their lives that they want to start touching tech themselves,” said Craig Corsentino, choice coordinator at the school.

The seventh grade course teaches web design through coding labs where students don’t get shortcuts. They are learning HTML, CSS, and GUI, and if they don’t know what that is, they are learning the lingo as well.

In eighth grade, students learn the business side of IT and about the careers available to them. Those jobs, with the certifications offered at Polo Park, have a median salary of $65,000 to $75,000 nationally, according to CIW, which administers the exam. The CIW exams are offered to the students at no cost.

Gilbert says that her students have a 90 percent pass rate on the certification exams. She says that students who have been through the program reach back out to her to tell her that the skills they learned in the Academy helped them both in high school and in building their resume, which they also learned how to do in the program.

Currently, 250 students are in the IT Academy at Polo Park. “We have students from as far north as Jupiter and as far south as Boca,” Corsentino said. “We don’t have a problem filling seats.”

Gilbert says that currently the program is very ‘boy heavy’, but she’s seen how successful girls can be in the program and hopes that more girls will learn about the program and the industry.

The application for Choice and Career Programs opens November 1. Click here to learn more about this and other Choice and Career programs in the School District.

If approved by voters, Countywide Question One will continue to fund more than 650 Arts, Music, Physical Education, Health, Choice and Career teachers. Election Day is November 6, with early voting open through November 4.