Bergen County’s Elite Academics

Let’s face it– when it comes to being prepared for becoming an adult, no one can teach us that. Although the Pythagorean Theorem was repeated to us at the young age of 12, none of us could manage to remember it for that big geometry class that our (probably) most hated math teacher always held every two to three weeks. However, were we able to move on? Were we able to get into college and lead successful lives without the Pythagorean Theorem always sitting there in the back of our minds? Yes. The answer is yes.

Starting From The Bottom

After years and years of education, the Pythagorean Theorem sits there alongside “The Great Gatsby,” and the history of the “Gold Rush” on the shelf of subjects that may not be considered so useful but that are guaranteed to be taught throughout our years of education. Usually, high schools go along with this dated curriculum in order to prepare students to pass core education and so on but schools and students need more!

Now, the typical curriculum isn’t a bad thing. It teaches students to be disciplined, showcasing how much our world has evolved, and how to advance in a certain subject. But, many think we can all benefit more with some other classes such as ‘How to do Your Taxes’ or ‘Why You Need to Get Your Credit Score to 700 RIGHT NOW’.

All laughs aside, it might be a while until those classes are introduced into our textbooks, however, Bergen County has the next best thing. Bergen County Technical High Schools and Academies.  The schools that are preparing students for more than acing the test but how to plan for their future careers!

Along with the usual and necessary academics, these schools are requiring their students to take classes in possible career fields and prepare them for the challenging college classes ahead. These fine institutes are located in Paramus (the headquarters), Hackensack, and Teterboro. These schools are the technical and vocational education army of the Bergen County School District. Although the schools are under the same umbrella, they all are unique in their own way.

The Pursuit of Happiness

Bergen County Academies (BCA), which is in Hackensack, offers seven academic programs and is a magnet public high school, which means it has its own specialized curriculum. The seven programs, or rather academies, are Culinary Arts and Hospitality Administration, Engineering and Design Technology, Business and Finance, Advanced Science and Technology, Computer Science, Medical Science Technology, and Visual and Performing Arts.

BCA also offers Research programs where students receive the chance to perform research in the same settings, techniques, and perspectives as professional scientists. The Research programs include Nano-Structural Imaging Lab, Stem Cell Lab, Cell Biology Lab, and Nanotechnology Lab.

The goal is to prepare all the students for the challenges of a college education as well as the working world beyond that. Each career concentration can ensure students are prepared to excel beyond the fundamentals and entry levels of their studies.

The selection process is competitive, however, they accept students from all over Bergen County. Year after year, graduates often attend prestigious universities and colleges all throughout the country making it a desirable academic choice for students and parents.

Along with the concentration in a career field, The Bergen Academies also require students to take the usual academics such as math, humanities, foreign language, and arts, which surpass the state levels by one year. In retrospect, students will be taking honors-level classes on top of their promising majors.

BCA does not exclusively focus on the 16 AP s they offer since their exceptional students prefer courses that go beyond the AP classes intensity and creativity.  Even their faculty is something to admire since 20% of the staff hold Ph.Ds. In 2015, ‘Newsweek’ ranked the school “5 out of 500 for top public high schools in America,” which also placed BCA as the fourth top school in New Jersey. The year before ‘The Daily Beast’ ranked the school ‘15th in the U.S. out of 700 charter and magnet schools’ and ‘2 out of 25 Best High Schools in the Northeast.’

Majoring in Your Passions, Beliefs, and Dreams

BCA is also a National Blue Ribbon School, which is a U.S. government program that was created in 1982 in order to honor any schools that have achieved great performance levels. This is definitely a high honor for any high school and BCA has joined the 7,000 schools that have been granted such recognition. With all the stress of the challenging workload, BCA students can get creative and become stress-free as the school offers about 37 clubs for students to choose from. Some of the more unique clubs included are African Experience Club, Chamber Choir, DIY (Do it Yourself), Disney and Dessert, Weight Training, Filipino Culture, and Interpretation of Dreams. For students that want to bring their academics into after-hours, they can select from Pre Law Club, Research Medicine, Science Olympiad, and Math Club.

The Bergen County Technical High School located in Teterboro practices a project-driven curriculum for the students within its technology-infused community. It is, by choice, a public magnet school; which means it offers special instruction that is not available at other schools. By doing this, it draws a much more diverse school population, bringing people from all sorts of backgrounds together, just like Hello! Bergen.

The goal is to develop students individually as well as preparing them for a life and career full of choices, learning, and progressive situations. Students are expected to become active participants in a global community. Even if students decide not to go to college right away, they can graduate feeling confident enough to enter the workforce.

The admissions process, like BCA, is also highly competitive. Any prospective students must complete the online application, provide scores from the ‘NJ ASK,’ which must be proficient or above their standards, provide middle school transcripts, recommendation letters from all core teachers (math, science, and English) and finally complete the difficult entrance exam which consists of mathematics and a written assessment section.  For the 2010-2011 school year, only 168 out of 1,500 applicants were granted acceptance. Shocking numbers, huh?

The core disciplines of the school include Aerospace Engineering, Culinology, Digital & Media Arts, Law & Justice, Computer Science, Automotive Engineering & Design, Strategic Asset Management, Commercial Art & Graphic Design, and Fashion Design & Merchandising. Classes that are overlooked for other high schools have become the path for success at the Teterboro Technical High School campus. 

The variety of challenging and intense programs can help young students learn early on in life what it is what they want to do or, more importantly, what they don’t want to do. Which many parents will agree is much better than spending thousands of dollars to send their child to college as a bio major just for them to change their mind halfway and want to major in Journalism. (Sorry, Dad!)

A Unique Twist On Extra Curriculum!

With a tough academic schedule, it can be easy for students to become overwhelmed. Bergen County Technical School has found a positive solution to help students get some free time in by offering Project Wednesdays. This entails that all the class periods on Wednesdays be shortened, then at the end of the day, the students work on selected projects with the extra hours given. Projects can include anything such as Teaching, Fitness, or even Garage Band.

There is also the Senior Experience which also takes place on Wednesdays where seniors opt-out of classes in exchange for an internship in their chosen career path. This in turn gives them credits towards graduation. Another way students blow off steam from studies is by participating in the ‘SkillsUSA’ which includes national, state, and local competitions. In 2012, the school won 8 gold medals, 9 silver medals, and 3 bronze medals which was a record-breaking achievement.

Alongside these academic activities, there are also a large number of clubs offered such as Gay-Straight Alliance, Knight News, Physics, and Drama club. Sports are also offered for all students who play as one with the other Bergen Technical Schools and Academies as the Bergen Tech Knights. Some of the sports include football, cheerleading, basketball, bowling, and softball.

Diversity At Its Finest

The technical arm of Bergen County is changing the way education is done. Rather than explaining to students there’s only ‘passing or failing’ scenarios, the schools are showing all the possibilities that are out there for them. Being an adult is a scary thing and it never hurts to be prepared– which is exactly what these schools are doing! The possibilities are truly endless, even if you forget about the Pythagorean Theorem on your next geometry test. Good luck future students!

Edward Leary

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