JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Teachers at a Region 8 high school are working to make sure their students have every opportunity possible for the career path of their choice.
Jonesboro High School is divided up into Academies focusing on certain areas of expertise.
The BCAL Academy is Business, Communications, Art, and Law Academy.
The HHS Academy is Health and Human Services while the STEM Academy is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
Lead Teacher of the Business, Communication, Arts, and Law Academy, Jon Newman, said the academy schools are something they've been doing for a while.
"We have had seven programs of study in the past," Newman said. "That are mostly centered around our business classes. As we've expanded on our academy model here at JHS, we added on law. We did that about two years ago. With law we've now added two pre-tracks, which are Pre- law and law enforcement. Law enforcement is basically us pulling over a vocational program that the NEA Career Technical Center had access to. We're going to be bringing that over next year exclusively to JHS. And soon we'll have access to a pre-law track, with a mindset of being legal, an attorney, or they will have access to a law enforcement track. Thinking along the lines of FBI and law enforcement.
Instructor of Criminal Justice Caleb Barkley said he's excited students will now have a choice centered towards law enforcement.
"The first year will be an Introduction into Criminal Justice," Barkley said. "We'll discuss things like court, corrections, probable cause, reasonable suspicion, and how to tell the difference between them and things like that. The second part to that will be fundamentals, which will be more hands on. They'll start using the tools that we use like handcuffs, collapsible batons. They're not going to get sprayed or shot with a taser, but they will see some usage. Learn how to do traffic stops, felony traffic stops, learn how to search and different things like that. The third class will be Crime Scene Investigation, where they'll learn how to process a crime scene. The fourth class will be Criminal Law."
Barkley said he wants his students to know what the law enforcement field is truly like.
"There's a whole lot of misunderstanding about law enforcement," Barkley said. "I try to give them the reality of it and not just what they see on TV and what they think might be going on. I try to give them the reality of having to make a decision in a split second and it could be a life or death type situation."
Barkley said he believes students will find these classes both informative and eye-opening.
"For me, nothing like this existed," Barkley said. "I think it would have been very beneficial for someone like me to see what police actually do before you actually get out in the field. And I think it's important to let them have an idea of 'Cops is a good show, but they don't show everything behind the scenes.' You need to know there's more to it than that. And like I said, with today's environment with a lot of the stuff going on with law enforcement I think it's good they hear both the good and the bad. They need an understanding of what it's like, and I try to instill that in them as best I can."
Business Education Instructor Rhonda Mashburn covers the many aspects of law.
"I teach Business Law One and Two," Mashburn said. "I introduced the students to the individual rights to criminal law, to civil court law. We discuss contract law, employment law, and we're about to go into marriage, divorce, and adoption law. I try to cover just a little bit of everything. I currently have a student interested in going to college to get a degree in Immigration Law. She's been shadowing a local attorney and has even sat in on client preps. So, it is touching children. It's letting them know the areas of law they can practice."
Mashburn said students have the chance to learn and get ahead in their college courses.
"In the pre-law track," Mashburn said. "Students can take the business course with me, and from there they can take criminal justice if they want to go in that direction. They can also pick up the AP Psychology classes, AP Sociology, AP Government. So, they can pick up a lot of different educational hours that will help them in college to shorten some of their time there. So, they can go ahead and get into their career choices of attorney."
Mashburn said students get a real idea of what it's like to practice law.
"The students are actually getting a lot of hands-on experience," Mashburn said. "In my class alone, we do mock trials. The first mock trial I give them a script and introduce them to all the roles and what they do. In the second mock trial, I give them the scenarios of the case and whoever I appoint as being the attorneys. They then have to come up with their own questioning. It's a great way for them to gain a lot of experience in this."
Mashburn said they're looking at employment opportunities in the community and working to prepare students for those fields if they're interested.
"We're also looking at," Mashburn said. "Offering them an industry certification that's recognized by everyone in this field. We have found through some of the judges in our local county that they are in desperate need of court reporters. So, we are working with one of the local colleges to try and get some articulation with them so we can offer some of those courses here at the high school and get them further on the way into a post-secondary education to be a court reporter."
Newman said it's about making sure their students are ready for the career of their choice to be the most successful version of themselves they can be.
"When we look at the employment opportunities," Newman said. "The students have access to in Jonesboro, some of your major opportunities are health which HHS takes care of. We also have some of our largest employers are JPD and all the legal entities we have inside the community with all the attorneys we have. Broadening out to judges and anything affiliated with the court. There's an employment opportunity. So, we want to make sure our students are trained so they can fill those needs for the community."
"I hope students get a better understanding of what they might be seeing," Barkley said. "When they're watching the news or someone is talking to them. Someone will often tell them something or show them something, but not give them the whole story. And I'm trying to get them to understand that you have to take the whole story in perspective. I also hope they take away a respect for law enforcement. I hope it broadens their horizons on law enforcement. Whether it be local or FBI or anything like that."
"It's an awesome opportunity," Mashburn said. "I graduated with 38 in my class, and we didn't have any of these opportunities. It's an awesome opportunity students have to explore in fields that many times they dream about doing, but don't ever think that they could make it. Now, they have the opportunity to make it."
For more information about Jonesboro High School, click here.