RANDOLPH, NJ- Every student has a hobby or a passion that they are craving to learn more about. Sure, an elective drawing class in high school can be a start if your passion is art, but there is so much more to the skill. Randolph High School has had some form of an independent study in the past, but it wasn’t until 2012 when the Option II program took off.
Kerry Eberhardt had first heard about the idea of an Option II program while in graduate school at The College of New Jersey. “A guest speaker came into our School Law class and discussed Option II and how it was being implemented in districts across NJ,” she said. “I became very interested and I remember thinking that I was not that impressed by how it was being utilized and that there must be so much more that schools could do with it.”
Soon after, a committee was formed for Option II by the RHS principal, Debbie Iosso. It included Mrs. Iosso, Mrs. Roberts, Mrs. Holz and Ms. Eberhardt. Ms. Eberhardt said they started “tossing around ideas” to develop an Option II program for RHS. The ideas even got attention from the district. “When the district announced it was looking for an Option II Coordinator,” Eberhardt said, “I felt like it was a natural fit.”
Eberhardt had been a biology teacher before the program. She encouraged each of her students to pursue what they love. Now, as the Option II Coordinator, she is able to help students do just that.
According to Ms. Eberhardt, “[Option II] is a part of the law that allows for school districts to develop programs through which students may earn credit toward graduation in a way that is different than the traditional classroom or outside of what is offered in their school.”
There are five core types of Option II: Self-Directed Learning Experience, Structured Learning Experience, Tomorrow’s Teachers, College Coursework and Senior Experience. “Each student experience is unique, and is designed to meet the needs of [that] specific student. However, determining what type of program a student is interested in is the foundation for planning that unique experience,” rtnjoption2.com states.
Tia Scola is part of a Self-Directed Learning Experience. She uses one period of class a day to work on her songwriting. In addition to writing her own music, she takes online classes at Berklee College of Music. She also has been able to network with people who will “help get [her] music in front of a larger audience.” At the end of the year prior, she submitted an application, like the rest of the Option II students, outlining what she wanted to do this year. A Self-Directed Learning Experience gives students the flexibility they need to be able to learn more and accomplish what they love. Students in all high school grades are welcome to apply for a Self-Directed Learning Experience.
Lindsey Klein and Emma Flanagan used a Structured Learning Experience to start their own PR firm, Ram Communications, for the Randolph School District. Mr. Zlock, the communications coordinator for Randolph, serves as their mentor for Option II. “This experience has taught me that regardless of what you are doing, there are always going to be obstacles,” Lindsey said, “but you have to take it upon yourself to make smart decisions. While working in PR there are so many different things that can go wrong and I learned that this year. Throughout these experiences I was able to understand how to handle real world situations and use my best judgment to handle these issues. I also learned a lot that will help me in college and beyond, like writing a formal email.”
In a Structured Learning Experience, a mentor is assigned to the student or students and the experience is “focused on learning the skills and routines of a specific job or career,” according to Ms. Eberhardt. One student, who wants to work in events and hospitality, works at Skylands at Randolph. Another student uses her 1st period Option II to work for Maschio’s Food Service in the RHS commons kitchen.
Tomorrow’s Teachers is a course designed specifically for juniors and seniors who want to pursue a career in education. In this class taught by Ms. Eberhardt and Mrs. Kanya, students learn just how much goes into teaching. They observe classes, learn how to write lesson plans and see how a real classroom works. Students are placed into classrooms district-wide and are given the opportunity to actually teach.
Jamie Davis chose to do Tomorrow’s Teacher’s because she wants to become a teacher one day. She is a peer teacher for an English as a Second Language Class with Mrs. Black. “I help the kids with any work they have,” she explained. “I have taught some mini lessons. I have worked with students one-on-one and in groups. I will be teaching a lesson on debates, and I do anything Mrs. Black needs me to do, such as making copies or making quizzes up.”
Being able to be in a classroom setting, like Jamie is, isn’t available to most education majors until their junior years of college.
Among the other types of Option II is College Coursework, which allows juniors and seniors to enroll in college courses while still being a high school student. This way, the student is able to take classes that aren’t available at RHS. The County College of Morris offers the Challenger Program for High School students, making this Option II easily accessible.
The final type of Option II, Senior Experience is an “extensive” way for students to be fully immersed in their projects, rtnjoption2.com. A student uses the whole second half of his school day for this. Ms. Eberhardt said that the project consists of three parts: “1) academic foundation, 2) experiential learning (like internship or service learning) and 3) Capstone Project.”
Alyssa Stiles has had quite an eventful year. After taking fashion design classes at both RHS and FIT, she decided she wanted to be in the business side of the industry. She currently takes a class at CCM once a week, but spends two or three other days at her internship at Caravan Stylist Studio in Midtown Manhattan. The studio works as a “middle man” connecting celebrities with designers. The client list includes “The Carrie Diaries,” “Orange is the New Black,” “The Following,” and Cat Greenleaf from “Talk Stoop.”
“We put on events such as fashion shows and parties, and collaborate with different companies, such as Century 21,” she explained her fantasy-like life. “I have been able to do pulls from designers, such as Nanette Lepore Nicole Miller and Carmen Marc Valvo, and work the NFL Fashion Show with Kristin Cavalari.”
Just a senior in high school, Alyssa has already learned so much about the fashion world. Fashion is all about connections,” she said. “By interning at Caravan Stylist Studio I have been able to meet and work with so many influential people in the industry I love.”
Alyssa’s capstone project will be a combination of a blog, pictures and videos. She and her fellow Option II peers will be showing off their capstone projects at the first Option II Showcase. It will take place on Tuesday, May 27 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at RHS and will be open to the entire community.
“People in Option II are already completing so much, so I know that in the future Option II will be unstoppable,” Sara Grier, an Option II student, said positively.
Eberhardt is extremely optimistic for the future of the Option II Program, as well. “I would like to see all students, looking forward to and planning for what they will do their senior year in Option II,” she hopes, “from an independent science research project to a sculpture exhibit in a town park to creating a self-defense course for elementary students to starting an organic soap and body product business... whatever they want. I would like to see all seniors spending their afternoons working toward something that is completely theirs; something they can use to make their mark on the world. I think it's possible.”
To find out more about the Option II program or about the Option II Showcase, visit www.rtnjoption2.com.
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