Student Cameron Freel has big goals in life. He wants to join the Air Force Fire Rescue Team. It’s a career path he wouldn’t have been able to begin until he graduated in 2019. But now, as a senior at South County Career Center, he’s set to graduate a year early as part of the school’s Accelerated Program.
“It’s a really good school for kids who want to graduate on time, or even graduate earlier. I came here, and I’m on the road to graduate. Now, I have the credit to go into Air Force Fire Rescue. It’s a really great school. I’m totally glad I came here,” said Freel.
South County Career Center (SCCC) is also a dropout prevention program for at-risk students, who have fallen behind in school for any number of reasons: attendance issues, problems at home, or being retained a grade level.
“We’re a very small school, about 200 students, and so we’re able to provide a very, very small environment for our students, which is typically what they need in order to succeed,” said SCCC Principal Jennifer Davis. “Unity is our strength. Every single person on this campus is responsible for every single kid on this campus and making sure that they’re successful.”
The school is located in the southern-most part of Hillsborough County off U.S. Highway 41, south of Ruskin on approximately 160 acres. It serves students south of State Road 60 in Brandon, Apollo Beach, Riverview, Gibsonton, Ruskin and Wimauma.
SCCC operates on a regular school year calendar with the goal of providing students the opportunity to earn a high school diploma, while learning a trade to prepare them for the workforce or post-secondary school.
“We have ROTC; we have agriculture, which is new to us this year; we have our auto mechanics class; we have the teen parent program with an onsite nursery that’s open to anyone who is pregnant or has a child; we have a digital info tech class for business; and we just started hospitality and tourism,” Davis said.
The school works with business partners in the community to connect students to employment opportunities.
“It gives them the opportunity to be involved in other careers like automotive. It’s rewarding to see students have these opportunities,” said Automotive and Agriculture Teacher Bob Ruggiero.
Davis stresses what neighbors may not know is the school is also giving back to the community. For example, automotive students will work on residents’ cars at a discounted rate.
“I want the community to know what we do and how we can serve them. We are open with our auto shop class to any outside person to come in, and that gives the kids opportunities to work on the cars as well. Our agriculture program as it begins to grow, we’re looking to support the community as well with the products and fruits of our labor,” Davis said.
SCCC is giving junior Saige Lopez the chance to catch up on credits, putting her on track for college and her goal to work with animals.
“My dream is to be a veterinarian. They talk about animals, and farming, and how we grow stuff. I’m prepared for college,” said Saige Lopez, SCCC junior.
Principal Davis is proud that the school doesn’t only focus on improving academics, but improving students’ lives by providing them with opportunities that they may have never thought were possible.
“This is where I feel like I make the biggest impact,” Davis said. “They’re amazing students. The staff and the environment that we provide is a successful environment. They know when they cross the stage, they don’t just get a high school diploma, but they know what the next step for them is, and they’re already on their way there."
To see the latest events happening at SCCC, follow the school on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SouthCountyCC
For more information about SCCC: http://sccc.mysdhc.org/View Full Album