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Discovering the World Through AGS

Tatiana Brown and Angie Black

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The Academy for Global Studies is a separate academy within Austin High that focuses on global issues more than the comprehensive classes. Since the students of this program stay with the same staff and students throughout all four years of high school, they get to know each other.

“The teachers enjoy their job more in AGS,” AGS sophomore Jude Shaw said. “The teachers get to include worldwide topics even if it’s not a social studies class, as well as connect with their students and passions.”

The efforts the teachers put in to make sure their students are successful include keeping projects from overlapping and test dates spread out.

“Teachers will meet and have a planning period to talk about tests and other projects so the students are not overwhelmed,” AGS counselor Barbara Huffman said.

“Many seniors keep me busy from August to November with the letters of recommendations to hometown colleges and others out of state, which leads into almost all of our academically strong students to get into many strong colleges, such as Vanderbilt, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, etc,” Huffman said.

In addition to grades, many colleges will look at the volunteer work each student has done. AGS students have a special opportunity, since the program keeps track of all the service hours a student has completed and has a minimum requirement of 80 hours of volunteer work before graduation, to receive an endorsement from AGS.

“These service opportunities are broadcasted mainly to AGS students but are open to anyone,” Huffman said, “I provide opportunities through my neighborhood association, just like Ms. Steiner provides some through Austin Pets Alive.”

The services students participate in help them explore and get to know their community. AGS students also get service opportunities from traveling on the AGS trips.

“The AGS freshmen go to Heifer in Arkansas,” Huffman said. “They have been going on this particular trip for eight years.”  

Shaw, who participated in the Heifer trip last year, said he enjoyed the eye-opening experience he had with his fellow classmates.

“Heifer focuses on developing countries and hunger,” Shaw said. “It was pretty interesting. On the first night it seemed no one knew how to coordinate. I could see how people are unfairly paid in third world countries and lack of nutrition and basic living space.”

The sophomore trip to Costa Rica, is the first international trip AGS students take in the program.

“Many students enjoy this trip because they get to stay with the Bri Bri tribe in Panama and then help by painting the local city’s retirement homes,” Huffman said.

Last year, after constantly changing, the junior trip was set for New Mexico.

“AGS juniors have gone to Boston, New Orleans and Washington D.C. They looked at different cultures and how the U.S. is a melting pot of people,” Huffman said. “Hopefully we start going more to Albuquerque in New Mexico to really learn more about the culture of Native Americans in the United States.”

Similarly to the changing of the junior trip, the senior trip has been changed.

“Seniors used to always go to Turkey, but due to some complications, we can no longer go there. The AGS community has been working with the Raindrop House which is a ‘chamber of commerce’ to promote better relations with Turkey,” Huffman said. “Instead, the seniors last year went to Ecuador since it was a bit closer and cheaper.”

When debating to a program like AGS, parents and students ask about the workload and projects. Students say not to join AGS for the amount of homework or the crazy projects might have to do.

“The classes in AGS are challenging, and they move at a faster pace,” Shaw said. “I enjoy them much more because they go into depth.”

It is a environment for students who are looking to challenge themselves, and it is a program in which they can foster relationships with their teachers and fellow students, according to Huffman.

“It’s a unique program, not just for the travels, but for the global awareness that each and every student gains,” Huffman said.

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Discovering the World Through AGS