Eighth-graders interested in attending Global High this fall should apply now.

One of seven STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) academies in Texas, staff members said their philosophy is that “learning can and should be fun.”

“The two most widely held misconceptions are that Global High is just for gifted and talented students or that it is the last chance for kids with behavioral problems,” headmaster Portia Butler said.

Admission to the school is done by lottery. One hundred ninth-graders are accepted each school year, with a maximum student body of 400.

“Yes, students were required to go through an application process, but admission is truly a lottery,” Butler said.

The school’s grant providers require specific student body demographics and criteria that are characteristic of an at-risk student population. Because females are under-represented in the STEM career fields, they are considered a minority for criteria purposes. Of the 100 students at WGH, 47 are female.

Butler said this year’s freshmen at Global High – its first students – have a certain excitement about them as they will be the school’s first graduating class in 2011.

“The planning team felt it was important to give ownership to the students,” Butler said, noting the first class was given the opportunity to choose school colors and a mascot, as well as to develop a student government.

“We wanted the school to be ours, the students’ and the staff’s,” she said, noting that “eating outside (on the front lawn) is part of our community” as an example of how the first class has played an important role in the development of culture, rules and programs.

WGH does not have the funding, staff or facilities to offer most of the special programs such as fine arts, athletics, agriculture offered at Waxahachie High.

“And that is not our focus anyway,” Butler said.

Students do have the opportunity to organize clubs and extra-curricular activities and are encouraged to do so. Student interest has generated clubs for creative writing and martial arts, the yearbook staff, a basketball team and the Technology Students Association.

The smaller student population adds to the appeal for many by encouraging bonding and closer relationships between students and their teachers as well as each other.

“We’re a smaller community where the teachers really get to know their students,” Butler said. “You can’t ‘fly under the radar’ here.”

The administration and staff have created an atmosphere conducive to learning and fun, while focusing on “the whole student,” Butler said, noting each student is enrolled in an advisory program that meets once a week with no more than 15 students per instructor.

Tutoring is available to every student twice a week and weekly seminars are offered on subjects such as career, future and college.

“We have a lot of talks about being a part of the community, caring for one another and caring of our physical space,” Butler said. “In addition, we encourage cooperative learning. It builds team concept.”

All freshmen are required to take engineering to receive a foundation in problem solving and project management and each student has an individual graduation plan.

“The goal is that every student has a minimum of 24 college hours by graduation,” Butler said, noting students can earn up to 60 college hours.

Global High applications may be picked up at the school office, the counselor’s office at the junior high or downloaded from the Web site at www.globalhigh.org. Applications are due by Friday, May 9.

Besides filling out the application, prospective freshmen will also set up an appointment to meet with school personnel.

For more information, call 972-923-4761, fax 972-923-4738 or e-mail Butler at pbutler@wisd.org.

E-mail Jennifer at jennifer.howell@wninews.com