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Education & Higher Learning

One of the biggest draws to the West Orange area is its education. West Orange has an enviable reputation as a community that strives to put its children first. And it is obvious in the educational opportunities that abound at all levels of learning.

Public schools in the area’s learning communities offer a wide variety of high-quality educational opportunities. Student learning is the top priority. The Orange County Public School mission statement is “to lead our students to success with the support and involvement of families and the community.” A combination of strong leadership, quality instruction, innovation and parental involvement results in high and ever-increasing academic achievement. All four of West Orange County’s public high schools made Newsweek magazine’s annual list (2010) naming the best high schools in the nation. Only six percent of the country’s high schools make this list of 1,622 selected schools. Olympia High School was ranked in the top 15 percent of all U. S. high schools.

Magnet schools, gifted and special education classes, extra-curricular activities and many other outstanding and innovative programs are available to help parents and students meet their education goals.

For families who are interested in private and parochial learning, West Orange offers many outstanding options, beginning at the preschool level and continuing through to higher learning. West Orange is home to at least eight private schools ranging from pre-K through 12, and the choices are as diverse and unique as the many people who seek their education.

The proximity of several higher learning centers in the West Orange area helps encourage educational momentum way past high school graduation. Whether you’re seeking a top-notch technical education center, a community college or an internationally recognized university center, you will find your options conveniently nearby.

Westside Tech, part of Orange County Public Schools’ Career and Technical Education Department, is a dynamic and innovative technical center that primarily serves the west and northwest portions of Orange and adjacent Lake County. Westside offers day and evening classes in more than 28 full- and part-time academic and technical programs. Adult education classes are available at 15 off-campus sites, which include elementary and high schools, local churches and community centers. Westside Tech provides technical training in the following program clusters: Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, Architecture and Construction, Business Management and Administration, Health Science, Hospitality and Tourism, Human Services, Information Technology and Manufacturing. A new program has been added for the 2010-11 school year, Energy. Through this cluster, the school will offer Solar Energy and Solar Thermal programs, along with industry certification in the field. Westside is a vibrant center, with a friendly family atmosphere, serving the workforce needs of the community and its citizens.

The University of Central Florida (UCF) is a metropolitan research university that ranks as the third-largest in the nation with more than 53,500 students. UCF is a national leader in providing academic and research opportunities for students in education, biomedical sciences, optics, engineering, business and many other disciplines. UCF offers more than 200 degree programs, and the new College of Medicine welcomed its first class of 41 students in 2009.

Students can take classes on the main campus in east Orlando or at regional campus sites throughout central Florida. The DirectConnect to UCF program offers assured admission to graduates of Seminole State College of Florida and Valencia, Brevard and Lake-Sumter community colleges. UCF and its community and state college partners share academic programs, advising and financial aid resources to provide a seamless transition to the university.

Valencia Community College has locations in southwest Orlando on South Kirkman Road, in east Orlando on Econlockhatchee Trail, in northern Orange County on Morse Avenue in Winter Park and in Osceola County, its fastest growing campus, which is located on Denn John Lane in Kissimmee. The college also has a continuing education center located on Sand Lake Road. Valencia works diligently to be responsive to its community, building relationships with high schools, universities and corporate partners to strengthen academic scholarship and economic development. Valencia’s pioneering approach to teaching and learning allowed the college to gain recognition in 2000 by the League for Innovation in the Community College as one of 12 International Vanguard Learning Colleges.

Growing right in our backyard is the Mid-Florida Research & Education Center (MREC), featuring the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), which is a federal, state and local government partnership. They are dedicated to developing knowledge in agriculture, human and natural resources and the life sciences, and to making that knowledge accessible to sustain and enhance the quality of human life.

While extending into every community of the state, UF/IFAS has developed an international reputation for its accomplishments in teaching, research and extension. From developing orange juice concentrate to educating tomorrow’s leaders, from helping establish cultural diversities in Africa to helping local citizens buy their first home, UF/IFAS is making a difference.

MREC has formed partnerships with several University of Florida colleges to offer degree programs and selected courses to central Florida residents at its facility in Apopka.

To learn more about our mission and programs, please plan on attending the West Orange Chamber Business After Hours at our location in Apopka on May 19, 2011.

As a community, West Orange continues to encourage educational growth and achievement. It’s nice to know that, as a West Orange County resident, so many educational opportunities are available right in your own backyard.

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