Academic programs advance students’ interests, wellbeing

October 27, 2022

Over the course of its 50 years, CHS has witnessed a number of changes to its academic structure. However, since its start, the school has recognized the connections between students’ wellness and academic performance. 

When the school opened its doors, it had 50 teachers, a stark contrast from the 230 teachers that operate the school now. 

“All the teachers were very young because they really went out trying to get people with an open mind,” Climo said. 

To further create this open environment, the school started a teacher-advisor program back in ‘73. All teachers and administrators served as advisors, and met with a group of 20 to 25 students each morning for 15 minutes, with Wednesday’s session extending to 40 minutes. Suggested conversation ideas included smoking lots, traffic patterns and the new media center (which served as a library, dark room and recreation center). 

The teacher-advisor program eventually evolved into the Charger Mentoring Program (ChaMP) in ‘99, which was formed in response to student anxieties after the Columbine shooting. ChaMP formed student groups that met for ten minutes each day, in classrooms, hallways and extra spaces, to focus on tolerance, conflict resolution and peaceful and healthy living. 

“I really liked ChaMP, it was designed to be like a homeroom class, with time used to do the logistical things, like the impact aid forms,” history teacher Angie Rollet, who started at CHS in 1996, said. “ChaMP didn’t have lessons like Advisory. I loved Advisory, too, but there’s also something really nice about ‘today we’re just going to play some games and have unstructured time’.”

These initiatives were met with mixed student opinions, with some denoting the program as a chance to open up to new people and focus on student wellbeing, and others saying the program could have been used for another purpose, according to the October 1999 issue of The Purple Tide. 

These varied receptions draw a parallel to more recent initiatives, like Advisory, which ran from 2020 to 2022, alongside the current program aimed at connecting students to teachers, Charger Connect. 

Another large aspect of the academic scene is the Chantilly Academy. Originally called the Vocational and Technical Education School, it initially had a more primary focus on technical classes aimed at providing students alternatives to college, as opposed to the current, more diverse spread of courses that incorporate careers directly after high school.

Student Eddie Shideler answers attendance in government class. (Photo from the May 1977 edition of The Purple Tide)

The vocational center turned Governor’s Academy for STEM still provides career-based classes for students. In addition, current offerings have expanded to encompass careers requiring formal education, like cloud computing, criminal justice and Korean, as well as original classes like auto collision and cosmetology.

“[Right now] the Chantilly Academy works with the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority to look at workforce trends in our area,” Chantilly Academy administrator Scott Settar said. “That’s where we start when we look at our classes. We offer students industry certification so they can go directly into the workforce if they want to.”

According to the school’s beliefs, the administration strives  to provide a comprehensive program that stimulates academic excellence in the arts and sciences, business, technology, and vocational studies. In line with this belief, the school currently offers an array of foreign language and electives classes to complement core classes.

“[When I was a student,] Chantilly told everyone they were going to try and cater educational needs for the students,” Climo said. “My sister was super brainy, and the math department challenged her. We all found our niche, and Chantilly really helped us cater to that.”

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