With more than four decades of history in Westchester, St. Brendan High School is well-known among South Floridians looking for a strong faith-based education. But the campus is much more than just another Catholic high school. Offering a plethora of options for all types of students, the school is now offering more than 100 electives in fields including law, business, broadcasting, robotics, engineering, programming, medicine, and performing arts. “We want our classes to be hands on, student-centered, and provide real world application of knowledge,” says Principal Jose Rodelgo-Bueno. We sat down with Dr. Rodelgo-Bueno to learn more about the school, how he sees his students shaping the future and why innovation is key to the evolution of the school.
What do you see as the main difference between your school and other schools in the area?
St. Brendan High School has developed a modern and new way of Catholic education, in which students are prepared for top colleges and prestigious professional paths through a co-ed and faith-centered pedagogical model based on Academies and innovation. As such, our four academies (STEM, Medical Sciences, Law & Global Business and Visual & Performing Arts) and other educational programs convert our school into a leader in college and career readiness and, at the same time, a leader in terms of helping students find God’s plan for their lives. Not only are our students provided with great opportunities in terms of college admissions and college scholarships, but they also are very mature when they graduate and have explored the college major and profession they want to pursue, which are the concrete ways God is going to use their talents to build a better world.
What are you most proud of when you look at your student body?
I feel like a proud father because I see all of my students eager to discover God’s plan for their lives and grow in all dimensions: in academics and athletics, socially, emotionally, and in faith. I see them sincerely happy. Regardless of their background, they thrive at our school. I believe this is due to the fact that they found a family here and, because of that, they feel loved and empowered to become the type of person God wants them to be. The family environment we have in our school and the unity of our school community are clearly visible through very special student-teacher relationships.
I know that you offer different programs for different types of students. Tell me a little about that.
The Alpha Program is an accelerated and rigorous academic program designed for intellectually gifted and highly motivated students. These students take the most challenging course offerings as well as participate in a great variety of enrichment activities. The Academies Program is designed to closely resemble college majors and tracks. Students are provided with an early and broad view of what opportunities are available in their future while also preparing them for the rigors of college and beyond. The Honors Level Courses consist of 46 classes in all major academic areas including English, Mathematics, Science, Social Science and Foreign Language. The Dual Enrollment Program allows students to earn college credits in over 26 course offerings. The Advanced Placement Program currently offers 29 courses ranging from AP Calculus AB and BC, to AP Mandarin. In addition, the AP Capstone Program equips students with the independent research, collaborative teamwork and communication skills valued by top universities. Also, we have the Champagnat Program, which is designed for students with special needs.
Education is constantly changing and evolving, how do you see St. Brendan keeping up and preparing students for a new world?
Our students know it is not about preparing themselves for a new world, but about creating, shaping, and leading that new world now. The future is already here, at our school, and you can see it through our 21st Century learning and teaching style and the design of our new buildings and athletic fields. The pioneering architecture of our recently built Innovation Center invites students to think out of the box and think about their own thinking. The hallways have learning accelerators, innovative furniture, and social stairs where students can socialize and, at the same time, create their own inventions and ideas. Our STEM Center provides the tools for our students to create their own apps, 3D print and code their own robots and devices, and work with our NAO humanoid and drones. In our Medical Lab, our students learn Medicine through a robotic patient simulator, which talks, has fluids, and can be programmed to simulate heart attacks and multiple health-related scenarios.
What is the most exciting program or initiative that you’ve seen lately?
Almost seven years ago, we adopted our 1:1 iPad program, created the Academies, boosted our International Program, and added the study of AP Capstone and Mandarin. Then, we obtained AdvancED STEM Certification, built the Innovation Center, and provided innovation across the curriculum. Innovation has been the reason why we have received so many recent visits from educational experts, also from other countries, and even a visit from the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. Lately, we created our Lacrosse and Football programs and we put emphasis on personal growth and the development of the entire individual through sports.
I am also very proud of so many of our students who, this year, became National Merit Semi-Finalists, acquired National Merit Commended status, or achieved National Merit Hispanic recognition. Once again, our students have demonstrated excellent academic performance.
Finally, I am very proud of the work that our Sabres currently do in the community through service learning projects. They help migrants, down syndrome children, the homeless, nursing homes, and many people in need, and then they reflect on those experiences. This helps our community and makes our students become better human beings. They learn how to live with Christ and like Christ.
St. Brendan High School is located at 2950 SW 87 Avenue, Miami, FL 33165. For more information, please call (305) 223-5181 or visit stbrendanhigh.org.