WSHS Vikings Excel in the Arts
As the only Center for the Fine and Performing Arts program in PWC, Woodbridge attracts artists of all kinds.
For most students and parents, the phrase "picking a school" only refers to the college process as students labor over pro con lists when deciding where to continue their higher education.
But for Prince William County students, choosing a school can begin as early as middle school considering each high school in the county offers a specialty program. Some programs are offered twice, once at a school in the western end of the county and again in the eastern area, while others are only available at one location.
Since students in the Woodbridge area can choose from seven different specialty programs, Woodbridge Patch has decided to take a look into each program to help students and parents fully understand all their options.
Part III: Center for the Fine and Performing Arts at Woodbridge Senior High School
The CFPA is a four-year program that originated at WSHS nine years ago. With seven concentration areas, students interested in any aspect of the arts can choose to study their craft in depth, in addition to the traditional high school curriculum. The artists of Prince William County can audition for the dance, creative writing, theater, visual arts or instrumental, vocal or technology music concentrations.
"The CFPA program provides young artists a more intensive, concentrated study in their area of interest," said coordinator Carol Rethmel. "Basically, it is like a college program on a less intense level because students take all the core classes, but they specialize as well."
WSHS is the only school in Prince William County that offers the CFPA program, which means that any Prince William County School student is eligible to audition. Each concentration area has a different application process and more information can be found on Woodbridge's website.
"The major advantage of this program is that it presents students who think they are interested in fine and performing arts with a very accurate picture of the career possibilities ahead of them," said Rethmel. "They can immerse themselves in what they are already passionate about and find out if they truly are interested in an arts career"
Rethmel also said that the program stresses to its students that the skills learned in the program will be beneficial in any career they choose.
Students in each discipline will take six sequentially laid out courses in their field of study, along with the core requirements to receive a diploma. Students who have fulfilled the requirements of their diploma and still have electives available can choose to take other arts courses outside of their concentration.
"It will depend whether a student has chosen to pursue the standard diploma or advanced diploma how many electives they have built in their schedule, but if they do have room we encourage them to take courses in other concentrations if they wish to," said Rethmel. "Taking classes from other concentrations will help students understand their fellow artists and how crafts can cross the bridge, as well as enhance their own understanding of the craft they are pursuing."
Rethmel also said she feels fortunate to receive feedback from many of the colleges that students who have completed the CFPA program attend and appreciates the many compliments they receive on how well-prepared for college the students are.
"We do enjoy a little bragging rights knowing that our students have taken a few more skills with them than the average college freshman," said Rethmel.
Though Rethmel said she does not see any disadvantages to the program, she said it would not be fair to say the program is a great fit for everyone.
"I selectively recommend the CFPA program to students who know they have a strong interest in the arts," said Rethmel. "While we encourage all students to participate in one of our interest nights to learn more about the program, we know that not all students who enjoy the arts will want to be involved in such an intense program. It takes more than an interest to achieve excellence in the program. If you attend the interest night and what you hear really lights your fire, then you are in the right place."