#RethinkSchool: Safety and Success in a Magnet School Setting

My zoned middle school, in Orlando, FL, made local news with a tragic and terrifying story: a student was taken into the bathroom and raped. That was exactly what my mom was avoiding five years ago, when she diligently fought to keep me out of that school, which had a reputation for being unsafe.  Unable to afford private education, thankfully we had another viable option. Howard Middle School, a public magnet school only twenty minutes away from my house, offered a Visual and Performing Arts program.

Since I transferred to Howard Middle during the middle of the school year, I was given a special acceptance due to my academic performance and earlier community involvement. It may sound cliché, but Howard was the perfect fit for me!

Carolina Casola

In previous years, Howard Middle struggled as a Title I recipient (a school that receives federal funds because it serves many students from low-income families). Through strong new leadership and the magnet program, it became a nationally award-winning school. The change also encouraged the county to improve other existing schools in the area, so students wouldn’t have to compete for one high-performing school.

Although Howard Middle was a Visual and Performing Arts magnet school, they offered many different electives for students. I decided to take a class in pre-law which aroused my interest in the field. When it came time for high school, I decided to attend William R. Boone, a magnet school with a law concentration, where I learned skills ranging from public speaking to courtroom procedures.

My school district embraces school choice by offering a variety of education options – including public, private, virtual, charter and homeschool. Thanks to my ability to choose the best learning environment for myself, I am college bound.


Caroline Casola is a 12th-grade student at William R. Boone High School.