Alyssa Garcia is excited by learning options at a specialized high school. Photo courtesy Audra Garcia

Eighth-grader Alyssa Garcia has been accepted to Tacoma’s new Industrial Design, Engineering and Art (IDEA) high school.

A former Key Peninsula Middle School student and current Key Peninsula resident, Alyssa is currently studying at Seabury School, a school for the gifted in Tacoma. She plans to attend IDEA this fall after her graduation.

Alyssa has experimented with several different subjects, but is currently considering a focus on architectural engineering. “I only realize now that it’s called architectural engineering, but over the course of my lifetime I’ve done a lot of things related to it,” said Alyssa, who remembers planning out buildings and communities for fun at a young age. “I specifically remember as a kid doing this weird thing where I collected all the branches that my mother or father had cut down the previous day, and trying my hardest to make them into an actual structure.”

The IDEA school is the latest in a series of specialized high schools that Tacoma has opened over the past two decades; the School of the Arts (SOTA) and the Science and Math Institute (SAMI) are both part of the same program. Students from the Tacoma school district and the surrounding area are chosen by lottery after their applications are reviewed. “My understanding is that the majority of people are wait-listed, but [Alyssa] got in right off the bat,” said her mother, Audra Garcia. “They only accept 125 kids per year to the school…so it’s kind of a big deal, I guess.”

IDEA opened in 2016 and mostly accepts students from the Tacoma area, meaning that Garcia and her daughter had to do some searching. “I started asking around about what was next; Bellarmine seems to be where everyone in the area sends their kids, if they’re going to send them out of area, and that didn’t seem like something that would work for her. I had to start doing some homework and asking questions,” said Garcia.

Alyssa discovered IDEA after her school promoted it as an option for eighth-graders. “I found IDEA through that because there were a lot of posters around the school about it,” Alyssa said.

The school is known not only for its special facilities and learning opportunities but also for its collaborations with companies. Businesses can partner with the school to send working professionals to teach and offer opportunities to graduating students.

“They have architectural engineers coming and they teach architectural engineering to the kids, then they provide internships,” said Garcia. “They’re actually creating a forward path into the next level of education for them.”

Alyssa is excited to pursue her passions through some of the resources at IDEA, especially through the hands-on learning centers and workshops. “When I entered the school, there was a wood shop. The smell of wood shop, and wood in general, is beautiful,” said Alyssa. “They had boats in the making, they had everything…that’s the biggest thing I am excited for in this whole entire school.”

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