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Early college performing arts program to launch; learn more, who is eligible

Students entering Poughkeepsie High School as freshmen this fall have a new opportunity to gain experience and training in all aspects of the performing arts, as well as college credits.

The Poughkeepsie City School District, in association with Dutchess Community College and The Bardavon 1869 Opera House, is launching the Smart Scholars Early College High School Performing Arts Academy, the first of its kind in the state.

The program is designed for students interested in pursuing a career in the performing arts after high school graduation and spans a student’s four years at Poughkeepsie. Up to 30 students will be admitted to the inaugural class.

The first year of the program will focus on foundational high school learning, with more specialized performing arts education in following years.

“They’re just getting ready for college credit-level classes in the 10th grade,” said Dr. Janety Encarnacion, director of college readiness and workforce education. “They’re going to have intensive tutoring, intensive career counseling to prepare them for college learning.”

The application packet is available online. It must be completed and sent to Encarnacion at by Wednesday, May 31 at 3 p.m. Criteria for acceptance includes:

  • An overall attendance record of 80% or better.
  • An overall grade level average of 85% or better.
  • Strong interest in the performing arts.
  • Be a member of the Class of 2028.
  • Level 3 and 4 state assessments are preferred, but it’s not the determinant factor.

The application asks a series of questions on a student’s interests, goals and any awards they may have won. It also asks for two letters of recommendation.

Parents of applicants who meet the selection criteria will receive an email the week to set up a phone interview.

The program is part of the Poughkeepsie City School District’s Transformation Pathways Initiative, which offers specialized learning in employment areas, such as computer science, business and education, to expose students to what those potential jobs may entail. The Smart Scholars program itself is being made possible through a New York State Department of Education grant of $825,000.

Students will be able to accumulate up to 24 college credits, transferable to schools within the SUNY system; the credits may also be transferable outside the SUNY system at the individual school’s discretion. Encarnacion stressed even if a student decides against pursuing a performing arts degree, the skills learned in the arts can translate to success in many fields.

“Every skillset you gather from the performing arts, including presentation skills, how to express yourself, how to work in collaboration, how to meet deadlines, all of those are transferable skills,” she said.

Classes will initially be held at Poughkeepsie High School, though as this inaugural class moves into more specialized learning in future years some classes may be held off-campus.

Course options range from “Intro to Music Theory” and “How to Audition” to the “Foundations of Dance” and “Theatre History.” A full list of probable classes, subject to change pending student interest, is available in the application packet.

“If students are more interested in music, there’s going to be more of an emphasis on music. If students are more interested in theatre or dance, there’s going to be more theatre or dance,” Encarnacion said. “They’re going to have to take classes in all the performing arts, but once they’ve finished those foundational courses they can focus on their interests.”