JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The schools facing off in Saturday's three Publix Bold City Showcase games at Bolles have plenty going on beyond the gridiron.
News4Jax will take a deeper look at all six schools this week, highlighting what makes each a unique place to learn.
We start Monday with Bartram Trail and Lee high schools.
We stopped by Bartram Trail the day of freshman orientation. Dozens of juniors and seniors spent hours volunteering to give a rocking welcome to the freshmen in the gym. Teachers and administrators said this is one of many ways Bartram students participate in community service.
"The second you walk into this school, everyone is welcoming and they’re positive," said senior Brylee Beckerman. "And just the best atmosphere. Feels like a home here."
Trevor Schultz, another senior who volunteered, could only find good things to say about his St. Johns County school.
"We have excellent athletic programs and our football program is amazing. I just like knowing everybody and the people here are amazing,” Schultz said.
Bears Principal Chris Phelps said it's his job to make sure the school turns out good graduates.
"I hope when a student leaves Bartram Trail, they’re a balanced young man and young woman and able to make great choices when they leave school,” Phelps said.
Bartram Trail hit the national spotlight in 2007 when the school rallied to raise money to help a high school football team in the Alaska tundra get an artificial turf field. The goal was to help lower teen suicide rates in the town and give teenagers an activity like football to look forward to.
The project was spearheaded by Cathy Parker, the wife of the Bears' offensive coordinator at the time. She co-wrote a book about the experience called “Northern Lights: One woman, two teams, and the football field that changed their lives.”
Two years before the Alaska turf project took off, Bartram Trail hosted the New England Patriots during Super Bowl XXXIX.
The Bears' coach said something was done to improve the grass on the field so the Patriots could practice and ever since, teams have been able to play on the field in almost any sort of weather.
Generals with purpose
Lee High School on Jacksonville's Westside is one of the oldest schools in Jacksonville and has a rich tradition -- both on and off the field.
When News4Jax stopped by, the band was preparing for the big game against Bartram and could be heard all over campus.
"It’s a big deal around here… everyone loves the band. It’s very exciting,” band member Alijah Miller said. “So you can kind of get an idea of how excited the band is about being out here.”
Miller said the band plans to put on a great show at the Publix Bold City Showcase.
Away from the gridiron, senior Emily Merton recently celebrated a major accomplishment. Merton swims for the Generals and broke a record in the 100-yard breaststroke that had been held for about 70 years by Olympic champion and Lee High alum Catie Ball.
Merton said Lee High is about much more than football.
"It is like a family environment. Everything about it is great,” Merton said. “They have awesome opportunities academically, like the early college program, which I’m involved in.”
The school also has a lot of success academically with its Engineering Academy.
"We’re one of the only schools in Duval County that actually has an engineering progression. Our goal is to get students who are interested in doing things that are STEM driven -- science, technology, engineering, mathematics -- expose them to the engineering field," said Monique Bell, who is the lead teacher in the Academy.
There's also a large interest in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at Lee High.
"I’m just going to bust a myth right now. A lot of people think ROTC is boot camp and we’re trying to force you to go into the military. ROTC is a program and we’re trying to help you develop leadership," said JROTC member Mya Jones.
Jaila Myers said the program has helped her grow as a person.
"This feels like something I can actually do,” Myers said. “Teaching things I never learned and helping develop myself as a person as well.”
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