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Students in Jefferson High School's Maritime and Marine Environmental Leadership Academy chart their path to life after high school

January 17, 2019 - Partners in Education

The College Preparatory Leadership Academies at Jefferson High School are magnet programs building the leaders of tomorrow today, through a career focused, Liberal Arts curriculum.  These programs allow students to learn leadership skills that they can apply in the classroom and life. One of the magnet programs is the Maritime and Marine Environmental Leadership Academy. This academy equips students with college ready, professional skills needed to excel in life. Students benefit from honors level curricula, paid internships for on-the-job training, industry certifications, theme focused field trips and guest speakers, participation in professional clubs, and community service opportunities.

You do have to apply during the choice application period for magnet programs at Jefferson High School. Students are encouraged to apply for the program if they are interested in learning more about the marine science and maritime industry, with hopes that with hands-on experience, including an interactive maritime simulator at the school, students will go the Coast Guard route or follow their passion along the science or marine route.

With the leadership of Mr. John Paradis, Magnet Director for Jefferson High School’s Maritime Academy, the program, now in its sixth year, has developed partnerships with the Tampa Propeller Club, Tampa Port Authority and the Florida Aquarium. Each year, these partners make it possible for freshmen Maritime and Marine Science students at Jefferson High School to tour Port Tampa and the American Victory Ship. Thanks to these partnerships, the annual field trip is fully funded, and they also provide guest speakers from the Port to visit students in the classroom.

A lot of students do not understand what is involved in the maritime industry. Most are pleasantly surprised when they enter the program and say they are learning more than they ever thought they could about the shipping industry and ships in general. When a ship captain comes in and tells students about his or her experiences, the students are able to see the career choice available to them and ask specific questions.

“The maritime industry is the lifeblood of world economy. Every one of our stores, and all fuel tanks with gasoline are provided by the port, if it wasn’t for the movement of goods throughout the world we would struggle as a society,” said Paradis.

Last week, freshmen in the program boarded a boat and traveled down the channel to see Tampa’s Port industry in action. Students then took a guided tour of the American Victory Ship, a Victory WWII Cargo Ship built by women in 1944. This floating museum serves as a reminder of that war and those who served. The tour was led by veterans from different wars, some served in the Navy, and they explained the engineering and history behind the ship.

Micaela Leon is a freshman in Jefferson’s Maritime and Marine Science Academy, she enjoys the opportunity to attend field trips like this and finds the curriculum fascinating.

“I enjoy learning the job opportunities available to us because we get to know people and they can open doors for us, which is great cause you have the access to find what you love, and it’s right there, given to you— we are very lucky to have it,” said Micaela.

Students are learning there is more to the maritime field than boats, they can work in marine science, engineering, or business administration in the science and maritime industry.  

“Many do not know how important the Port is to our area, so it’s our job to try and get some of the students to realize there is a great career option where they can work in Tampa Bay with our Port or other ports around the country. Some students can start out making $50,000, once industry certified,” said Paradis.

For many of the students, this field trip is something they will never forget, because most had never been on a boat before.

“This is my first time on a boat. The program is great, I learn a lot and enjoy taking notes in class about ships and the U.S. Coast Guards. I look forward to learning what other jobs are available out there to see if I am interested,” said student Genesis Mederos.

This was also Andrea Cordova’s first time on a boat, she said, “It’s a fun experience, I’ve been learning a lot about boats and the different types of boats, I never knew there were so many or what they do.”

Now that Ridan Duardo is in the program he said he wants to be a ship captain, he loves being on a boat, wants to visit different places that he would never think of going to for work. He also finds an added benefit of the job is getting to spend time with family when he is off the ship for an extended period of time.

“I enjoy learning what the ships do, where they go, how they get there, what they specialize in, who builds them, what they carry, pretty much everything you need to know about the ocean life and what we need to do to protect and save it,” said Duardo.

Thank you to the following people for bringing the classroom to life each year and educating Jefferson freshmen about Port Tampa Bay: Bill Kuzmick, President of American Victory and Thomas Procopio, Business Operations Manager, Port Tampa Bay President and CEO Paul Anderson, Dennis Martin, general manager of operations, safety and training and Lynn Reece, who handles Government Affairs for the Port.

On February 13th from 5:30PM to 7:30PM at Jefferson High School, students and families from Jefferson High School and Blake High School's Maritime Program will have the opportunity to meet with businesses and organizations in the marine science and maritime field, to network and learn about career opportunities in the Bay area that are available to them after graduation.

To learn more about the program contact Mr. Paradis at

To learn more about Jefferson’s magnet programs, visit

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