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Students, parents look for choices at Magnet School Fair in Winston-Salem

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Leslie Batten, the media coordinator at Diggs-Latham Elementary School, talks to eight-year-old Desmond Goode about musical intruments on display during a magnet school fair at the Benton Convention Center Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015. (Lauren Carroll/Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Ten-year-old Savannah Bingham was at the Benton Convention center Saturday checking out schools that would allow her to continue her dance and gymnastic interests, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

“I like hip hop and lyrical,” Savannah said of her favorite styles of dance as she stood with her parents, Angela and Matthew Bingham of Kernersville, and her younger brothers, Bryson and Ledger.

The Bingham family was among hundreds of students and parents who attended the annual Magnet School Fair aimed at showcasing magnet schools in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system.

Families had the chance to learn about each of the 19 magnet schools and 21 magnet programs, speak with current faculty and students and watch performances from some of the programs. Several community partners attended to support different programs, including the local arts council and chamber of commerce.

The local school system is accepting magnet school applications through Jan. 23.

“This is our big recruitment fair,” said Kim Marion, program manager for magnet schools for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.

Marion said that magnet schools use themes to focus on students’ talents and abilities to help pull out their natural interests, from elementary to high school.

“Educational research tells us that if we can engage students in their learning that they are more likely to graduate from high school and move on, and that’s what we want,” she said.

She also said that the goal of magnet schools is to “offer the diversity that you find throughout the district.”

“They are truly magnets,” Marion said. “They are intentionally to attract students so that the school looks like the district.”

Savannah and her parents are extremely interested in Mineral Springs Middle magnet school, but they are also considering Southeast Middle School in Kernersville.

“Our fear is that the regular middle school is going to be too big for her,” Angela Bingham said, referring to number of students.

Her family has not toured any of the magnet schools but plan to do so.

The Magnet School Fair is one of Superintendent Beverly Emory’s favorite days of the year.

She loves seeing all the schools represented in one place.

“It’s almost overwhelming to see what schools are doing and that pride, and the opportunities,” she said. “Kids have so many opportunities. It’s awesome.”

Leslie Baldwin, foreign language program specialist for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, talked about the lure of a magnet school.

“While it offers the same curriculum that you’re going to get at any school, it also offers a focus on something special, something that makes that school unique.”

Luis Antunez, a junior at Kennedy High School, said he decided on a magnet school because he wanted to do something different.

“I wanted to go out and start an early career and start working in concrete and construction,” Luis said.

He said he learns faster when he does hands-on-projects. He is already making plans to go to college to study airplane engineering.

Five-year-old Charlie Arceneaux of Kernersville will be heading to kindergarten this fall, so his parents Joe and Amy Arceneaux are pondering over the best school for him.

“We just wanted to check out the different options,” Amy Arceneaux said at the fair. “He likes the arts and sciences.”

Her husband said they have also been looking at local schools in Kernersville.

Dr. Karyn Gordon-Mason of Clemmons was at the magnet school fair with her husband, Keith Mason, and her daughters, Makenna Mason, 16, and Yinka Mason, 13.

Makenna is considering possibly going to Forsyth Middle College, which offers high school in a college environment. Her primary interest is computer science but she is also an athlete.

Going to Forsyth Middle College would allow her to still play tennis at West Forsyth High School, her mother said.

Gordon-Mason said her family has toured Reynolds High School and plans to tour more magnet school programs.

She likes the fact that the magnet school fair offers a lot of different choices, but said it’s like deciding on a college because of the numerous programs.

Still she said, “In the end, you can get what you want. There’s something for everybody.”