Academy Seniors Pursue Unique College Programs

March 8, 2017


The Class of 2017 has many other students looking at interesting careers in fields such as art, finance, the medical field, and many more Photo Credit: Grace Neal/Achona Online

Students at the Academy are known for aiming high when it comes to their aspirations for college and careers. Many seniors have had to go the extra mile in their application process so they can participate in certain selective programs unique to their majors. Many speciality areas that seniors are interested in include art, engineering, equestrian, and more. Here are six seniors to share their experience with specialized college programs and their goals for the future.


Achona: What program/major are you looking to get into in college?

Maria Cacciatore:  “I am planning on majoring in fashion design if I attend the Fashion Institute of Technology.”

Senior Sarah Ercia’s APStudio concentration focuses on emotions through dance and will be displayed at Arts Fest on April 27. Photo Credit: Grace Neal/Achona Online

Cris Renner: “I’m already declared as an art major at FSU. Basically I have to pick at least one, and possibly two depending on which track I do,”focus areas” which is actually the bulk of the degree. I’m probably going to do either Time-based media, Interactives, or both, and I really want to get some photography classes in there but I don’t know if that’s possible. Time-based media is just the tech and design aspects behind animation, video art, motion graphics and all that stuff and Interactives is programming for artists and web design.”

Sarah Ercia: “I am going to major in architecture and I will most likely end up at the University of Miami.”

Meredith Butler: “I will be attending the University of Kansas and majoring in mechanical engineering with a biomechanical concentration. Within the school of engineering there is a program called the SELF fellowship program. It includes $28,000 spread out over 4 years of school and $2,500 for fellows to further their academics. The program is founded on 7 pillars: engineering, leadership, management, business acumen, interpersonal relations, communication, and entrepreneurship. So it’s basically trying to get engineering students to be more than that but to also be leaders in the business world.”

Senior Meredith Butler is also developing her love for engineering as a member of robotics. Photo Credit: Meredith Butler (used with permission)

Addison Diaz: “I plan on going to Savannah College of Art and Design for Equestrian Studies.”

Rachel Tata:  “I plan to pursue a BFA in Musical Theatre and have applied to nine different programs around the country, including NYU, Elon, Carnegie Mellon, Boston Conservatory, Florida State University, University of Florida, Belmont University, University of Miami and Emerson College. After college, I plan to graduate with my degree and will have either done some regional jobs with a theatre company or moved to a city with a large theatre district.”


When discussing her love for performing, Senior Rachel Tata says “Singing, specifically has empowered me and helped me grow more confident in my own skin. I think I’ve gotten more comfortable onstage because I feel at home when I’m performing. The stage has become my safe place, a space where I have creative freedom.” Photo Credit: Rachel Tata (used with permission)

Achona: What career do you hope to pursue with this and explain what led you to want to follow this?

Cacciatore: “I have been sketching for fun since I was a kid so it has been something that was always in me, but as I got older I started to really study and get obsessed with the whole [fashion] industry. I would buy every single magazine issue of Vogue, “the bible of fashion” as I call it, and rip out my favorite ads to make my own magazine. I started to really focus on designing and when I realized that I wasn’t too bad at this and it came naturally to me that this could be my way into the field. Ultimately I want to be a creative director which basically runs a brand (Karl Lagerfeld is the C.D for Chanel and Fendi). Once I knew everything about Karl Lagerfeld he became my number one inspiration and I want to follow in his footsteps in a way.”

Alongside art and architecture, Ercia has a passion for dance and is captain of the Jaguarettes. Photo Credit: Grace Neal/Achona Online

Renner: “I’m not sure exactly what field I want to go into with this, but my hopes are that it’s pretty versatile in that I could do the design/media work behind advertising. I think my dream job would be something that uses both art and history. I started getting seriously interested in this stuff probably about sophomore year when I took my first photography class, and I just started thinking about combining the topics I really love with something else, so it could branch out and be an actual job.”

Ercia: “I hope to become a residential architect, which means I would get to design houses for people. I have wanted to become an architect since I was a freshman. My family and I moved houses and the whole process fascinated me. We hired different architects and we got to watch the place being built. Also, I love art and math so I think architecture is a good mix between the two.”

Senior Addison Diaz was recently featured in an Achona article as a Human of Academy. Photo Credit: Addison Diaz (used with permission)


Butler: “I love nanotechnology, so I hope that with a mechanical degree involving biology I will be able to work on research and how we can change medicine.  I am particularly interested in alternative ways of killing cancerous cells. What the SELF program will allow me to do is build the foundation I need to overseeing research and bringing any ideas and discoveries I have to the business world.” 

Diaz: “I hope to be a trainer, buyer, and seller [for horses]. I have been an equestrian for 12 years so I have always wanted to do this.”

Tata:  “I want to be able to call myself a professional actress. I want to get to get up for work knowing that I’m doing something that I enjoy every day. Although many people’s ultimate, ride-or-die goal is Broadway (and it would be awesome to perform on Broadway), I just want to be able to work on amazing, professional projects and shows with some amazing people, whether it be touring, regional or in New York.”


Achona: What would you be working on and doing in this program and what are you looking forward to most?

Cacciatore: “Mastering my design skills and bringing my sketches to life through sewing.”

Renner: “FSU has really cool technology and a great space for exhibiting. I’m mostly looking forward to being excited about school again because I’d actually be doing things I care about.”


Erica: “Different schools have different ways of teaching their students, but you are required to take certain art, math, and science classes and obviously general education classes. The major things I get to learn are how to sketch houses/blueprints, how to build them (having to build models), and how to sketch houses on the computer.”  

Butler maintained a “dress to impress” mindset during her interview process. Photo Credit: Meredith Butler (used with permission)

Butler: “I look forward to meeting all of my cohorts that will have the same amount of energy and passion that I have.”

Diaz: “The [equestrian] program has law, business, pre-vet, riding, training, and anatomy classes. I’m looking forward to the training classes because it’s something I haven’t had many opportunities to explore.”

Tata:  “Part of what I love about theatre is its ability to inspire everyone around us. Plays and musicals can empower us to stand up and find solutions to problems in our world; and I want to be part of that change. I love the stories that plays and musicals can tell. They can transport you to the past, make you realize something new about everyday life, and teach you about humanity.”


Achona: What was the application process like for the specific program/major you want to get into?

Senior Maria Cacciatore is known for her fabulous fashion sense around Academy. Photo Credit: Grace Neal/Achona Online

Cacciatore: “I had to create a portfolio which I started in the summer going into Senior year and I sacrificed a lot of my summer for it. I went to see a lady to help me three times a week and she would give me homework and I would stay home all day working on it and mastering as much and as fast as I could. I ended up designing two whole collections over the summer and one more during first semester. The last part of the portfolio I had to sew and I made a top, shorts, and a dress.”

Renner:  “I didn’t need to submit a portfolio for this program, not sure why to be honest. I technically can’t start my “major” courses until I do all my Foundational courses while also doing my general education requirements. I’m operating on the assumption I’d be applying at the end of my sophomore year, because that’s how most other state schools do it.”












Ercia: “In order to apply for architecture school, you have to submit a regular application to the school and then another application to the architecture school. To apply you have to submit a portfolio of all the work you have done. Some schools expect drawings of certain things, which can be stressful when you don’t already have those done. It was very stressful for me because I applied to 10 schools. Sister Lisa really helped though. She took pictures of all my work and edited the photos.”

Butler: “So you have to be an engineering major to apply for the SELF program. I wrote two essays for the program back in November and had three teachers in send in letters of recommendation. I also had to send in a specialized resume. I then found out in January that I had been picked for an interview. There were 84 students being interviewed for 30 slots, the original pool had been upwards of 300. People followed us around with giant binders and observed how we interacted with others. During lunch we were given groups to build something. My group made a pizza slicer (like an apple slicer) that also functioned as a pizza tray. I then had a 15 minute interview with current students and a 45 minute interview with five adults that run the program. The following Monday I found out that they had picked me.”

Diaz: “Once you are accepted to SCAD you submit a portfolio for your specific interest and intended major. They can’t deny you for the program but they give scholarships based on your portfolio. My portfolio is my show record and a five minute video from a competition.”

Tata flew all around the country in the past few months to attend busy auditions. Photo Credit: Rachel Tata (used with permission)

Tata: “I had to research my schools and then apply to them academically, like a normal process, but indicate that I wanted to be in the BFA Musical Theatre program. My second step was more difficult: applying for the actual programs with auditions at every school. For three of my schools, I had to complete a pre-screen, which is basically a preliminary audition, where you submit videos of 32 bar cuts of songs, a dance video and a monologue. If you get accepted to the pre-screen you are allowed to audition in person and they’ll assign you a date; luckily I got a date to audition live from all three of the schools I submitted prescreens to. I had to choose songs, cuts them to 32 or 16 bars (30 seconds to one minute and 30 seconds), pick out monologues that were in between one to two minutes, and put together my headshot and resume. It was quite the process and it was very stressful, but auditioning was the fun part. Now comes the most stressful part of this whole thing: the waiting.”


Achona: What are you doing now in high school that will help you with your major/career/program in college?

Cacciatore: “I am in Portfolio class right now and I continue to make collections and watch videos  to develop my figures better, just so I never stay out of practice. Mrs. Franklin really gave me a lot of freedom to make something I was happy with. I wish I had more time to sew but it’s so hard.”

To help formulate her designs, Cacciatore uses mood boards to help piece her ideas together. Photo Credit: Grace Neal/Achona Online

Renner: “I’m in AP Studio Art to get ready for college art classes and I also have a internship. I know this guy who has a start up video game production company and I’m technically a “student intern art director”. All I do when I work is branding and PR stuff and watch in pure confusion as the coders do their thing.”

Ercia: “Right now I am taking courses that I will most likely have to take again in college. I am taking Calc Honors, AP Physics, AP Studio, and AP Art History. I asked Ms. Keegan what courses I should take and she recommended this. I am glad I am taking them because they are very interesting and I will have a little bit of knowledge in college.”

Butler: “Robotics is probably the best thing, but the interviewers were also interested in Latin Club and how I sew.  Co-founding a nonprofit, The Pure Project, was also a big plus.”

Diaz wrote one of her college essays about being the “horse girl” for all her life. Photo Credit: Addison Diaz (used with permission)

Diaz: “I competitively ride horses so I will have more experience riding, and in the business and vet aspects of the program.”

Tata: “I had been taking dance since I was three, and since middle school, had also found my niche and love for singing and acting. This growing appreciation and affinity for the arts strengthened every day. The theatre was my home, a place where I could make lifelong memories with best friends.”

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