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Hidden Gems Amongst Electives

Shrikha Balaji
During Benjamin Gibson’s AP Seminar class, students are hard at work.

Freedom has a lot of electives and while students take a couple, there are many forgotten ones on the course list provided by the Counseling Department. These electives have the possibility of being beneficial to different career paths that some students want to pursue, yet they are not aware of them. Some electives that are in that list include Photojournalism, AP Seminar and African American History.

Photojournalism, or more commonly known as Yearbook, is a class that focuses on creating and designing the school yearbook. Students have the opportunity to write articles and also use graphic design to come up with spreads for the yearbook. There is one block of this class this year. This class has been at Freedom High School since it opened in 2005. 

“A lot of people are looking for courses that have real world applicable skills. Yearbook has all of them because we’re basically running a business in the school in addition to making basically what amounts to a giant magazine that’s hard bound,” said Eileen Hammang-Yaworsky, photojournalism teacher. 

In photojournalism students have the opportunity to connect with people by interviewing them, improve graphic design skills by taking photos and editing them, have leadership roles and direct the way the yearbook is published, and can develop marketing skills through use of social media. Some career paths that this class can lead to are graphic design/web design related jobs, publishing jobs, and hospitality. 

At Lunsford Middle School, yearbook is a club, not an actual class, so a lot of the incoming classes don’t know that it is a class that is available. 

 “A lot of students, especially when they are on the younger side of things, don’t know that it is a class because in middle school, it’s a club that happens before and after school, so they assume that’s the same thing inevitably every year,” Hammang-Yaworsky said. 

In general, many students don’t know about the existence of electives such as photojournalism, so promoting it through the elective fair was a way for the class to grow over the years.  

Hammang-Yaworsky believes that students find other electives more attractive since students can get a GPA boost with other classes. Only Photojournalism 3 has a 0.5 boost and students must take Photojournalism 1 and 2 to be able to take the class. 

Another elective would be AP Seminar. In this class, students get to research topics that interest them and present them to their fellow peers. They also have to work in groups to do research projects and present those as well.

Benjamin Gibson is the teacher for this class and this year, he has two blocks of this class and has around 40-45 students. Last year, there was only one block of this class. Gibson believes that word of mouth was the reason more people have taken this class. 

Gibson said that students can learn vital skills for the future such as conducting research, creating an annotated bibliography, being able to give oral presentations in front of their peers, and also working with other students to reach a common goal. When asked about the possible career options, Gibson thinks that students could go anywhere after taking this elective because this class allows for students to look at topics from different lenses, which is a skill that can apply everywhere, not just in school. 

According to Gibson, many students don’t take this class because they don’t know about it and it can be confusing to explain. Independent Science Research (ISR) is a class that is similar to AP Seminar and when asked about the differences between ISR and AP Seminar, Gibson said that ISR makes more sense for people interested in STEM since it is a more science based class. AP Seminar is more interdisciplinary, meaning that it has a little bit of everything and it can be more helpful to students that don’t know exactly what they want to do. 

African American History is another elective taught by Joan Lewis-Osborne. It is a class that teaches students the true history of the USA and goes more in depth than most history classes do. It was first introduced to the Freedom course list in 2020 because the governor started a commission to have the African American History class in Virginia and had professors from historically Black colleges or universities come up with a curriculum. Twenty-five teachers from across Virginia were selected for training and Lewis-Osborne was one of them. This year, there is one block of this class and 25 students take it. 

This class has many benefits because it does not hide the truth about America’s history and discusses how the United States was built off of the unpaid labor of enslaved people. Taking this elective can lead to many career paths such as medicine or law since being educated on such topics can be beneficial to the development of those fields. 

“If you’re a doctor, you need to know the history of people in the country,” Lewis-Osborne said. 

Not every person in this country reacts the same way to the same things, so understanding that difference is important. 

Lewis-Osborne believes that since many students don’t know about this class’ existence, students don’t really choose to take it. However, the field trips during Black History Month in 2023 around Loudoun County highlighted the class, which caused more people to take it. The elective fair also allowed for students to be better informed on lesser known classes. 

Highlighting the existence of different electives at Freedom allows students to be aware of the possible chances they have. 

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About the Contributor
Shrikha Balaji
Shrikha Balaji, Staff Writer
Hey! My name is Shrikha Balaji, and I am a senior at Freedom High School! I love taking pictures and hanging out with my friends. My favorite subject is psychology. I look forward to taking some awesome pictures of different Freedom events and also writing some cool pieces!