By Lisa Guernsey and Sonia Harmon
The teenagers who attend MAST (Maritime and Science Technology) Academy aren't afraid to get their feet wet: A hallmark of the marine-themed high school -- located just yards from Biscayne Bay -- is hands-on experience with the environment. Students regularly explore the water, take samples and analyze whatever washes up on shore. Course offerings include classes on solar energy, engineering and scuba diving, and MAST is home to the nation's only Coast Guard JROTC program.
But students don't need to be aspiring oceanographers or marine biologists to attend MAST. "Our students are driven and they have a wide range of ambitions," says principal Thomas C. Fisher II. "High-quality education is what we're really about." And Fisher has the statistics to back up his claim: Fully 100 percent of MAST's graduates enroll in a four-year college, and students' SAT scores average more than 200 points above the national norm. Unsurprisingly, this record of academic excellence has made the magnet school a top choice for students throughout Miami: This year 1,900 applicants competed for 126 spots in the freshman class. Qualified candidates were then chosen by lottery.