Above, Van Nuys High School enrolls about 1,300 students in its Performing Arts, Medical and Math/Science/Technology Magnet programs.

The MSA award was accepted by, from left, Van Nuys High School Magnet Coordinators Fanny Araña and Dawn Brown and Principal Yolanda Gardea.

Van Nuys Senior High School – home to three dynamic and high-achieving magnets – was recognized this weekend as one of the nation’s best by Magnet Schools of America (MSA), which represents nearly 4,000 theme-based programs across the U.S.

Given to the second-highest scoring program in the nation, the Donald R. Waldrip Magnet School of Merit Award of Excellence was accepted by Van Nuys Principal Yolanda Gardea and Magnet Coordinators Fanny Araña and Dawn Brown during MSA’s national conference in Chicago.

Van Nuys is home to the Performing Arts, Medical and Math/Science/Technology magnets that together enroll about 1,300 students. Another 1,300 attend the resident school, which offers nearly two dozen Advanced Placement courses along with a Technical Arts Academy that includes manufacturing, automotive and robotics pathways.

Along with their themed classes, magnet students have access to the resident school’s courses, events, extracurricular activities and the restorative justice program known as Council.

“Even though each of the magnets has a different theme, the kids benefit from all our AP courses, our athletic teams, our great auto-shop program,” Gardea said. “We call ourselves a one-stop magnet shop.”

Earlier this year, Van Nuys and four other L.A. Unified magnets were recognized by MSA as Schools of Excellence. Based on a detailed application and a campus visit, these schools were scored on their ability to raise academic achievement, promote racial and socioeconomic diversity, provide integrated instruction and foster partnerships that enhance the school’s magnet theme. Only one other program in the U.S. outscored Van Nuys.

Gardea said the coordinators – Araña oversees the Performing Arts Magnet and Brown is in charge of the science-based magnets – are essential in creating efficient and effective programs that provide students with a well-rounded experience.

Brown, for instance, organizes seven field trips each semester for Medical Magnet students, allowing them to attend seminars and participate in job shadowing opportunities at local medical centers. She also recruits students for the Math/Science/Technology Magnet, which offers a rigorous college-prep curriculum for those interested in pursuing 21st century careers.

Araña oversees the programs for students who are interested in dance, theater, voice, music, film, set design and stage tech. She also fosters partnerships with renowned arts organizations like the Los Angeles Master Chorale, which collaborates with Van Nuys in an annual oratorio.

“There is something for every child at Van Nuys,” said Keith Abrahams, the executive director of Student Integration Services, which oversees the magnet programs within the Division of Instruction. “When the MSA visited Van Nuys, it wasn’t just the three magnets that impressed the staff. It was all the pathways that are available to all students.”