Perception vs. Reality: Cocoa High School Afforded Me Outstanding Teachers, Opportunities

By  //  May 27, 2019

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JORDAN ROCCO THRIVED DURING YEARS AT COCOA HIGH

Jordan Rocco, right, and classmate Alex Petruzzello proudly display their diplomas after the 2019 Cocoa High School commencement on Friday night.

An Essay By 2019 Cocoa High School Graduate Jordan Rocco

“Cocoa High gave me opportunities that I never thought I would be able to have.”

BREVARD COUNTY • COCOA, FLORIDA – Cocoa High School is perceived to be a school full of trouble and misconduct, but as I’ve learned, it is what you make it out to be. 

At the end of my sixth-grade year, I was planning to attend Clearlake Middle School for my seventh and eighth-grade year. Then, news came that Clearlake was being shut down and Cocoa High School was going to have a middle school.

At first, when this news came out, the plan was to go to McNair Middle School and not be anywhere near Cocoa High. My mom felt that I wasn’t ready to go to a school like Cocoa High, due to the older kids, and what at the time was her misconceptions.

I ended up deciding on attending Cocoa High because all of my friends were going there to be Tigers.

My mom begged me not to go, in fact, she offered me anything I wanted to not go, but finally gave up and let me attend Cocoa.

At first, I was full of fright and truthfully had no idea what it would be like. Now looking back, going to Cocoa High School was the right decision for me.

Cocoa High became a second home for me, and as a seventh grader, I felt like I belonged. I was part of the swim team and that consumed most of my time and effort as I focused on how to be a better swimmer.

I learned a lot of life’s lessons by being a part of the Cocoa High swimming program.

One lesson was to never give up. My first year on the team we were one of the smallest teams in the county and placed close to last in the Cape Coast Conference.

My last year on the team, we finished fifth in the Cape Coast Conference and I qualified for regionals in two events.

At the end of my eighth-grade year, I was in quite a shock. Cocoa High School wasn’t as troubled and bad as it was made out to be, and it proved to be the best place for me.

Jordan Rocco diving into the pool during his seventh-grade year. “I learned a lot of life’s lessons by being a part of the Cocoa High swimming program,” said Rocco.

Jordan Rocco swimming the butterfly during his senior year, during which he qualified for regionals in two events.

Going into my high school years, I had good grades, was a part of the swim team, but didn’t know what I wanted to pursue when after graduation.

The outstanding Cocoa High administration and caring teachers helped me find direction by adding journalism classes during my sophomore year. I eagerly signed up for the class due to my high interest in journalism and wanted to also gain some experience.

I was fortunate to meet Vanessa Skipper, who everyone said was a “mean” teacher that you don’t want to mess with – much like the false perception that Cocoa High School is a school you don’t want your child to attend.

As it turned out, Ms. Skipper was a very influential person for me and is my all-time favorite teacher. She was also full of knowledge when it came to life and wanted me to become not just a skilled journalist, but an overall good person.

The program started out simply, as we did the school news on a really old iPod. Then, during my junior year, it transformed into a program that delivered all the information about Cocoa High leveraging new technology.

Jordan Rocco checks his audio and camera equipment while covering the Cocoa Tigers in the state championship football game in Orlando.

I was a big part of the sports coverage and gained a lot of experience with writing and being in front of the camera, attending every football game to live stream the action, conduct interviews and write articles. Then, when the football season was over I was at every basketball game doing the same thing.

At Cocoa High School, I felt I could truly be myself and the administrators and teachers afforded me the platform to do that. On the school news every morning I presented the sports and news report, and would just be myself and not worry about who was watching.

I was even able to make two videos about how to be “me.”

JORDAN ROCCO: At Cocoa High School, I felt I could truly be myself and the administrators and teachers afforded me the platform to do that. I was even able to make two videos about how to be me, one of which can be viewed above.

At this point, I was truly shocked by how different Cocoa High actually was compared to the perception of the uninformed general public. No, the school is nowhere near perfect, but just like any school, there are many improvements that can be made. However, if you work long and hard, it can be the perfect school for you.

Due to my experience with the Cocoa High journalism program, I was able to obtain a paid internship with Space Coast Daily and gain very valuable practical experience side-by-side with professional multimedia editors and journalists.

Jordan Rocco interviews Diego Arroyo, left, and Jamari Williams, right, for Space Coast Daily after another Cocoa Tiger victory on the gridiron.

I was also able to be dual enrolled at Eastern Florida State College, graduate with a 3.76 GPA, be a part of the National Honors Society, work for Space Coast Daily and become the first six-year boys varsity swimmer.

Cocoa High gave me opportunities that I never thought I would be able to have.

It also gave me the opportunity to meet incredible people like my former English and journalism teacher Ms. Skipper, office clerk Vikki Dean,  former principal Stephanie Soliven, substitute teacher Maria Payne and custodian Martha Peterson – just to name a few.

Along with the staff, I met some friends that I will never forget.

After being a student at Cocoa High School for six years, I have to say it is nothing like what the unknowing public thinks it is, and without question provides the same opportunities the more “highly-rated” high schools offer.

As with most things in life, you get out of it what you put into it, and being a Cocoa Tiger can be whatever you make it out to be.

Jordan Rocco, right, Alex Petruzzello, left, and Brock Holland having fun at the Cocoa High School prom. (Priscilla Saad image)

JORDAN ROCCO: After being a student at Cocoa High School for six years, I have to say it is nothing like what the unknowing public thinks it is, and without question provides the same opportunities the more “highly-rated” high schools offer. As with most things in life, you get out of it what you put into it, and being a Cocoa Tiger can be whatever you make it out to be.

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