About VADA

The Visual Arts and Design Academy (VADA) is a small learning community at Santa Barbara High School with about 225 students in 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade. VADA is a unique “school-within-a-school” that integrates rigorous academic coursework with project-based, career-focused art and design instruction, in a supportive and creative environment.

Since 1999, VADA has been a California Partnership Academy funded in equal parts by the California Department of Education, the Santa Barbara Unified School District, and the Friends of VADA, a 501 ©(3) nonprofit organization.


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The Partnership Academy Model

There are currently over 500 California Partnership Academies throughout California. The model, originating with the Philadelphia Academies in the late 1960s, spread to California in the early 1980s. Academies incorporate many features of the high school reform movement that includes creating a close family-like atmosphere, integrating academic and career technical education, and establishing viable business partnerships. Emphasis is also placed on student achievement and positive post-secondary outcomes. Academies have been carefully evaluated and shown to have positive impacts on school performance.


Key components of the Academy model are:

CURRICULUM focused on a career theme and coordinated with related academic classes.

VOLUNTARY student selection process that identifies interested ninth graders.

TEAM OF TEACHERS who work together to plan and implement the program.

MOTIVATIONAL ACTIVITIES with private sector involvement to encourage academic and occupational preparation, such as: integrated and project-based curriculum, mentor program, classroom speakers, field trips, and exploration of post-secondary and career options.

WORKPLACE LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES such as job shadowing, student internships, and work experience.

Visit the California Department of Education website.



VADA Advisory Board & Community Partners

The VADA Advisory Board/Steering Committee is comprised of the following community members:

Scott Anderson
Michelle Apodaca
Kyle Ashby
Daniel Barnett
Nicole Barr
Andy Beall
Josh Blumer
Angelica Contreras
Torrie Cutbirth
Alex Dann
Patsy Hicks
Brooke Van Der Kar
Ulrike Kerber
Dana Krieger
Allan Macy
Sean O'Brien
John Ogilvie
John Rapp
Manny Roldan
Tom Stanley
Forest Stearns
Kai Tepper
Brandon Teris
Alec Velazco
Nathan Vonk
Somerset Walmsey
Margie Yahyahvi


“Education becomes truly impactful and effective when it reaches students by nurturing their core skills and talents, supports their dreams and illuminates positive possibilities for young people’s futures. The arts do save lives and VADA is enabling students to mine the depth of their creative souls, giving them hope and vision for their creative careers.”
Rod Lathim
Director/Playwright/Visual Artist
SBHS Alumni