For two years, the fifth-grader with a flair for conversation has been a student in an all-boys classroom in Brandon, where teachers speak a little louder and encourage bursts of activity.
Classmates stand when responding to questions. They address each other formally, using last names.
Cameron Rodriguez loves it.
“I’m definitely more comfortable,’’ said the 11-year-old A-and-B student, who has a little sister and likes hanging out with girls – just not while he’s trying to learn. “Around girls, you would definitely be more nervous.’’Heading into sixth grade, Cameron doesn’t want the experience to end. So with mom’s help – and with a convenient prompt from a public speaking contest – Cameron began researching his school choice options last semester.
He started with his school district in Hillsborough County, which is home to two single-gender middle schools, one for girls and one for boys.
They boasted of “hundreds of activities’’ at the collegiate middle school, including a golf program and iPads for every student. They showed off uniforms of light blue oxford button down shirts, khaki slacks and striped ties. They said Cameron and the other boys would be called “men of distinction.”
Cameron, who plans to start his own business one day, liked being called a man – a lot.
He went online to the district’s website and found more about the school than even the academy’s lead teacher, Amanda Sheets, said she knew. “Here, the student hasn’t even set foot on the campus, yet, and we’ve already touched him,’’ said Sheets, who oversees tours at the academy.
Cameron channeled his fervor into a speech he delivered for an annual public speaking contest. He wrote about how boys and girls learn differently. How it’s easier to concentrate in class. How he’s not worried about giving the wrong answer.
He practiced reading his speech aloud, over and over.
That diligence earned him a shot at the Nov. 30 schoolwide competition, where Cameron went up against five other fifth-graders. In a room full of judges, teachers, peers and his dad, Cameron walked up to the microphone and gave it his all.