Akron Public Schools’ effort to transform its schools into career-themed academies is getting a national boost as well as local support.
The Akron school district was named a Ford Next Generation Learning (NGL) community during a ceremony Tuesday at National Inventor’s s Hall of Fame STEM Middle School.
The designation means the College and Career Academies of Akron will join a national network supported by the Ford Motor Co. Fund.
The philanthropic arm of the Ford Motor Co. is working with school districts to transform public high schools into career-themed academies to better prepare students for college and professional success in today’s competitive global economy, district spokesman Mark Williamson said.
At the ceremony, Akron Superintendent David James joined Kent State University President Beverly Warren to reveal the creation of a partnership for a new college and career academy at one Akron’s high schools; the district has not yet chosen the school.
This school year, Akron Public Schools launched the Academy of Health and Human Services and Freshman Academy as part of the College and Career Academies program that eventually will move districtwide. In the Freshman Academy, all North High ninth-graders participate in a career fair and college visit. The next year, they select one of the eight pathways in either the health academy or the Academy of Global Technology and Business, which will launch in the fall at North.
The new high school academy supported by Kent State will offer instructional support and learning opportunities in areas in which Kent State offers robust programs, such as visual and performing arts, interior design, fashion, film, visual and communications design and architecture and environmental design.
A timetable to launch this high school academy has not been established.
Kent State’s partnership with Akron Public School also calls for creating weeklong summer camps where participating students can immerse themselves in these concentrations at the Kent campus.
Kent State’s main campus boasts a College of Architecture & Environmental Design, which includes an interior design program; a College of Arts, which includes Kent’s School of Fashion Design and Merchandising; and College of Communication and Information.
Additionally, Kent is establishing “micro-scholarships” — small scholarship based on how many As or Bs a student earns in specific classes — via Raise.me, an online platform developed by a startup company in San Francisco.
The scholarships will be retroactive, meaning students who are graduating next spring get credit for all As and Bs earned during high school.
Students will be awarded $25 per quarter for As received in college prep courses — English, history, math and science. They will receive $25 per quarter for Bs or As received in Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses. The scholarship money — up to $1,200 a year — can be used at Kent State.
“We are committing our expertise, people and resources to invest in Akron’s students, and that investment benefits all of Northeast Ohio,” Mansfield said.
Akron Children’s Hospital, the GAR Foundation also are supporting the school district’s College and Career Academies initiative. Children’s Hospital is supporting North High’s Academy of Health and Human Services. GAR and ConXusNEO have worked to develop a master plan concerning all of the other district’s high schools.
To become a designated Ford NGL community, Akron developed a five-year master plan to increase the number of students learning in career academies and broaden its reach through affiliations with business, education and civic leaders. Through the process, districts and their communities become partners and align their resources to improve student outcomes.
By participating in career-themed academies, students in Akron Public Schools will learn academics through the lens of a potential career such as engineering, health care, technology or design and have the opportunity to participate in internships, job shadows and career exploration activities, Williamson said.
“This is an ambitious project that will strengthen our schools, families and the very future of our students for generations to come,” James said. “We are grateful for Ford NGL’s leadership and how it is inspiring past, current and future partners right here in Akron to be part of this endeavor.”