AKRON PUBLIC SCHOOLS (APS) was today named a Ford Next Generation Learning (NGL) community in a ceremony at the National Inventor's Hall of Fame STEM Middle School downtown. The ceremony also focused on a newly created and academy partnership between APS and a local university.
The designation today means the COLLEGE AND CAREER ACADEMIES OF AKRON will join a national network supported by the Ford Motor Company Fund, the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company that is transforming public high schools into career-themed academies to better prepare students for college and professional success in today's competitive global economy.
Districts in the Ford NGL network have been shown to increase student achievement and engagement both at the high school and post-secondary levels and develop more robust ties between local educators and employers, generating a stronger talent-development pipeline for high-demand jobs and overall community prosperity.
Through participating in career-themed academies, students in Akron Public Schools will learn academics through the lens of a potential career –such as engineering, healthcare, technology or design — and have the opportunity to participate in internships, job shadows and career exploration activities. This increases relevance and improves student academic performance and readiness for college and careers.
In order to be designated a 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.
Akron Public Schools Superintendent David W. James praised the new collaboration with Ford NGL and the partnerships within the community of Akron that have long been supportive of APS and its mission.
James said today, "This is an ambitious project that will strengthen our schools, families and the very future of our students for generations to come. 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."
At the ceremony, James joined Kent State President Beverly Warren in announcing the creation of a partnership for a new College and Career Academy within Akron's 10 high schools.
"This collaboration benefits the entire region by providing Akron's students with access to an experiential learning environment focused on design thinking and innovation," Warren said. "This distinctive approach to problem solving prepares students for success wherever their dreams and aspirations take them."
The new academy will specifically offer instructional support and experiential learning opportunities within innovative design areas that Kent State excels at such as:
Visual and Performing Arts
Visual Communication Design
Architecture and Environmental Design
The plan also calls for creating week-long summer camps where participating students can immerse themselves in these concentrations at Kent State's Kent Campus. Micro-scholarships will also be offered to Akron Public Schools students who earn high marks in specific high school classes and who later enroll at Kent State University.
Currently, APS and Kent State have multiple partnerships including teacher development within the International Baccalaureate (IB) program; artistic programs with Kent State's Wick Poetry Center; a healthcare exploration program; and "College Today," a collaborative initiative to provide math and English assistance to Akron's high school students.
James was enthusiastic in his praise for Kent State and the future plans it will craft with Akron Public Schools. His list of partners on the College and Career Academies of Akron now includes Akron Children's Hospital, GAR Foundation, ConxusNEO and, of course, Ford NGL.
James said, "We are working on more partnerships and encouraging companies and organizations in our city to be bold in their thinking about ways they can help our students and how that, in turn, may help their businesses in the future."
Ford NGL presented ConxusNEO, Children's Hospital and GAR Foundation with special awards for providing major support in the exploration and design phase of the academies and the launching of the first academy that is at North High School.
The superintendent also recognized the Greater Akron Chamber, United Way of Summit County and Summit Education Initiative.
"These are all key strategic partners we will rely on as we move into fully implementing this project," said David James. "Derran Wimer from SEI and Don Taylor from the Chamber have been instrumental and are prepared to help us with an even deeper engagement and commitment as academies relate to workforce and economic development."
It was also announced that United Way of Summit County is joining the effort in a major role brokering all partnerships between businesses and our schools. James said, "United Way is going to be a vital partner in helping make this a success for Akron and our students.
"United Way of Summit County understands how important it is to prepare students for success beyond graduation," said Jim Mullen, president and chief executive officer of United Way. "Our deep partnerships within the corporate community make us uniquely qualified to connect students of Akron Public Schools' College and Career Academies with local businesses. These connections will bring value to students' lives while helping businesses invest in the future of our local workforce. This partnership will drive economic development in our community for years to come."
Ford NGL is nationally recognized for its unique approach to learning that better prepares high school students for career success in the 21st century. Through the Ford NGL process, districts and their communities become partners and align their resources to improve student outcomes and support the country's workforce and economic development needs.
Ford NGL communities have demonstrated success through higher graduation rates, increased academic achievement, lower dropout rates and industry certifications earned in high school.
"Ford NGL research has proven that community ownership and accountability is just as important to educating our children as good study habits and hard work," said Cheryl Carrier, executive director, Ford Next Generation Learning. "The Ford NGL partnership gives students and teachers a competitive edge that not only improves their chances for future success but will benefit the community as a whole for years to come."
In 2016, Ford Motor Company Fund invested $18 million in scholarships and innovative education initiatives such as Ford NGL.