Innovative is the word that comes to mind when describing the vision for the future of Akron Public Schools (APS). It’s a vision that is focused on the future and how to keep students engaged and increase their readiness for life after high school – and Akron Children’s is a part of it.
“Akron Public Schools came to the realization that they were still doing high school the same way they always had, but the world around them was completely different,” said Bernett Williams, vice president of external affairs at Akron Children’s. “They recognized the need to give graduates a competitive edge.”
One of the ways APS set out to accomplish this is through a new career academy model that will be rolled out district-wide, allowing students to explore different areas of interest in their home high school.
“When APS was looking to engage business partners throughout the community, Akron Children’s was the first northeast Ohio organization to come on board,” said Bernett, who accompanied APS and other community leaders on a scouting trip to Nashville to observe its academy model firsthand.
“What Nashville was doing was unique and innovative,” she said. “After visiting 3 different schools, I felt inspired that Akron Children’s had a lot to offer APS as a career academy business partner.”
Called the Akron Children’s Hospital Academy of Health and Human Services at North High School, the school offers pathways in healthcare operations, early childhood education, biomedical science and allied health. In addition to a $250,000 commitment that can used for anything to enhance the students’ experiences, the hospital also pledged $150,000 for in-kind services such as internships, teacher externships, white-coat experiences, speakers, job shadowing and other programs.
According to Thomas Jefferson, the hospital’s career academy liaison and coordinator for special projects, “Our goal is to expose students to the various levels of careers available at Akron Children’s from things they can do right out of high school, to jobs that require certifications or a college degree regardless of whether they are clinical or not.”
Currently there are approximately 300 students in grades 10 through 12 in the Akron Children’s academy.
“All freshmen go through a freshman academy when they enter their district high school,” Thomas said. “They will have the opportunity to explore the different pathways offered in their building and find their niche.”
The intent is to offer smaller class sizes and more individualized attention, although teachers will still cover core content and standards.
“The curriculum will introduce real world problems and real world applications through experiential learning opportunities,” said Bernett. “We plan to have our staff be guest teachers at the school and we want to bring the students to the hospital and offer learning opportunities here.”
Thomas says it’s important for students to be exposed to community experts who can model things like teamwork and collaboration.
“We want to break down barriers and show how building a bridge between schools and businesses, and sharing knowledge and experiences, will only benefit the Akron community with a more educated and prepared workforce in the long-run,” he said.