When a teacher at North High School wanted to show her students how geometry could be used outside the classroom, she turned to an orthopedic surgeon at Akron Children’s Hospital. The surgeon demonstrated how he frequently uses angles to measure the curvature of the spine to diagnose scoliosis.
This is one of the many ways Akron Children’s offers instructional support and real-world learning opportunities for students through its career academy partnership with Akron Public Schools (APS). Building on the success of the collaboration, the hospital recently renewed and expanded its partnership with a 3-year agreement.
“The career academy model that APS uses helps to bridge the gap between what’s being learned in the school and what’s being done in real-world jobs,” said Thomas Jefferson, Ph.D., career academy liaison and coordinator of special projects at Akron Children’s.
Established in 2017, The Akron Children’s Hospital Academy of Health and Human Services at North High School offers students four different pathways of study: health care operations, early childhood education, biomedical science and allied health.
Through the academy, Akron Children’s offers experiential learning opportunities to students in a variety of ways including job shadowing, internships, career expos and guest speakers.
Brian Vandersall, operations manager in the Simulation Center, said his department routinely hosts students, where they can participate in simulations and earn CPR certification. He said the academy is a springboard for a future career in health care.
“This program gives students the opportunity to try out a field that might interest them,” said Brian. “In the Simulation Center, we call it the light bulb moment, where it just clicks and makes sense. That’s what we’re trying to do — give those kids that moment in their life, where they say, ‘Aha! This is where I want to be and what I want to do.’”
This school year under the new agreement, Akron Children’s will expand its partnership to include Jennings Middle School. The hospital’s Department of Public Safety will also serve as a pathway partner at Ellet Community Learning Center for students pursuing criminal justice.
“We try to expose students to clinical and non-clinical aspects of the hospital, and we’re always looking for new departments and partners to get involved,” said Thomas. “When we host students for job shadows, I try to only send 2 or 4 students to a department at a time. I want them to be able to ask questions and really get to know that job and department, so they have the opportunity to really learn.”
Since the academy began, graduation rates at North High School have increased 26 percent. Thomas said the partnership is key to building the next generation of health care workers.
“We always tell our students that we feel like North is our school,” he said. “Once they graduate, I hope they feel comfortable at Akron Children’s and know that it’s a good place to find employment.
“One of the things we hope to do with this partnership is help to build the health care workforce of the future. North is a very diverse high school and representative of the North Hill community. We’re helping to train that next generation of a diverse workforce, so that more people will have doctors and nurses who look like them.”