Roxborough High will be the first school in the city to offer career and college-prepatory programming to 100 percent of its students through nonprofit Philadelphia Academies. The RHS “wall-to-wall” career academy will be phased in over the next three years.
The expansion of the program to include every student was made possible by a $1.4 million grant from the William Penn Foundation. Career academy programming was already available to groups of students who elected to participate.
The grant will eventually provide 5,000 students in the district with industry-specific training through a partnership with Philadelphia Academies, a nonprofit that focuses on preparing young adults in public schools for employment. The grant will serve seven schools in addition to RHS.
During an announcement event at RHS on Monday, current academy students on the school’s communications track led the program like it was a talk-show, complete with a host, on-air announcements, a film crew and an applause sign.
During a panel discussion, student host Kayla Hadley asked Principal Dana Jenkins why the school was chosen for expansion amid cutbacks brought on by the district’s financial struggles.
“This model presents a structure,” she said. “It gives us a structure where students are safe, connected and involved in their education.”
About the program
The Philadelphia Academies model offers students the chance to engage in career and college training throughout high school.
The opportunity enables students to “understand why they are learning what they are learning,” according to Lisa Nutter, president of Philadelphia Academies.
Students choose to focus on an industry throughout high school and are connected with local businesses and professionals in the field for internships and first-hand experience. After spending ninth grade adjusting to high school and weighing their options, students choose a concentration beginning in 10th grade.
All about preparation
Julie Mcdaniel, a 2013 graduate of the communications academy at Roxborough High and first-year student at La Salle University, said her experiences with the career academy put her ahead and made her feel prepared when she started college.
“They felt safe to be smart, they felt safe to explore, they felt safe to set a different norm,” said Nutter, of the positive impact career academy can have on students.
Abraham Lincoln High School in Northeast Philadelphia is also beginning to phase in a wall-to-wall career academy this year.
The next set of schools to implement wall-to-wall academies, beginning in 2014, are Parkway West High School in West Philadelphia, Horace Howard Furness High School in South Philadelphia and Paul Robeson High School in University City.
(Disclaimer: WHYY receives funding from the William Penn Foundation.)