Grand Island school program lets students gear classes toward careers

Prep Academies set to launch fall 2018 at Grand Island Senior High. (NTV News)

Changes are coming to Grand Island Senior High with its new Prep Academies.

Starting fall 2018, ninth graders at GISH will have their own academy that will guide them into finding career paths. It allows them to take electives that are geared towards subjects that interest them.

After their freshman year, they can choose between the Human Sciences Academy, Human Services Academy, Technical Sciences Academy, Power, Robotics, and Security Academy, or the Business and Communication Academy.

Grand Island Public School Board members said after giving students multiple surveys, the biggest take-away was that students wanted more hands-on experience and this new curriculum will help them do that.

The Prep Academies encourage them to start mini internships in the community. This gives community leaders and students an opportunity to work with one another and start making industry connections early on.

Josh McDowell, GIPS Chief Academic Officer, said each academy would have its own principal and teaching staff in order to form closer bond between them and their students as well.

"It's no longer about buying a textbook for kids– it's about providing the materials and the resources they need to have those awesome experiences,” McDowell said. “We want to make sure that every kid is prepared for whatever their next step is after high school," he said.

Jack Sheard, GIPS Public information Officer, said it’s like hiding the peas and carrots (the core subjects) in the mashed potatoes so that kids will like it, but still get their veggies (classical education that they need).

He said the new curriculum fits right into the GIPS “Strategic Plan” and its goal of ensuring students leave career-ready.

They’re just adding a new twist so that students will actually enjoy the classes they’re taking.

"Those classes no longer happen in isolation. If I happen to be in the health sciences academy, everything that I'm doing, whether it's math or my English class has a health science twist to it; so now school has a real relevance and a real meaning to all kids," McDowell said.

Then there are the pathways, which fall under the five academies.

"For example in the health sciences academy, there's a medical pathway, there's a sports and physical therapy pathway and there's also an emergency services pathway," McDowell said.

They also ensure all students go on college visits as well as career fairs. GISH Principal, Jeff Gilbertson, said they're merely catching up with the times. He said he has one hope for students

"That when I shake someone's hand and hand them their diploma, a student, that they will have a plan. So when I ask them the question, 'what are you going to do?' They're going to, without hesitation, they are going to explain their plan and be ready to take on the world and thrive as they leave Grand Island Senior High," Gilbertson said.

Students will even be able to obtain local internships through the pathways. For GISH alumna and UNO rheumatologist and professor, Doctor Amy Canella, she said giving kids those hands-on opportunities is priceless.

"To come into the clinic with me and see what I do, and say, 'Oh I could do that.' To go to a medical school class and see what we do In terms of teaching– I think that would be a tremendous asset to their education," Canella said.

Freshmen in 2018 will be the first academy to implement this curriculum and in 2019, the other grade's academies will follow.

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