Kent State University announced Wednesday that it will create three academies in Akron’s Firestone Community Learning Center, giving students there access to university resources.
The university is the latest partner in the district’s quest to find businesses and organizations to work with as it transitions its high schools into College and Career Academies — whether for financial support, advising or experiential learning for the kids.
Starting next school year, Akron Public Schools ninth-graders will decide on one of 57 pathways to focus their education. Then, in the 2019-2020 school year, students will embark on the path they chose as all the high schools become full four-year academies.
North High School served as a pilot for the project in 2016.
Akron Superintendent David James and Kent State University President Beverly Warren announced the partnership to more than 50 people gathered in the new College of Architecture & Environmental Design building at Kent State, along with student ambassadors from Firestone and its principal, Larry Johnson.
“What you have done with Akron Public Schools and the plans for the future I think sets the course for APS to be a national leader in best practices for high school education … We’re thrilled to be a part of it,” Warren said. “Just as we’re looking for innovation in our own environment, we’re looking for those partners who can help us develop an innovation ecosystem here in Northeast Ohio.”
Kent State’s commitment means it will play an integral part in three academies at Firestone: the Academy of Design, the Academy of Advanced Technology and Comprehensive Engineering and the Academy of Performing Arts, all named for the university.
The academies were formed based around a proposed list of pathways at the school. If approved by the school board during its meeting Monday, the pathways in the Academy of Design will be visual art and design, fashion and product design, entrepreneurship and architecture. The pathways in the Academy of Advanced Technology and Comprehensive Engineering will be mechatronics (combining mechanical and electronics engineering), aerospace and digital science. And the pathways in the Academy of Performing Arts will be vocal, instrumental, dance and theater and film.
The commitment doesn’t have financial specifics, Warren said, but rather a commitment of time, resources and access from Kent State staff, teachers and students. For example, Kent State faculty will engage with students at Firestone, provide immersive summer learning experiences and help students find internships.
In turn, Firestone students will be on the Kent State campus regularly to use its resources, buildings and teachers, as well as the university’s student mentors.
“The focus initially is not about money, but about access to the colleges and staff,” James said, along with providing a more robust education to kids and leveraging Kent State’s existing partnerships.
The pathways at Firestone were chosen based on programs already in place at the school.
Warren said the pathways also align directly with the strengths of Kent State, which is known, among other things, for its nationally ranked Fashion School. Four colleges at Kent will be especially involved: the College of the Arts, the College of Aerospace and Engineering, the College of Architecture & Environmental Design and the College of Communication & Information.
The university is not the only outside entity to commit to the district’s academies.
Last month, the school board approved the creation of the Akron Children’s Hospital Academy of Health and Human Services at North High School. The hospital is committing $250,000 toward the development of the curriculum and programming over the next five years, and will provide an additional $100,000 to $150,000 per year for additional services to the program.
The district also has a number of “key strategic partners,” said Rachel Tecca, director of the College and Career Academies. These partners include the GAR Foundation, ConXus NEO, United Way, Summit Education Initiative, the Greater Akron Chamber and Ford Next Generation Learning.
“They’re really helping us build the systems and the structures to make this a community transformation, so it’s not just an Akron Public Schools thing … we’re also trying to transform the opportunities our kids have beyond their graduation,” Tecca said.
The district has partnered with a number of other entities in one capacity or another for its CCA implementation, including the University of Akron, Stark State College, SummaHealth and more.
James said it’s just the beginning and the community can expect to hear formalizations of those partnerships and commitments to new ones in the upcoming months.
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