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UCHS Launches Academy for SY2019-20

NAF Academies begin at UCHS in 2019-2020 In today’s fast-paced world, the United States educational system cannot afford to rely on yesterday’s methods of preparing students to enter the workforce. “Education has to be nimble – to evolve with the times, or our students will be left behind,” said Susan Hill, director of Pk-12 College and Career Readiness and Access.

University City is taking a proactive approach and giving its students a competitive advantage through a partnership with NAF. Formerly the National Academy Foundation, NAF is a national network of education, business and community leaders working together to ensure high school students are prepared for their future.

“We’re excited about what this means for our students,” Hill declared. “NAF will help us to be cutting-edge and responsive to changes in the workforce.”

The School District of University City is the second school district in the St. Louis metropolitan area, behind Jennings School District, to partner with NAF. The organization helps districts establish career academies at the high school level, allowing students to earn NAFTrack Certification and a potential opening to jobs or internships with NAF’s corporate partners such as MasterCard, Hewlett-Packard or World Wide Technology. “And that can happen right after high school, or after the student earns a two- or four-year degree,” Hill added.

Beginning with the 2019-20 school year, University City will launch NAF Academies in biomedical sciences and engineering. To qualify for the NAFTrack certification program, students entering either 9th or 10th grade must take at least two classes in their chosen career path and also be enrolled at some point in a dual credit or college level class. Students will also have to complete a 150-hour paid internship in their career field.

“We want our students to have already explored their strengths and interests where that relates to career training, so they have a good idea of what their path will look like when they leave high school,” Hill said. “NAF will help prepare the students to get them to college, and to give them the skills and the knowledge to get through it. Or, if they decide not to go to college, NAF will prepare them to go in whatever direction they choose.” Because as Hill noted, the route to a career doesn’t necessarily look the same as it did just 10 years ago.

“In the past, a lot of high schools and school districts had the mindset of just getting students to college. But we know the data now shows that students are not finishing college at the rate they used to. And that’s an American phenomenon -- that’s not just happening with students from University City,” Hill continued. “So there needs to be a big shift in thinking about the future of the workforce, because their world of work is totally different than ours was. A lot of businesses are now hiring students out of high school with certifications and then paying them to go to college as they work in the business.”

The District’s partnership with NAF aligns perfectly with other programs already in place at University City, including the District’s use of curriculum developed by Project Lead the Way, a national organization that encourages students to pursue careers in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. NAF’s mission augments programs such as Early College Experience and Dual Enrollment, and it fits well with the District’s emphasis on project-based learning.

“All of these things are interrelated, and they connect nicely with NAF and what they want to do in the classroom,” Hill said. “We are building high-quality programs of study at the high school, and we felt that NAF aligned with our priorities and what we are trying to do for our students.”

For more information, contact Susan Hill at shill@ucityschools.org.