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Tue, Jan. 21

Freshman academy at Prescott High a connection to present, future

Instructor Jennifer Woods assists student Joslan Mann on her PowerPoint career research project. Classmate Danielle Finnerty is in the foreground. (Nanci Hutson/Courier)

Instructor Jennifer Woods assists student Joslan Mann on her PowerPoint career research project. Classmate Danielle Finnerty is in the foreground. (Nanci Hutson/Courier)

For the first 10 minutes in Jennifer Woods’ first-hour freshman academy class this past week students typed with all 10 fingers across a computer keyboard – a manila folder covering the keys.

The exercise reinforced traditional typing as a needed skill for high school, college and most careers.

From there, the 33 students organized in tables of four worked on their upcoming career research projects – each student required to create a PowerPoint and then do an oral presentation to the class. These students were required to be very specific in their career job choice, and research everything from educational requirements to salary and work/life benefits.

A first year project, Prescott High’s freshman academy is aimed at assimilating freshman into the high school with a sharp-eyed focus on discerning how they will make the best out of their four years and beyond.

“A successful exit as a PHS senior requires a foundational freshman year,” reads a poster on a classroom wall. Another reads, “PHS is better when you are connected – be involved!”

FOCUS

These freshman are getting introduced to a high school that offers everything from traditional varsity athletics to 36 different clubs and service organizations. To be a Badger means everything from academic decathlons to mentoring students with special needs. If you prefer a bike over a ball, PHS has a champion mountain biking team; competitive gamers can join the eSports team.

Academic wise, the high school offers courses at every level, including ones that earn students college credit or career certifications.

The academy is taught by five instructors: Woods, the coordinator of the high school’s career and technical education program; district visual arts coordinator Amanda Chartier; history teacher Michael Brown and the two JRTOC instructors retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bill DeKemper and retired U.S. Army Senior Master Sgt. Erik Appeldoorn who are teaching a year-long program that combines physical education and the freshman academy for students who enrolled in the JROTC program.

“We want to help the kids find what they are passionate about … what do you want to be?” Woods said. “I wish I had been able to navigate courses and possible careers when I was in high school.”

STUDENTS

For her research project, student Skyla Ayers opted to look into what it takes to be an ultrasound technician.

“It was pretty easy, and very informative,” Skyla said of her project.

Indeed, Skyla said she is enjoying this first-time academy as it is steering her to consider the future.

“It’s an easy A, but I like it,” she said.

Student Nash Routson said he’s finding this class to be more fun, and more useful, than he expected.

“I liked looking at career paths,” said Nash who investigated what it would take to join the United States Navy SEALS (Sea, Air, and Land Teams).

Student Lindsay Carter said she thinks the academy is a good idea because “it sort of prepares us for the rest of high school.”

photo

Freshman academy instructor Jennifer Woods meets with a group at the back of the class. Left to right: students Danielle Finnerty, Woods, Joslan Mann, Connor Stewart and Nash Routson. (Nanci Hutson/Courier)

ORIGIN

The academy concept was adapted from a somewhat similar program offered at Bradshaw Mountain High School in the Humboldt Unified School District that encourages students to push themselves academically with more advanced courses that offer college credit.

“The AP Academy provides a MAP class (mentor academic period) during each year of high school to provide support for the students in pre AP and AP courses,” said Bradshaw Mountain High Principal Kort Miner of the program started six years ago.

“You can look at this group like a school-within-a-school concept. They all have the same classes with each other to provide personalized learning and build peer relationships,” he said.

Students who graduate from the AP academy can earn various scholar distinctions, and the district covers the cost of AP tests at $93 each, he said.

This academy, too, requires seniors to do a capstone community service project, and they have ranged from renovation of baseball fields at a district elementary school to community and school beautification projects, Miner said.

FUTURE

“There is no doubt in my mind that this group (of freshman) will understand better than their predecessors what options they have in high school,” DeKemper concluded.

Follow Nanci Hutson on Twitter @HutsonNanci. Reach her at 928-445-3333 ext. 2041.

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