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Career academies boost struggling students to successful careers

While bouncing from foster families to homeless shelters, a Chief Sealth student still somehow managed to find dressy clothes to wear to class. The girl knew that to stay in the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism, she was required to don business attire on Tuesdays.

That was three years ago. Through her commitment to the academy, she found that she loved hospitality, landed at a flight attendant training program in Vancouver, Wash., and secured a job with an airline.

“Now here she is, she’s got a flight attendant badge on, and she is so excited,” says her teacher, Gary Perkins. “That makes it all worthwhile.”

This student is not alone: Statistics reveal an astounding success rate for Seattle Public Schools’ career academies. They boast a 99 percent graduation rate, with 96 percent of students going on to postsecondary education.

Chief Sealth offers two career academies: the Academy of Finance and the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism. Franklin and Ballard high schools both offer the Academy of Finance. All have been awarded “model status” in recent years as top career academies in the country. They are sponsored by the National Academy Foundation and its local affiliate, the Seattle Academy Foundation.

The academies are a rarity in Washington state, which has only three other National Academy Foundation programs, two in the Highline School District and another at a skills center near Olympia.

The best part? Seattle’s 350-plus career academy students come from diverse backgrounds in income, race and academic achievement. Students submit essays for selection into the program; teachers don’t look at grades or test scores.  >

Moving from Good to Great

NAF Featured on American Graduate Day 2014

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Career Readiness: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Workforce Preparation - ASCD

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