Kent State, Akron Public Schools Partner for Early Access to Fashion, Arts and Architecture Programs | Kent State University

Kent State, Akron Public Schools Partner for Early Access to Fashion, Arts and Architecture Programs

Ford Next Generation Learning community supports College and Career Academy for Akron students

Kent State University is offering special expertise and resources to high school students attending Akron Public Schools to include immersive opportunities with the university’s fashion, arts and architecture programs.

The announcement was made recently as Akron Public Schools was named a Ford Next Generation Learning (NGL) community in a ceremony at the National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM Middle School in downtown Akron. The ceremony also focused on a newly created academy and partnership between Akron Public Schools and Kent State.

The designation means the College and Career Academies of Akron will join a national network supported by Ford Motor Company Fund, the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company that is transforming public high schools into career-themed academies to better prepare students for college and professional success in today’s competitive global economy.

Akron Public Schools Superintendent David W. James praised the new collaboration with Ford NGL and the partnerships within the community of Akron that have long been supportive of Akron Public Schools and its mission. 

“This is an ambitious project that will strengthen our schools, families and the very future of our students for generations to come,” James says. “We are grateful for Ford NGL’s leadership and how it is inspiring past, current and future partners right here in Akron to be part of this endeavor.”

At the ceremony, James joined Kent State President Beverly Warren in announcing the creation of a partnership for a new College and Career Academy within Akron’s 10 high schools.

“This collaboration benefits the entire region by providing Akron’s students with access to an experiential learning environment focused on design thinking and innovation,” Warren says. “This distinctive approach to problem-solving prepares students for success wherever their dreams and aspirations take them.”

The new academy will specifically offer instructional support and experiential learning opportunities within innovative design areas that Kent State excels at, such as:

  • Visual and performing arts
  • Interior design
  • Fashion
  • Film
  • Visual communication design
  • Architecture and environmental design

The plan also calls for creating weeklong summer camps where participating students can immerse themselves in these concentrations at the university’s Kent Campus. Microscholarships also will be offered to Akron Public Schools students who earn high marks in specific high school classes and who later enroll at Kent State’s Kent Campus. This program begins with Akron Public Schools students graduating from high school in spring 2018. 

Currently, Akron Public Schools and Kent State have multiple partnerships including teacher development within the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, artistic programs with Kent State’s Wick Poetry Center, a healthcare exploration program and “College Today,” a collaborative initiative to provide math and English assistance to Akron’s high school students.

Across Kent State’s eight-campus system, more than 1,300 graduates of the Akron Public Schools are currently enrolled in undergraduate coursework, including more than 230 Akron Public Schools graduates who entered as freshmen in fall 2016. Another 250 Akron Public Schools graduates are currently pursuing graduate degrees. 

Districts in the Ford NGL network have been shown to increase student achievement and engagement both at the high school and postsecondary levels and to develop more robust ties between local educators and employers, generating a stronger talent-development pipeline for high-demand jobs and overall community prosperity.

Through participating in career-themed academies, students in Akron Public Schools will learn academics through the lens of a potential career, such as engineering, healthcare, technology or design, and have the opportunity to participate in internships, shadow jobs and explore careers. These activities increase relevance and improve student academic performance and readiness for college and careers.

In order to be designated a Ford NGL community, Akron developed a five-year master plan to increase the number of students learning in career academies and to broaden its reach through affiliations with business, education and civic leaders.

James was enthusiastic in his praise for Kent State and the future plans it will craft with Akron Public Schools. In addition to Kent State, his list of partners on the College and Career Academies of Akron now includes Akron Children’s Hospital, GAR Foundation, ConxusNEO and Ford NGL.

“We are working on more partnerships and encouraging companies and organizations in our city to be bold in their thinking about ways they can help our students and how that, in turn, may help their businesses in the future,” James says.

Ford NGL is nationally recognized for its unique approach to learning that better prepares high school students for career success in the 21st century. Through the Ford NGL process, districts and their communities become partners and align their resources to improve student outcomes and support the country’s workforce and economic development needs.

Ford NGL communities have demonstrated success through higher graduation rates, increased academic achievement, lower dropout rates and industry certifications earned in high school.

“Ford NGL research has proven that community ownership and accountability is just as important to educating our children as good study habits and hard work,” said Cheryl Carrier, executive director of Ford Next Generation Learning. “The Ford NGL partnership gives students and teachers a competitive edge that not only improves their chances for future success, but will benefit the community as a whole for years to come.”

In 2016, Ford Motor Company Fund invested $18 million in scholarships and innovative education initiatives such as Ford NGL.