New Partnership With Akron Public Schools Illuminates Career Path for High School Students

A group of high school sophomores from Firestone Community Learning Center in Akron spent a week at Kent State University exploring university programs and learning more about college and careers.

The program is part of Kent State’s new partnership with Akron Public Schools, in which three new college and career academies at Firestone High School will bear Kent State’s name. The Kent State University Academy of Design, the Kent State University Academy of Performing Arts, and the Kent State University Academy of Advanced Technology and Comprehensive Engineering will open at Firestone in 2019.

The week’s program was designed to give students a sampling of various Kent State colleges and schools, and potential careers that require education in those fields. The program also provided college readiness and transition information and experiences for students and their parents.


The Akron Community Foundation and the Sisler McFawn Foundation were the chief sponsors of the weeklong program.

A Firestone Community Learning Center student learns how to operate a video camera during a class in Franklin Hall, home to Kent State University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“We believe in the power of collaboration, and this collaboration with Akron Public Schools and Kent State University is one that we wanted to support,” says John F. Garofalo, vice president for community investment at the Akron Community Foundation. “Only positive things can happen when we get high school students on a college campus, some for the very first time.”  

Mike Ayers, grants manager for the Sisler McFawn Foundation, says the foundation looks for ways to support local education, including Kent State.

“The Sisler McFawn Foundation has a long history of supporting education and area youth,” Mr. Ayers says. “We believe in helping young people by giving them exposure to new experiences and ideas that will widen their horizons. Our goal is to help young people see future opportunities and to show them the path to achieving them.”


In May, more than 200 Firestone ninth-grade students came to the Kent Campus for a two-day event, where they watched brief presentations from various colleges and programs. Afterward, students had the opportunity to sign up for the summer week, which includes more intensive instruction and a fuller college experience. Approximately 20 students came back for the week and were immersed in an authentic college-life experience of living on a university campus, including staying in residence halls and having meals in the dining halls.

“We are very much excited and honored to work with these students and to provide them with these comprehensive hands-on collegiate experiences focused on design, innovation, technology and the arts,” says Justin Hilton, senior administrator for community outreach for Kent State.

The Firestone event included interactions with Kent State’s College of Aeronautics and Engineering, College of Communication and Information, College of the Arts and College of Architecture and Environmental Design, as well as the Design Innovation program. 

During the week, Firestone students flew drones, learned to operate a television camera and practiced producing a television broadcast. The students also built virtual 3D models, handled priceless art artifacts and sat in on a stage rehearsal of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, among other activities.

“The engagement of these students has been wonderful, and we are thrilled that the impact of this collegiate dress rehearsal will benefit their remaining years in high school and the forthcoming Firestone Community Learning Center and pathway decisions they’ll make within the college and career academies of Akron,” Mr. Hilton says.


Josh Midcap of Akron, an incoming sophomore at Firestone, says he was looking forward to returning to campus after the May visit “because I liked what I saw from when I was here the last time.”

Mr. Midcap says he was particularly interested in aeronautical engineering before and now even more so after spending additional time with faculty there.

“I really like it now,” he says.

Mr. Midcap says he enjoys assembling and creating things and hopes to major in some type of engineering. A presentation on broadcast engineering and directing a live broadcast of a sporting event also drew his interest. 

Mark Warzinski, a production manager with Kent State TeleProductions, says he structured his presentation to show the students what his department does and to show the students what kind of job opportunities exist in his field for those with the appropriate skills. Mr. Warzinski’s job at Kent State includes videotaping university events, such as basketball games and Commencement. 

During his time with the group, Mr. Warzinski showed the students the type of equipment, including computers, microphones and a video camera, which his team would use to produce a broadcast either for television or online.

Mr. Midcap pointed to the equipment used for the broadcast demonstration and said, “You need someone to put that together.”

Debra Lamm, a student recruitment specialist in Kent State’s College of Communication and Information, says because rising 10th-grade students may not have yet begun to think seriously about their future careers, exposure to any kind of jobs and careers could be beneficial. 

Brandon Payne of Akron says he asked to attend the weeklong camp because he has no idea what career he would like to pursue after high school and was hoping to find some direction “to try and help me decide what I want to do when I get older.”

He enjoyed the experiences he was having in various classes.

“Today was great, it was like, hands on,” he says. He believes the entire week will prove to be beneficial.

Aiyah Faris of Akron says working in television or broadcast was not something she had considered before, but the exercise that put her behind a video camera really was enlightening.

“I liked it,” she says. “It was not something I had really thought about.”

Miss Faris says she also enjoyed time spent at Kent State’s School of Art because she is considering a career in some type of visual arts.

The week ended with a dinner on Friday, July 13.

POSTED: Thursday, July 26, 2018 03:17 PM
UPDATED: Friday, March 01, 2024 07:54 PM
Lisa Abraham