orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

Local News

November 18, 2013

Local high school promotes engineering studies with new designation

WEST ORANGE — West Orange–Stark High School is in the first year as an official Academy of Engineering (AOE) campus. The designation was earned through the National Academy Foundation (NAF).

“High school should be about preparing students to have opportunities once they graduate. We are creating an atmosphere here at WO-S High School where kids are getting more than a diploma; they are receiving relevant real life experiences that will prepare them for opportunities beyond high school,” Hutcherson Hill, principal at WO-S High School, said.

NAF Academy courses complement standard core academic studies with specific STEM Academy courses that address the principles of engineering, and provide content in the fields of electronics, biotech, aerospace, civil engineering, and architecture. The goal, of course, is to prepare students to pursue opportunities in this identified growing field.

Upon becoming the West Orange–Stark High School principal in the fall of 2010, Hill presented the Academy concept for pursuit.

“I was looking for something that would propel us to the next level and also meet the existing demands in our core academic areas of math and science. I recognized that we are in an area that is highly populated with industry that employs Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics related fields. I was also very familiar with Waco School District’s A.J. Moore Academy at University High School which is one of the oldest existing NAF Academies and I wanted to begin the process of replicating that same success here,” Hill said.

In order to earn Academy Designation, Hill developed a campus committee that investigated requirements and began pursuit of the Academy of Engineering NAF designation. The group spent one year researching and learning about Academy requirements and expectations, as well as one year in a “Year of Planning.” The committee and campus ultimately met all development and structure requirements necessary for becoming an Academy of Engineering school, complete with a local NAF Advisory Board.

In the fall of the 2012-2013 school year, the WO-S Class of 2016 became the first cohort of students able to enroll in engineering introductory courses. This class is now in their second year of courses. Currently, Class of 2017 students are also able to enroll.

According to the National Academy Foundation, there were 88 Academies of Engineering in 26 states during the 2012-2013 school year. Additionally, NAF reports: 52 percent of NAF graduates earn bachelor’s degrees in four years – compared with 32 percent nationally.

Of those who go on to post-secondary education, more than 50% are the first in their families to go to college.

Ninety percent of students report that the academies helped them to develop career plans.

Eighty-five percent of 5 and 10 year alumni are working in a professional field.

Career –academy graduates sustained $16,704 more in total earnings over the eight years following high school than non-academy group members who were also studied – 11 percent more per year.

In 2012-2013, 97 percent of Academy of Engineering High School seniors graduated; with 82 percent of the graduates planning to go on to college.

Kim Smith is Director of the West Orange–Stark High School Academy of Engineering. Curriculum courses include Concepts of Engineering, Engineering Design and Manufacturing, 3D Solid Modeling, and Principles of Engineering. The NAF model also incorporates work-based learning and internships.

All NAF Academies are reviewed annually.

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