in Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly
CHARLOTTE – Independence High School students will get their hands dirty this year developing and building designs through the school’s newest program.
Seventy-five incoming freshmen and a few upperclassmen will attend the school’s National Academy Foundation Academy of Engineering in what will be its first year. Patricia McTigue, the academy’s director, considers the program a “small community school within a school” aimed at bolstering the engineering students’ experience.
Students will have the same general education requirements, but each course will be “career focused” and tied into the engineering curriculum, she added. The 75 freshmen will attend the same core courses, such as English, together to build a community. All core course instructors will incorporate skills that can be used with their engineer curriculum. When students are learning about soil erosion in a science course, they’ll incorporate that knowledge into planning for urban development in engineering courses, for example.
“It turns it into something tangible and real,” McTigue said. “It’s a way to connect all the content in all their subject areas to offer them relevancy for when they graduate.”
All academy students also will participate in a compensated internship to give the students “an opportunity to get out in the field and get their hands dirty,” McTigue added. The academy will include an advisory board of professionals and individuals of higher education to allow students to learn more about the field.
Cindy Angelelli, chair of the advisory board, said its role is to help students get engaged with businesses and the community.
“While it’s an engineering academy, it’s also a technical academy because some kids may not want to pursue engineering,” Angelelli said in reference to the variety of professionals on the board, including a web designer. She hopes the academy will help students explore a career path, an opportunity she never received as an adolescent.
“The earlier people can explore a career path that’s right for them, the better,” Angelelli said.
The board will coordinate field visits and mock interviews and host professionals in the classroom, among other things.
McTigue believes the year of planning and research with the National Academy Foundation (NAF) program helps students prepare for the future.
“The caliber of (NAF) students, it’s not that they’re smarter than other people, but they are able to communicate better than I’ve ever seen in a high school student,” McTigue said.
Students are prepared for a clear path toward what their future will be as a NAF engineer graduate, even if they don’t pursue engineering, she added.
Ten American companies, including JPMorgan, Verizon, AT&T and Chase announced at a recent NAF conference they promise to give special consideration to job applicants who, as high school graduates, earned a NAF credential.
“These are companies that realize they need to be part of preparing their workforce,” JD Hoye, NAF’s president, said in a news release. “By making this commitment to NAF credentialed students, these corporate leaders will have access to some of the best, brightest and most prepared students in the country. We think being a ‘certified hiring’ partner is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.”
McTigue believes business owners in the greater Charlotte area are looking to fill highly skilled positions, but can’t because of a lack of educated applicants. She hopes the partnership with NAF and the 10 companies will help her students fill those positions.
The academy will accommodate 400 students at its capacity who will graduate with NAF credentials and experience in the field. Angelelli encourages local businesses and engineers to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or McTigue at email@example.com to help with the academy and meet the students.