For decades, there has been a strong push in American education to prepare students for college. However, the college-for-all narrative shuts out some students who may leave school unprepared for their next step, unsure of what the pathway is to success and stability. What would it look like for a school district to embrace a model that prepares students for college and career?

Academies of Louisville

Jefferson County Public Schools’ Academies of Louisville model, launched in 2017, is based on the framework of Ford Next Generation Learning (NGL), which enables communities to create and execute a sustainable, long-term plan for evolving education. The benefits of the model include increased high school graduation rates, increased academic achievement, increased earning potential and a stronger local talent pipeline.

Success stories

Academies of Louisville already has a high record of success. Here are just a few examples:

High school student Harsh Patel wanted to pursue automotive engineering so he enrolled at Southern Academy, which offered the specific program. In his last semester he was hired by Oxmoor Auto Group who will also continue his education through the Toyota Program for two years.

Tritt Love-Holland is on the Machine Tool pathway at Southern Academy. “I really liked that they are not ‘typical’ classes,” he said. After co-opting with machine parts manufacturer Elizabeth Scheu & Kniss, he was offered a full-time job with them.

Ronnie Craig came to Doss as a junior after bouncing around several schools over his educational career. He is now at the STEM Academy, following the Manufacturing Pathway. Craig earned his full CPT Production Technology Certification and is now college and career ready.

Griffin Brooks is a part of the Tech & Design Academy in the Information Support Services Pathway at Doss. Brooks earned a CompTIA IT Fundamentals Certification and passed his End of Program Assessment for Information Support Services. He is currently an apprentice with JCPS and plans on continuing to pursue a career in IT after graduation.

Sincer Thomas is at the Business & Finance Academy on the Finance Pathway. She earned a CUNA Certification and worked at the Doss branch of Class Act Federal Credit Union. After graduating, she plans to continue working at Class Act and pursue a degree in Art Therapy and Business.

Tina Carraro is the academy coach at Doss High School. She says, “It has been amazing seeing the transformation in culture and climate at Doss since implementing our academies. Every student has found an identity within their academy, and students appreciate the authentic guest speakers, field trips, projects, and work-based learning opportunities they are experiencing.”

Academies of Louisville quick facts

  • There are 15 Academies within JCPS high schools. Participating high schools include Academy @ Shawnee, Atherton, Ballard, Doss, Fairdale, Fern Creek, Iroquois, Jeffersontown, Marion C. Moore, Pleasure Ridge Park, Seneca, Southern, Valley, Waggener, Western.
  • The Academies offer 53 unique career pathways, including media arts, health science, engineering, agri-science, Builder’s Apprenticeship, culinary arts, business and education and many more.
  • There are over 17,600 Academies of Louisville students.
  • Graduating seniors have earned 865 industry certifications. From Microsoft and Google certifications to welding and automotive certifications, these credentials are as varied as the 155 career pathways available to Academies students in 15 JCPS high schools.
  • Students in the class of 2019 earned 522 college credit hours in CTE at a savings of over $83,000 – some are even graduating with enough credits for an Associate’s Degree.
  • JCPS students who participated in Work-Based Learning, have worked over 300,000 hours and earned $3.5 million.

A cultural rebuild

The Academies of Louisville introduces students to in-demand careers early in high school and allows an increasing number of them to gain work experience with local employers, many of whom partner with the Academy. Carraro says, “Our Academy Partners- GE Appliances, Class Act, Al J Schneider, Trilogy, and most recently, Papa Johns, are doing tremendous work in supporting our teachers and students, and we’re only in year two of this work!”

Currently, 115 businesses partner with the Academies of Louisville. Louisville businesses have supported the Academies with more than $250,000 in donated equipment and supplies. They have made additional investments in time and talent to provide input and create opportunities for students.

After four years in an Academy, students graduate with:

  • Direct career and industry exposure
  • Industry and college field trips
  • Job shadowing experience
  • Junior- and senior-year internships through SummerWorks
  • The ability to earn college credits and industry credentials
  • The ability to earn work experience through co-ops or apprenticeships
  • Networking opportunities with local industry professionals
  • Success skills and a postsecondary transition plan

Prepared. Empowered. Inspired.

The aim of Academies of Louisville is to equip all graduates with skills for the future job market. We’re looking at a new generation of young people who will graduate from high school career-ready, an emerging workforce prepared to compete successfully in the 21st century economy. As Carraro says, “I can’t wait to see how students’ lives are transformed as we continue to move the Academies of Louisville forward.”

Jefferson County Public Schools
JCPS is a leading urban school district that provides a high-quality education for more than 100,000 students (about 1 of every 7 students in Kentucky). Parents can choose the school and the programs that best meet their child's needs and match his or her learning style. From preschool to adult education, JCPS is known for educational innovation, for dedication to students, and for highly qualified teachers and administrators.