The Grand Island Public Schools took a big risk going to the academy system, but after a partial first year it looks to be a success.

The National Career Academy Coalition honored Grand Island Senior High’s Academy of Freshman Exploration with National Model Status.

This is a high achievement and is the first time a freshman academy in the U.S. has earned the status. The designation means that from the experts’ perspective, the freshman academy has been well-organized, well run and has gathered valuable input from all of the stakeholders, including faculty, parents and students.

The highlight of the freshman academy was when all of the freshmen were taken to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus for a visit. That was an outstanding idea that gave the students a glimpse of college life and could be a big inspiration to them in the future.

Of course, though, this has been the easy year in GISH’s transition to the academy system because only the freshmen were involved. This next school year will be the big test because all of the approximately 2,200 GISH students will be in the academy program.

So far, however, it looks good. A lot of positive developments have taken place.

First, the logistics of the academies and the block class structure have seemed to be well accepted. Staff are working hard so that fine arts and other electives still have a valuable place at the school.

Second, all of the academies that will be in full swing next year seem to be well balanced in numbers. Here is the approximate breakdown from when students made selections in November:

n Academy of Medical Sciences, 485 students.

n Academy of Education, Law and Public Safety, 401 students.

n Academy of Technical Sciences, 320 students.

n Academy of Business and Communication, 300 students.

n Academy of Engineering and Technology, 220 students.

The Career Pathways Institute, or CPI, continues to be a model in the state in providing technical education. It is growing and is looking to be expanded.

And lastly, there has been a lot of engagement with employers. Academy officials are working with employers to make sure they are preparing students with the skills needed to be successful employees and that students understand what all is involved in a career.

While a general, broad education is important to build interests and to explore creative thinking, it’s also important that students prepare early for a career. Schools must ensure that students have a direction and that they see where their education is leading.

The academies at Grand Island Senior High will help provide that direction and prepare the students for the workforce.

Going to the academy system was a risk for the Grand Island school system, and let’s hope that it will continue to pay off for students in the future as the transition is completed this fall.

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