The number of partnerships formed between central Arkansas businesses and Pulaski County's traditional public high schools has now grown by two.
The Academies of Central Arkansas on Friday announced that Baptist Health is partnering with North Little Rock high schools to form the Baptist Health Academy of Health & Human Services at North Little Rock High School, and the Baptist Health Academy of Health Sciences at the North Little Rock Center of Excellence, which is a state-approved conversion charter school.
The Academies of Central Arkansas is an initiative introduced in 2018 by the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce -- in cooperation with other area chambers of commerce and the Little Rock, North Little Rock, Pulaski County Special and Jacksonville/North Pulaski school districts -- to form a community-connected, career-focused approach to high school education.
The approach is based on the Ford Next Generation Learning model that is used in school systems across the country. It blends core academics with career and technical education as a way to make education relevant to students. All students are eligible to participate.
In Pulaski County, academies have been identified for each high school, although there are not-yet-announced business partners for each academy. Within each overarching academy at the different schools are different courses of study or career pathways.
Beginning with the coming school year, high school students in the North Little Rock district will learn about careers in the health fields through classroom speakers, guest lecturers and a career exposure event, where Baptist Health, along with other central Arkansas businesses, will showcase career opportunities.
As a result of the career-academy model, high school sophomores throughout Pulaski County will take industry field trips and business tours. Eleventh graders are provided job shadowing opportunities, career mentoring and opportunities to earn industry recognized credentials and concurrent credits.
High school seniors are to complete capstone projects and to participate in job internships that are jointly developed by the high schools and their business partners.
"We are so appreciative of this partnership with Baptist Health," North Little Rock School District Superintendent Gregory Pilewski said in response to the latest school business partnership. "This collaboration is a benefit for students in that it prepares them with real-world, future-ready experiences in the healthcare field. It also provides tools for our teachers to reach students through relevant instruction."
The partnerships with the North Little Rock High and North Little Rock School of Excellence are not the first for the medical center. A partnership between Baptist Health and Little Rock School District's Southwest High School to form the Academy of Medical Science at Southwest High was announced in August 2022.
"Baptist Health is thrilled to launch another healthcare academy that will introduce even more talented young people to health care, Troy Wells, Baptist Health president and chief executive officer, said in Friday's announcement.
"This innovative approach is proving that it helps get students excited about a rewarding career in serving others and making our communities healthier for generations to come," Wells said.
Some of the other partnerships announced to date include:
Arkansas Children's Hospital and Sylvan Hills High in the Pulaski County Special School District for the Academy of Medical Science and Human Services.
Arkansas Children's Hospital and Sylvan Hills High for the Academy of Business.
Central Arkansas Water and Maumelle High in the Pulaski County Special School District.
Telcoe Federal Credit Union and Maumelle High.
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Hall STEAM Magnet High School in the Little Rock School District.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Parkview Magnet High School in the Little Rock School District.
Entergy Arkansas and Hall High in Little Rock and Joe T. Robinson High in the Pulaski County Special School District.
The Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce is continuing to recruit business partners for the academy high schools. Businesses interested in getting more information can reach out to the chamber directly or visit: www.academiesofcentralarkansas.org.
Students and families can also obtain more information about the academies here: www.academiesofcentralarkansas.org.