The dictionary definition of academy is “a high school or college in which special subjects or skills are taught." At Lancaster High School, an academy is a school-within-a-school, a small learning community in which students are provided opportunities to explore specific interests while maintaining a focus on academics.
Academies establish partnerships with local employers to build connections between school and work, offering students career experiences while in high school. With the exception of Project Lead the Way, typically students apply for academy admission during the second semester of their freshman year and begin their academy journey as sophomores in groups (cohorts) of approximately 25 students.
Education researcher and author James T. Kemple writes:
“Career academies stand at the crossroads of many high school reform strategies. Like Career academies, some reform initiatives aim to create small learning communities. Other reform efforts focus on changes in curricula and learning goals….Still others seek to reconstitute the relationship between high schools and their communities, including local employers and social institutions.”
The Lancaster Central School District has taken a leading role regionally in the development of academies that attend to all of Kemple’s criteria of school reform. Through the academy experience, students can grow in their understanding of careers while serving their school and community. Academy students’ contributions are significant to the success of the academy and to the growth and welfare of the Lancaster community.
Project Lead the Way was the first academy to be established (1997) and offers a pre-engineering program for students in grades 9 through 12. While the size of the freshman cohort is large (180 students), approximately 55 percent of those students remain in the program through their senior year. Of that group, 90 percent move on to college or the military. Computer-integrated manufacturing and principles of engineering are among the courses taken by PLTW students. Biotech engineering is offered as an elective, engaging both the technology and science departments in this emergent field. Each of Lancaster’s PLTW teachers is trained and certified through the Rochester Institute of Technology.
HEALTH CARE ACADEMY (2004) In September 2004, the Health Care Academy was initiated. Students take courses in medical terminology, medical ethics, and human anatomy/physiology, potentially earning college credit through agreements with local colleges. Angela Brooder, academy director, notes that a partnership is being developed with the Catholic Health System that would provide students with internship and career experiences. An advisory board is being established with representatives of the health care community.
ACADEMY OF FINANCE (2005)
In September 2005, the Lancaster Academy of Finance (AOF) welcomed its first cohort. In 2011, 2012 and 2013 the AOF has earned distinguished status, marking it as one of the top ten academies in the USA! This is a significant accomplishment as there are over 500 academies spanning almost every state. Banking and credit, Microsoft Office certification, and college finance are some of the courses in the three-year program. Students also participate in a 6 to 8 week paid internship between their junior and senior years. AOF members manage the daily operations of a Bank of Akron branch, housed at Lancaster High School. The Bank of Akron provides training, internships, and representation on the AOF advisory board. Scott Dixon, academy director, assists the National Academy Foundation in curriculum writing and service on its regional board as well as piloting a data project with the Gates Foundation. The Academy of Finance has been the recipient of several national awards and is used as a model to schools throughout WNY, NYS and the nation.
ACADEMY OF THE VISUAL AND PERFORMING ARTS (2008) The first cohort of the Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts (LAVPA) was welcomed in September 2008 with sophomores majoring in either art or music. In addition to participating in an internship experience, students will develop a commencement portfolio as well as present a senior recital/art show for the community. Kenneth Hawley and Shannon Zolnowski, co-directors of the academy, are enthusiastic supporters, developing the program as well as engaging community members for the LAVPA advisory board.
LEADERSHIP ACADEMY (2009) The Leadership Academylaunched in September 2009. Leadership Academy courses focus on service and the development of student leaders who will positively impact the school and the community. The Leadership Academy provides internship opportunities.
ACADEMY OF HOSPITALITY AND TOURISM (2009) The Academy for Hospitality and Tourism launched its program in September 2009. The Academy of Hospitality and Tourism concentrates on equipping students for the hospitality industry. Agreements with Trocaire College and the Russell Salvatore School of Hospitality afford students the experience of working with nearby industry professionals. The Academy of Hospitality and Tourism includes internship opportunities.
Assistant Principal John Bender has been involved with the academy programs since the outset and serves as academy liaison. He oversees the academies and has aligned their admission and selection processes and criteria. Mr. Bender works with the academy directors in developing and maintaining a common vision.