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Get to Know HCPSS’ School-Based Career Academies

December 14th, 2022

GHS students baking in the culinary science academy.
Glenelg High School students practice their baking skills in the Culinary Science Academy.

When it comes to Career and Technical Education (CTE) in Howard County, many people think of the Applications and Research Lab (ARL). And for good reason. ARL is home to many popular career academies, including the Academy of Health Professions, the Cybersecurity Networking Academy, the Architectural Design Academy, and Graphic Design Academy just to name a few.

As HCPSS’ CTE Coordinator Dan Rosewag points out though, ARL isn’t the only option for students who are interested in exploring a career path while in high school. HCPSS offers a wide range of academies within every high school, including those focused on marketing and business, culinary science, teaching, engineering, computer programming, apprenticeship and more. In addition, HCPSS offers Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) to interested 9th–12th grade students. Although that program is offered at only three HCPSS high schools (Atholton, Howard, and Oakland Mills), students from any high school may apply and attend.

A Mt. Hebron High School student examines a robot during his Computer Integrated Manufacturing class.

The career academies located within HCPSS high schools offer several distinct benefits.

Academies located within HCPSS high schools also have the advantage of being available to all students starting in ninth grade if their schedules permit. This means that students can take a course in one academy and if they discover they enjoy it, they have ample time to take additional courses in that academy. If they discover that their interests lie elsewhere, they can easily switch gears and take classes in a different academy without feeling short on time. Students who wish to attend a career academy at their own high school have greater access to CTE options.

In addition to these unique benefits, school-based academies offer many of the same benefits that are available at the ARL-based academies. Namely, they bring together students with shared interests; offer special activities and events designed to enhance awareness and understanding of a particular career area; and provide opportunities for students to potentially earn college credit and industry certification while in high school.

A female MHHS student creates a color-coded bracelet of her name using binary code.
A Mt. Hebron High School student creates a color-coded bracelet of her name using binary code as part of her Principles of Business & Management class .

“Career Academies allow our students to explore areas of study and future employment before leaving high school. [They] also allow them to form relationships with people in the areas of the fields of work and study they might be interested in before leaving their high school experience,” says Katie Noecker, an instructor in the Teacher Academy of Maryland (TAM) at River Hill High School.

The Career Academies and CTE provide students “not only with career and academic skills, but soft and hard skills that are needed for the workplace,” adds Useeth Davis, who teaches JROTC at Atholton High School.

Moreover, by providing students with opportunities to explore a wide range of subject areas, “Career Academies allow students to excel within their strengths,” says Wilde Lake High School Career and Research Development teacher Kelly Broyles.

Ultimately, whether students choose to attend a career academy at their school or at ARL, or take a more traditional academic path, the key thing is be aware of all the opportunities that are available–and to develop a plan early.

MHHS students working on a coding project.

“High school is the best time for students to explore their interests and discover what they are truly passionate about,” says Rosewag. “In order to make the most of that high school experience, it pays to start thinking in middle school about what you want to do longer term and familiarize yourself with the different programs and courses that are offered. That way, you can make an informed decision about which path to take and avoid leaving great opportunities on the table.”

Want to learn more about HCPSS’ school-based academies? Hear directly from past and present HCPSS students, who share their thoughts on and experiences from those academies below.

“These classes provide a unique experience that many high schools do not offer. You get exposure to subject areas before college, which is really important for narrowing down what a student may want to pursue in college.” – Ryan Hermstein, Graduate, Computer Programming Academy

“The CTEs designed in Howard County are a great way for students to find their ‘calling’ or unlock a passion in their lives. With courses and activities focused around non-traditional subjects..students are able to surround themselves with others who are passionate and eager to learn about their respective CTE.” – Jai Khanna, Business Academy

“They help you get ready for real-world situations.” – Alex Consentino, Project Lead the Way – Engineering Academy

“Opportunities are around every corner in the CTE academies for students to grow throughout their high-school career.” – Nicholas Orlando, Business Academy

GHS students mixing ingredients in the culinary science academy.

“They grant access to areas of study that can truly unlock a student’s abilities and interests.” – Benjamin Petit, Graduate, Computer Programming Academy

“The most important information to know about CTE and the Career Academies is that it allows students to learn skills that they wouldn’t have the opportunity to otherwise until college. It gives students a head start in grasping what fields of professions interest them so they have a more concrete idea when entering high school.” – Alexis Wheeler, Business Academy

“18 years after graduating, these courses have continued to pay dividends. It was not only the knowledge, but the people running them that made all the difference. They instilled in me the confidence I needed to go out into the world and be the best that I could be.” – Alex Beardsley, Graduate, Computer Programming Academy

Programming robotics and testing in Computer Integrated Manufacturing.