Dickinson High School will begin its freshman academy next year — its first major step to becoming a career academy-based school.

Career academies place students into career-based groups similar to college majors.

The freshman academy will be an exploratory one, in which students will learn about the career paths in the other three academies, which the school administration hopes to implement the following year.

Assistant Principal Jay Hepperle said the school is considering including a freshman seminar as a requirement.

"The point of that class is to expose students to those 16 pathways so that they would know as you make that decision at the end of your freshman year which way (you want to choose). They’ve got to see all 16 of them compared to one another," he said.

Principal Kevin Hoherz mentioned possibly having local businessmen speak to the freshman about their careers, which Hepperle pointed out does happen some already.

"There’s Manufacturer’s Day, but … they’ve always been set aside, like secondary things that happen outside of schools," Hepperle said. "We just said, ‘Why? Why can’t learning what it’s like to be in that field be a part of school? … If that’s what I’m interested in, I want to know what math they would use in that field, what skills I would need.’”

At the end of their freshman year, the school's students will choose which of the three academies they want to be in: health and human services; engineering and technical sciences; and business management and administrative systems.

Within each of those academies are 5-6 pathways, which are more job-specific. For example, under health and human services will be the pathways of education and training; government and public administration; health science; human services; law, public safety, corrections and security.

The school's staff is currently working on developing programs of study for each pathway.

“We want to start with the end in mind, so if there’s some sort of real-life certificate training, real-life job experience/internship that we really thought would be super beneficial to kids ... in that pathway, then we want to take that and we want to plan backwards a sequence of likely three or more classes," Hepperle said.

The sequence might have an introductory level, in which they can get to know the career. In the next class, students would use those skills on a more consistent basis. In the final class, they would use the skills they learned in a real-world environment.

Hoherz stressed that the students are not required to stay in the academy they chose if they decide it's not a good fit for them, and they can also take classes outside of their academy if they choose to do so.

What are the goals of the academies?

  • Prepare students for the workforce by working with local businesses to provide students with hands-on experiences
  • Help students develop skills that the local workforce needs
  • Give students a better idea of what career they would like to pursue — before they graduate
  • Help students attain certifications and/or internships in their chosen career field
  • Show students real-world applications of their studies
  • Foster student relationships with teachers and peers who share similar interests
  • Make connections in the community

How could they be achieved?

  • Provide professional development for teachers
  • Provide common planning time for academy teachers
  • Locate academy teachers near one another
  • Develop programs of study using input of local businesses
  • Build partnerships with community members and businesses
  • Assign interdisciplinary projects
  • Craft assignments to align with students' interests