What do you want to be when you grow up? For a growing number of high school students in Pitt County, finding an answer to the age-old question is a little easier thanks to several innovative partnerships that provide a deeper understanding of career options and set students on the academic path to achieve their dreams. The successful Health Sciences Academy was launched five years ago by harnessing the educational and real world expertise of the county school system, Pitt Community College, East Carolina University and the University Health System. “There was a tremendous shortage of professionals, particularly in the nursing area, at the time,” explains Janet Knox, coordinator for the Health Sciences Academy. “Last year was our first graduation class,” she continues. “For the first time, there was a larger percentage of students going to PCC and ECU in allied health sciences. I feel like we’re doing what we set out to do!” Knox says participating high school students are exposed to career opportunities through curriculum, field trips, clinical experience, mentoring and job shadowing. Many local health-care companies have also become involved in the program. “This is clearly a partnership that is even broader than the community college, university and public schools,” notes Dennis Massey, PhD, president of PCC. Based on the success of the health sciences program, the school system recently rolled out the Business & Technology Academy to meet the demands of a high-tech world.
“We know there are going to be lots of jobs in Pitt County in the future in these areas,” says Nancy Spainhour, career and technical education director for the academy. Students work with local businesses such as banks and information technology departments to hone their skills. Massey says he has seen a significant increase in high school students taking college courses. “It’s gone up 27 percent just in the last year,” Massey says. In 2008, the partnership launched Early College, which pairs instructors from the university, community college and public school system with motivated students interested in the education field. “You try to gear the students to where the demands are, but also build on their interest,” says Worth Forbes, associate superintendent for educational programs and services in Pitt County. “We’re hoping that by the time a student receives a high school degree, he or she can almost have finished a two-year associate degree.” The cooperative spirit displayed by various sectors of the Pitt County community is something special, Spainhour says. “We are the envy of every county in northeastern North Carolina because of the partnerships we have with the business community and higher education,” he adds. Worth agrees. “What makes it successful,” he says, “is everyone working together.”