Students enjoy a diverse array of academic and extracurricular options here.
Diversity plays a key role in Winston-Salem’s workforce development strategy — not only in the backgrounds and abilities of workers, but in the many education options (academic and extracurricular) available — to help students excel in college and in-demand careers.
Soy Emprendedor, for example, is a nonprofit organization that introduces Latinx high school students to entrepreneurship, teaches them valuable soft skills, such as communication, critical thinking and team building, as well as critical life skills that can help them succeed after graduation.
Founded in 2019 by Karla Mounts, a Mexican immigrant, the organization hosts ACCelera, a two-month program that encourages students to embrace their creativity and foster an entrepreneurial mindset.
“There are several entrepreneurial programs out there for students that are great, but the difference – or the magic sauce – to this program is that we address one of the major challenges our students and our communities face and that is access to resources.”
Karla Mounts | Soy Emprendedor Founder
Mounts says 99% of participants have never been to downtown Winston-Salem, even though they live a short distance from the city center.
“They didn’t know we have an innovation corridor. They didn’t know about all the resources available and all the amazing things available with an entrepreneurial ecosystem,” she says. “When you think about all the big ideas that make millions of dollars, you don’t hear as much about Latinx examples. So awareness of the possibilities is another big piece of the program.”
Education, Careers & Opportunity
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Mounts says the program instills in students that entrepreneurship is a growth mindset that can be applied to all aspects of their lives and careers.
“We had a student who wanted to be a nurse, and, of course, we need more nurses,” she says, “but after going through our program, she was able to secure an internship, and now, she’s pursuing a degree as a software engineer.”
Other examples of extracurricular educational programs include the Mount Robotics Center, which introduces students to STEM through building robots, and ASPIRE WS, a paid internship program that connects students with local businesses by creating work-based learning opportunities.
Preparing for In-Demand Fields
As the fourth-largest school system in the state, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools also offers a diverse menu of programs that prepare students for career success. The CTE (career and technical education) program, for example, allows students to earn certifications in several in-demand fields, such as health care, finance, hospitality, mechanics and aviation.
“We play a role in helping students who maybe aren’t necessarily college bound with different job opportunities because when they graduate from high school, they’ll have certifications and can walk right into the workforce,” says Brent Campbell, chief marketing and communications officer for WS/FCS. “In fact, about 76% of our contractors received their career-readiness certification through our CTE programs.”
Magnet School Program
The school system also boasts a top-tier magnet school program, with 13 specialty schools focused on STEM, STEAM, visual and performing arts, international baccalaureate, and global studies and dual language immersion.
Campbell says many of the specialized programs begin as early as elementary school.
“One thing that we pride ourselves on is the fact that students in our district have opportunities unlike those in any other system in the state because we have choice options that no other district has,” Campbell says. “We have choices that can serve really every kind of student. Families can choose from a neighborhood school or a magnet or theme school, for example. There are many different choices that allow families to really hone in on individualized learning that’s right for their student.”