National Academy Foundation coming to MCHS

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NAF encourages cooperation between business, education

By Stephen Lega

Marion County High School students will have the opportunity to participate in the National Academy Foundation starting in the fall. On April 20, representatives from the NAF and the Kentucky Department of Education met with the local NAF advisory board members. That afternoon, MCHS learned that it had received a score of 24 out of 30. The minimum score for approval is 15.

"It takes our existing program and supercharges it," said Greg Conley, an instructor with Project Lead the Way, a pre-engineering program housed at the Marion County Area Technology Center.

On the national level, NAF and Project Lead the Way are partners. Just as those two programs work together, the NAF encourages collaboration between teachers in different subjects. Conley said math and English teachers will begin working with Project Lead the Way teachers in the fall.

Conley said this will help students see connections between all the classes sooner.

The National Academy Foundation was created in 1982 by Sanford Weill, the chairman emeritus of Citigroup. The goal of the foundation is to encourage partnerships between education and business to provide opportunities for underserved students.

Conley stressed that the NAF will attract top students, but the program is not designed to be exclusively for them. It's open to any student.

"We're also looking for diamonds in the rough," he said.

The local NAF advisory board includes several business and industry representatives.

George Spragens of Farmers National Bank is the chairman of the NAF board. According to him, NAF will help identify students with the ability to succeed in engineering in college and professionally.

"Some of the most in-demand jobs in our local economy involve a variety of engineering skills, and, hopefully, this program will help fill those needs while providing students with the skills necessary to earn a very productive living," he wrote in an email.

He noted that engineering would be a focus, but it's not the only area that will be emphasized through NAF.

"We're hoping to provide students with a wide variety of professional experiences," Spragens wrote.

NAF students will have opportunities to see first-hand how what they are learning in the classroom applies in the workplace. Older students will even have co-operative and internship opportunities.

"It adds to what we're already doing and it bring in a college and career path component," he said.

The NAF board will be working on application criteria for NAF students in the coming weeks.

Since next year will be the first year of the program, the high school is hoping to have 40 students enrolled in the NAF. That would be enough for two full classes. The program will be open to all students, but they are focusing their efforts on incoming freshmen, in hopes that they will stay in the program for four years.

Local businesses that would like to participate in the National Academy Foundation should contact Greg Conley (Greg.Conley@marion.kyschools.us) or Jennifer Wheeler (jennifer.wheeler@marion.kyschools.us) at Marion County High School.

For more information about the National Academy Foundation, visit the program website at http://naf.org/.