NEWARK, NJ — Newark Superintendent Roger Leon cut the ribbon for Weequahic High School’s new Allied Health Services Academy on Wednesday morning, welcoming the fourth addition to a series of six specialized academies across the district’s comprehensive high schools.
Allied Health, which cost the district more than $300,000 to build and design, is partnered with the district’s Science Park High School, Rutgers School of Nursing and RWJ Barnabas Health. Each academy is matched with a magnet school, an academic partner and a professional partner as part of the district’s three-prong approach to create viable professional and higher education pathways for its students.
“Rutgers chancellor is committing staff to really help us analyze what we’re doing and to give it a value-added test and say, ‘We have to do certain things differently,’” Leon explained. “We want to expose the students as early as their freshman year.”
With the Allied Health program comes the unveiling of a renovated classroom, a state-of-the-art lab and a clinic designed to provide students with hands-on learning simulations for advanced concepts in health science. Mark Wade, director of the Newark’s Department of Health and Community Wellness, said his department and the city are on board to support the district’s strategy to create a school-to-career pipeline through Allied Health and the other academies.
“The need for health care professionals is already and will continue to be overwhelming. It is up to us in the room that our young people are prepared,” Wade said. “When we think about the health status of the citizens of Newark, the need for health care is tremendous. This academy makes all the difference in this preparation process.”
On Nov. 6, the district opened its Law and Public Safety Academy at Barringer High School as well as the Business and Finance Academy at West Side High School, which boasts partners like Google and one of the nation’s oldest law firms, McCarter & English. The inclusion of supporting institutions is designed to provide guidance to students through expert leaders from the academies’ respective fields.
“The purpose of the partnerships is to impress upon everyone that the end product of this activity is to not only educate the students but to afford them internship and mentoring opportunities in high school and as they endeavor into careers of allied health services,” Leon added.
Ahead of the rolling out of the district’s ambitious 10-year strategic plan in June, the district hopes that assigning specializations to each high school through the new academies will allow the programs to succeed. In the past, offering the same career-focused programming throughout the high schools was ineffective, according to Leon.
The academies are also meant to make each of the district’s six comprehensive high schools more attractive to its students via specialized work-based learning tracks. Until June, the district plans to leverage its partnerships by allowing institutions’ faculty and staff to review and make recommendations to curricula, facilities and program structure.
Only 200 of upwards of 1,000 applicants are selected to attend Science Park High School, which up to now was the only district school that prepares students for careers in biomedical sciences. The addition of the Allied Health Academy will give an opportunity to the 600-plus students who do not get into Science Park to select health services-focused curriculum via an application process.
At Allied Health, students will pursue anatomy, physiology, infection control and biomedical innovation as they progress through their four years at Weequahic. The coursework also provides opportunities for national competitions, college credits and certifications like EMT, medical administration, home health, phlebotomy and others.
“Today, Allied Health is who we are. We will dive deep into this pathway and our students will become great at it,” said Weequahic High School Principal Andre Hollis. “The Allied Health Academy allows our students to gain real-world skills in health care with a major emphasis on aligning to industry standards.”
In December, Newark Public Schools will open its remaining academies at Central High School, which will specialize in environmental science, and Malcolm X Shabazz High School, which will offer an engineering track.