Hampton high schools transform into career academies

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — A whole new way of learning is headed to public schools in Hampton this fall.

Hampton City Schools has turned all four high schools in the city into career academies. Starting next week where you go to school is no longer about what district you live in, but what career path you’ve chosen.

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Rising sophomore, Emma Suggs, in her own soft spoken way told 10 On Your Side that she is excited for the first day of school.

“I just want to learn new things,” Suggs says. She’s enrolled in the new “Law and Public Safety Academy” at Bethel High.

Academies Director, Veronica Hurd, is passionate about the program that works closely with the business community to train workers and attract new industry.

“Everything that you do here should mirror what’s going on outside in the real world,” Hurd says.

The academies include different pathways for study, including jobs the city needs now for instance, shipbuilding and tourism, and in the future, engineering and cyber security.

Here’s how it works; all freshman take a class called “Success 101” where they explore and then choose a career path. Emma took the class last year and discovered her love of the law on a field trip.

“She came home and she seemed like she just blossomed,” says her father Lawrence Suggs.

This school year her classes will be taught with that in mind.

For instance, if the English assignment is to read To Kill A Mockingbird she’ll read it from the perspective of a lawyer. Then in science class she will do the forensics. She explains what she would do in math class.

“I have an officer come in and say ‘No, I promise you this math problem you’re working on right now, we use it everyday,” Hurd says.

Kids will no longer have wonder why they are learning a certain subject. Also the students are still in good shape if they do change their mind about the career field.

“It doesn’t matter if you stick with this career pathway or not, you still have skills with you to take wherever you end up. Because everyone learns the same corp material, just in a way that interests them at this point in time,” Hurd says.

In order to pull this off the school system partnered with Ford Next Generation Learning. Ford NGL started the academy model in Nashville, Tennessee a decade ago.