Benson High School’s ideas for three new career academies might help reverse the school’s declining enrollment.
But that’s just one potential advantage of these magnet programs, which could offer smart ways to help smart kids, including some who aren’t necessarily college-bound.
Last year, Benson had the lowest enrollment of OPS’ high schools, at 1,132. Attracting more students is a laudable goal for one of Nebraska’s oldest high schools.
Laudable, too, are the ideas for electrician, health career and business programs that could help attract more kids to Benson and then help prepare them for life after the classroom, as The World-Herald’s Erin Duffy reported this week.
Benson Principal Anita Baldwin, who calls her school a “hidden gem,” says such real-world training could help prepare students for college, vocational training and the workforce. “These academies are addressing kids on a wide spectrum of aptitudes and needs for work and life outside of high school,” she said.
Next summer, students taking electrical classes could be eligible for $11-an-hour internships with a local trade union. The Benson Electrical Systems Technology program is one of only a handful of such contractor-union apprentice-school partnerships in the country. It provides a foundation in electrical work and allows students to complete the first year of a five-year apprenticeship program required for union electricians.
Details for two other programs are still in the works. One could see students in a small-business academy staffing a coffee shop at the Mastercraft building in north downtown — doing everything from serving lattes to balancing the books.
The other could see a new health-focused program through a potential partnership between Benson and the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Such an academy might involve an expansion of the health system’s popular high school alliance program, which allows high schoolers from 21 different schools to spend half-days at the hospital taking classes taught by UNMC faculty.
Nebraska has pushed to get more high school grads into college, and it is working. The state now ranks seventh nationally in the percentage of students continuing their education after high school, with 69.5 percent of graduates studying at community colleges or universities, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Certainly, a college degree is important for students whose goals require that type of higher education — those interested in the health sciences, for example. But not all kids have the desire or the finances to choose that route.
For many, the road to the future could run through Benson High and its innovative ideas.