Archives for November 2013

Career Exploration: A student perspective

Wow! It’s almost 2014, which means the current high school seniors will be graduating soon and all freshmen students will be a quarter through their high school journey! That being said, on October 30th, 2013, all freshman students (that being 5000+ freshmen) in the district attended the 5th Annual  Shoney’s My Future. My Way. Career Exploration Fair! At this fair, students were able to meet with business representatives in a variety of career fields such as the Police Force, Emergency Medical Technicians, Dentistry, Pharmacology, Nursing, Hospitality, Hotel Management, Tourism, Applied Technology, Nashville Zoo, Adventure Science Center and several more! Students were given a booklet in their freshman seminar class in which they had to record information learned in their interviews that they had with the business professionals.

During the career fair, Hunters Lane Academy Student Ambassadors, Kendra and myself , were able to give a tour to a group of international Vanderbilt Representatives in the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program, Mayor Karl Dean, and CEO of Shoney’s, David Davoudpour! We were able to give insight into how our academy system works here in Nashville and how the career fair is very useful for freshman considering their pathways in high school. Pathways give students the chance to take courses pertaining to the specific career field they would like to join.

The career fair gave students the opportunity to learn in-depth about a variety of career fields while also getting to complete hands-on activities while they were there. Students were able to ask questions and learn about things they can do to prepare for the career field of their choice. The S.W.A.T. team, Forensics Lab, Sheriffs Department, and Metro Police brought along their high-tech vehicles for students to interact inside of! How cool is it that students got the chance to not only learn about these vehicles and when/where they are used, but actually getting the opportunity to explore the inside of them!?

Besides the police field, Belmont University had an on-site DNA extraction lab for students to try. Did you know that when you extract DNA from a fruit, like a strawberry, it looks like white filmy substance in the bottom of the test tube? LEE Company held cup competitions and gave away fun prizes. Nashville Sounds had a baseball helmet  inflatable for students to aim for the glove with the baseballs for a prize! Students interested in pre-health fields were able to see a life-like training mannequins on a gurney and learn about the nursing and EMT careers. Also, for students interested in the aquatic studies, the Aquarium and the Nashville Zoo brought along a couple of their reptile friends- both living and preserved. To freshmen students, if you’re interested, the Nashville Zoo has several internship opportunities for you to join.

Shoney’s also made delicious smoothies and light refreshments for students to taste. Several representatives who work in the Shoney’s business were also available to discuss their job roles in-depth in student-friendly booths.

I hope that all freshmen in the district gained insight into the career that they would love to join in the future. Before they know it, college will be right around the corner. Good luck with all of your future endeavors Class of 2018!


-Mika Carr
Hunters Lane High School
Academy of International Baccalaureate
Academies of Nashville Marketing Intern

Rooting for the Underdog: Stratford student battles and beats cancer

DSC_2683Why do we always cheer when the unranked team defeats the reigning champion? Or when the homeless man rises up to become the CEO of a success business? Even in the age-old tale of David versus Goliath, don’t we still root for the boy to beat the giant? When it comes to defeating something greater or better or larger, the underdog gives us all hope and inspiration. Logan Ashworth’s story is one example in the Academies of Nashville that inspires and encourages.

The Stratford High School senior is kind of unassuming: dressed in standard school attire of a pair of khakis and a polo, polite, but sort of quiet. Logan isn’t really the kind of student to stand out in a crowd.

Those who know him, however, know he’s accomplished something amazing: at only 14 years old, Logan Ashworth beat cancer.

“On January 21, 2011, I was told by the doctors that I had T-cell Lymphoma,” Logan says. “I spent 16 days in critical care with a collapsed lung and nearly two liters of fluid in my other lung. Things weren’t exactly promising for me.”

For the next few months, the Ashworth family spent endless hours in the hospital as Logan underwent countless treatments: six surgeries, months of chemotherapy, numerous doses of radiation, and finally, physical and respiratory therapy. During the time, Logan received a lot of support from his “school family” back at Stratford.

“I told my school I didn’t want to fall behind and have to drop out of Stratford,” Logan says “So, Metro Schools sent teachers to my house twice a week so I could keep up. My studies helped keep me entertained since I couldn’t go outside of our home or see people beyond immediate family for a long time because of the risk of infection.”

“Working on my own, I finished my engineering class ahead of time, so then they gave me projects I could do at home,” Logan jokes. “That kept me sharp and even helped me work ahead, so when I came back to school for my sophomore year, I was actually a little bit ahead of my classmates. Because I was studying something I was interested in, it kept me focused and motivated to get back to school on time.”

Logan was able to return to Stratford for his sophomore year while still receiving chemotherapy treatment. Like many cancer patients undergoing this care, Logan experienced physical changes in his body and lost his hair.

“I was really self-conscious coming back to school because I looked so different from when I left a semester earlier,” Logan says. “Our principal, Mr. Steele, allowed me to wear a hat around the building even though it violated our school dress code. He has no idea how much that meant to me.”

But Logan had one goal once he got back to Stratford.

“I was determined to get more involved in my school,” Logan says. “I was still undergoing chemotherapy, but I got involved in cross country and tennis, and became an Academy Ambassador.”

But perhaps the biggest activity Logan has been involved in since returning to Stratford has been becoming the student leader for the Sparta Bots, a robotics teams in the Academy of Science and Engineering.

“By the time I got really involved in the Sparta Bots, I had started to recover a little and my hair has begun growing back,” Logan says. “In fact, I think some of the hair that grew back came in gray because of how involved I was getting!”

However, the story doesn’t end there. The Sparta Bots Robotics Team began to reflect the David versus Goliath tale as well.

“We were a rookie team competing against schools that have had years of experience and practice,” Logan says. “We were really proud of the work we did, but going into competition was another story.”

Ten engineering students met after school for six weeks to build their Frisbee throwing robot. After their masterpiece was complete, the Sparta Bots shipped their creation off to Knoxville to be entered into the FIRST Smokey Mountain Regional Competition.

In the first round, the launcher arm malfunctioned, but with great driving skills, they showed the other teams this bot could defend. In the second round, the launcher arm worked and received high marks for accuracy. In the third round, other bots took notice of the Frisbee shooting robot, and the Sparta Bots became the primary bot to block. Despite defensive efforts by the other bots, the Sparta Bots took home the highest score and were names the Rookie of the Year.

Once again, the underdog had won.

Logan hopes to take his experiences at Stratford and continue his education. He will be graduating on time with his Academy class and hopes to attend the University of Tennessee and study mechanical engineering.

“I couldn’t have done any of this without the support of my school and my academy,” Logan says. “I don’t know if I would have gotten back to school on time, or stayed focused on my studies, or gotten involved in the Sparta Bots, if it hadn’t been for the family I have in my academy.”

One thing is for certain though; Logan is no longer the underdog. However, he is someone we can all cheer for.

Business Partner Perspectives on Industry Trends

The Academies of Nashville business partners are an essential element to high school redesign. While many partnerships occur in the classroom through guest speakers and mentoring, there are some partnerships that occur with students outside of the school grounds. Jackie Morgan at the Federal Reserve recently shared her experiences as a guest blogger for the Extra Credit, the Atlanta Fed’s online educator newsletter.

Originally posted on Extra Credit


Personal Finance Trends

Help Wanted: Unemployment and Job-Readiness for Teens
Let’s boil down the current employment situation: the labor market is seeing some signs of improvement, but growth remains slow. Although the national unemployment rate has been dropping since it peaked at 10.1 percent in October 2009, at 7.2 percent, it is still too high in the eyes of economists and policymakers, including the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC).

Unemployment is even worse for teens. High school students who are looking for a job, or intending to look for a job soon after high school, should know that the unemployment rate among 16–19 year olds is a whopping 22.7 percent. Even more startling, the unemployment rate for black teens is 38.2 percent. This means that teens have to work especially hard at making themselves hirable.

The big picture
The FOMC remains concerned about the unemployment rate. At its October 29-30, 2013, meeting, the committee opted to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to1/4 percent and reiterated that it will likely maintain this exceptionally low range for the federal funds rate as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6 1/2 percent. This low rate is one of the strategies the FOMC is using to support continued progress toward the Fed’s dual mandate of maximum employment and price stability.

The Atlanta Fed’s labor market spider chart reflects both good and bad news about employment. (The September 2013 version reflects August 2013 data.) The good news: the spider chart shows that some areas—temporary help services employment and hiring plans—have just about returned to their prerecession peak. The bad news is that lagging areas still exist: the labor market has too many marginally attached workers and the job finding rate, job availability, and hires are too low. (According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS], marginally attached workers are people not in the labor force who want and are available for work, and who have looked for a job sometime in the last 12 months but were not counted as unemployed because they had not looked for work in the last 4 weeks.)

What it means to teens
Let’s look at some relatively good news: the U.S. economy added 193,000 jobs in August 2013 and 148,000 in September. The BLS’s Employment Situation Summary indicated that September growth was mostly in professional and business services, transportation and warehousing, construction, wholesale trade, and retail trade. Although jobs in leisure and hospitality were unchanged in September, the industry over the last year has averaged growth of 28,000 jobs per month, especially in food services and drinking places.

Where teens are concerned, the growth in the retail and food industries might seem to be good news since these areas have historically been where teens find employment. But these days, many young workers have to compete with more experienced workers and retirees for jobs. And when they can’t obtain employment, these teens lose out on valuable work and life experiences. So, what strategies can teens use to gain an edge in the job market?

Communication: More skilled but less of it
Sherrie Funk, industry chair for the Metro Nashville Public School’s Hospitality and Tourism Partnership Council, says that communication is an important skill set that students need in order to succeed—written, verbal, and nonverbal communication. In addition, “students need basic computer skills, primarily Microsoft Office, and keyboarding—not texting—is a must,” says Funk. “Students need to have a command of the English language and excel in grammar and spelling rather than text speak.” They should also bone up on their interview skills and take special care with their personal appearance before an interview.

Funk also suggests that students be careful about what they post on Facebook and Twitter because employers often look at potential employees’ Facebook pages during the hiring process.

Real-life learning
As high school students consider how they can prepare for current and future jobs, they should do all they can to learn about an industry in which they are interested, says Funk. Metro Nashville Public Schools high school students are doing this through internships with local companies, under the umbrella of the Academies of Nashville. In a smaller learning community, with instruction that is project-based, applied, and integrated, students are learning in the context of a career or academic theme.

Zoyii McDonald, a student at Nashville’s McGavock High School, was selected from more than 600 applicants for her internship though the program. McDonald says, “My internship was more than just fun and educational. It was life-changing. It showed me how the real workforce works.”

Another way students can gain real-world experience is to take a part-time job while going to school. Shondrea Carney, a senior at East Nashville Magnet High School in Nashville, has worked at a fast-food restaurant for more than two years. She says that her job has been a good first-time experience and that it’s helped her gain a variety of work skills that she can use now and in the future, such as having better communication skills, getting along with others, having a good attitude, being polite, and coming to the job ready to work. Carney plans to pursue postsecondary education after she graduates from high school.

Education, which is one component of an individual’s human capital, can have a significant influence on a person’s joblessness. According to the BLS’s 2012 data on earnings and unemployment rates by educational attainment, the average unemployment rate for people with less than a high school diploma is 12.4 percent, compared to 4.5 percent for those with a bachelor’s degree.

Teaching about employment-related topics
The Federal Reserve offers a variety of resources for teaching about employment and human capital. Some of them are described below.

Invest in Yourself. When it comes to lifetime earnings, education makes all the difference. With the help of data from the Fed, students can see how each year spent in school improves their future opportunities. Students will identify a possible career in the Occupational Outlook Handbook and consider the steps necessary to achieve their goals. This lesson will help get students thinking about college applications and their plans following graduation. Students will work in groups and partners to complete hands-on activities, draw graphs, and write about what they learned.

Katrina’s Classroom: Financial Lessons from a Hurricane. A free DVD-based curriculum developed to teach middle and high school students and their parents the importance of being financially prepared, especially in times of crisis. Lesson 4 and the video “Back to School” explore the importance of education as the foundation for greater future income.

The Classroom EconomistThese modules feature videos, lessons in both PowerPoint and SMART Board formats, quizzes, and other content designed to clarify and enhance teacher and student understanding of core economic, personal finance, and Federal Reserve topics, including unemployment.

The Fed Explained. An animated video series that offers a range of content that explains the role of the Federal Reserve System and economic concepts. Engaging graphics and real-life examples help explain the various topics such as unemployment, GDP, inflation, and the Federal Reserve.

By Jackie Morgan, senior economic and financial education specialist, Nashville Branch

November 6, 2013

Dodecahedron Challenge Won by Student in Record Time!

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At Stratford High School, in room 1106, during 3rd block, on a B-day something beautiful happened. A student far surpassed his teacher. What took the teacher a weekend to accomplish the student did in less than 20 minutes. And, what’s more he did it in style.

On a less auspicious B-day two weeks earlier the challenge was announced. The first student to create a 3-dimensional model of the dodecahedron, one of the platonic solids, using the Autodesk Inventor software would have the opportunity to emboss and then print the model using the new 3D-printer the uPrint SE/Plus.

A dodecahedron is probably familiar to many people because it is often used to create the 12 sided die used in gaming. All of the students in Erik Boczko’s Technological Design class have been making good progress learning how to creating complex 3-dimensional shapes such as prisms, tetrahedra and cones. The dodecahedron represents a significant increase in difficulty over these other shapes and for that reason it was offered up as the object of a special design challenge. Not to worry, there will be many more such challenges forthcoming from room 1106.

Christian created his CAD model by first creating a single pentagon and then importing this into the assembly environment. There he duplicated the pentagon 11 times and used a built in constrain command to identify which sides to “glue” together. As the undisputed winner of the challenge, Christian got to learn how to operate the 3D printer and how to use the CatalystEX software to send his model to the printer. Christian learned the software faster than the three hours it took to print his prize. He got to keep the printed solid. An impressive feat that even Plato would envy.

Virtual Tour: McGavock High School

It’s been said that the best way to learn about one of the Academies of Nashville High Schools is to go to the school. However, we know not everyone can make it to our schools for a visit- thus the creation of the Academies of Nashville Virtual Tour Series. Be on the lookout of a virtual tour of each our schools led by Academy Ambassadors.

Check out our first virtual tour of McGavock High School.


Why would a robotics company partner with a high school?

What makes Stratford unique and why are business partnerships are so important to the success of public schools?

We spoke with David Peters, CEO of Universal Robotics and chair of the Academy of Science and Engineering at Stratford High School to find out.

Universal Robotics CEO David Peters (Photo from the Universal Robotics website)

Universal Robotics CEO David Peters (Photo from the Universal Robotics website)

Give me a little bit of background on how you became to be Stratford’s Academy Partner and what motivated you to participate in this way? I know you participated on the Chamber of Commerce Report Card committee. Did that have a big impact on your decision?

I run a software engineering company and it was clear to me from our activities in hiring – and the quality of the kinds of jobs and salaries that we were providing – that these jobs were excellent career opportunities. When I was young, I learned from popular media what engineering was about, but it wasn’t accurate. I know now that engineering in the United States is not where it needs to be. When I coupled our need with our opportunities, it was clear to me it was important to get involved in education.

It’s been a real pleasure to watch how the school has been improving the quality of the staff and increasing the quality of experience for the students. All these elements combine and begin to impact the quality of the school.

Stratford is a very dramatic example of improvement. 

How does this translate in the real world for the students at Stratford?

We do a job shadow program that isn’t your typical job shadow; it isn’t someone following an employee around for a day. We have an in-depth conversation around how our work applies to the real world. Students spend time in the lab with research engineers.  We do intermittent lectures around various aspects of technology. We show up in a classroom and give a talk. Nissan and Barge Waggoner Sumner and Cannon have additional resources and have the ability to coordinate field trips. That shows students what’s actually happening in an engineering process.

The robotics team was a great opportunity. The staff at the school just took it on with such gusto and really drove the support that was necessary to make this happen for the students. It was so effective from a learning, experience, team-building and community aspect. It’s an excellent program. As we move forward to carry this on, we’re being more strategic. [Note: The team is planning for the 2014 FIRST Robotics competition. In 2013, they were awarded the FIRST Robotics Rookie Team of the Year.] As Americans we love our sport, so when you can take an engineering idea and turn into sport, it’s easy for support to follow.

What I really appreciate at Stratford is that they take all comers. That’s great. There are plenty of young adults who are listless and it’s reflected in their academic performance. And they just haven’t had the exposure to something that could be rewarding. When they are exposed to something like the robotics team, you can see it just take off for them.

Do you think having these types of partners, like you and Nissan and Vanderbilt, has helped transform Stratford into the STEM school it is now? Students are obviously seeing a difference and can even tell there has been a shift since just three or four years ago.

We’ve been a part of it. There are a lot of factors that drive success. No question that the part we play is useful and helpful and has definitely supported that. The committee is getting stronger because of the feedback that’s happening. People love a winner.

And the stronger that school becomes, the more likely it will expand its demographic base.

Sometimes I think the public sees a business partnership as just a means to a donation of technology or funds for classroom upgrades, and I’m sure that’s part of the partnership, but talk to me more about how these partnerships impact everyday learning.

That’s an important part of the process. The resources that are made available by the business community are important. More significantly, what I’ve seen is that the stickiness of a commitment to the school is driven by the individual representative’s personal desire for the betterment of the young adult. They recognize how education is so critical to a rich, fulfilling, productive life, and they understand their unique position gives them the ability to help influence that. Those that really get involved carry that in their heart. They just naturally expand the company’s involvement. They have staying power.

2013 My Future. My Way. Career Exploration Fair

When it comes to experiential learning, the Freshman Class of 2013-2014 took part in a day they will never forget!

On October 30, nearly 6,000 students from 20 different MNPS High Schools packed into the Music City Center for the 4th Annual Career Exploration Fair. More than 130 businesses from throughout Middle Tennessee spent the day answering students questions about their careers, educational requirements, work styles, and technical skills needed to work in a specific industry. Students will take this information back to the classroom to make plans for their future education and career paths, as well as their Academy selection for their sophomore through senior year.

What might this look like you ask? Well, a picture is worth 1,000 words! Check out the fantastic photos below from the event. Thank you to all of the business partners and volunteers that made this event possible and a special thanks to Shoney’s for sponsoring the My Future. My Way. Career Exploration Fair again this year.

Every industry competes to be the "Best in Show." Congratulations to the Health and Public Services Partnership Council for being this year's winner!

Every industry competes to be the “Best in Show.” Congratulations to the Health and Public Services Partnership Council for being this year’s winner!


Students interview professionals to learn more about a specific career or industry.

Many businesses allow students to experience the job by providing real world scenarios such as a live television interview while at the Career Exploration Fair.

Many businesses allow students to experience the job by providing real world scenarios such as a live television interview while at the Career Exploration Fair.

A bird's eye view of the Music City Center shows the vast number of careers and interactive exhibits available for students at the Career Exploration Fair.

A bird’s eye view of the Music City Center shows the vast number of careers and interactive exhibits available for students at the Career Exploration Fair.

For more photos of the event, check out photos from the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce.