Academy Pathways, cutting-edge technology, student leadership, innovative teachers and supportive staff are all elements at the heart of the curriculum at The Academies at Roxborough High School.

Located at 6498 Ridge Ave., The Academies at Roxborough High school is the first high school in Philadelphia to implement the all-academy high school model.

“What people will see through this model is that when students go into the tenth grade they will be in an academy,” said principal Dana Jenkins. “The students will stay in those academies for the most part until their senior year. They will have the same teacher throughout the course of those years.

“This model allows a better support dynamic for the student and the teacher,” she added. “It helps the students be more engaged and involved with their learning. Our students are excelling to new heights and putting learning into practice, thanks to the implementation of the career academies model. They have become enterprising and can envision a life beyond these four walls. This is education transformed.”

The all-academy high school model includes the Freshman Academy, The Academy of Visual Arts Production (web design, film, video production), The Academy of Health Sciences and Research (biotechnology and kinesiology), and the Academy of Business, Technology and Entrepreneurship (international business and business technology/entrepreneurship).

Across each academy, Roxborough’s innovative and driven teachers work together to plan lessons that are complementary and interconnected across subject matter. Math, science and career instructors all work together to collaborate on lesson plans that put theories into practice and make learning relevant.

“This is my third year teaching at Roxborough,” said biotechnology career technical education (CTE) instructor Courtney Thompson. “With the CTE program, they hire people from the industry, so I’m not your typical academic teacher. There are two parts to the biotechnology pathway. There is theory, which is similar to a lecture and the students learn about everything. Then there is technique where the students have to apply what they are learning into a laboratory setting.

“We also focus on 21st century skills, which will help students navigate in the real world,” she added. “The students are learning how to use microscopes and centrifuge. There are using scientific equipment that is used in most laboratories.

“I have sophomores, juniors and seniors. My seniors are currently going through a Nocti boot camp, where I help them prepare for the Nocti exam. The students have to answer a series of questions to test their knowledge of biotechnology. There is also a lab practical where they have to actually demonstrate the techniques that they’ve learned. This pathway will help prepare students to enter a career in some form of science, whether it’s research, engineering or the medical field.”

For senior Gabrielle Wonder, being in the biotechnology pathway at Roxborough wasn’t her first choice.

“I was originally interested in criminal justice,” Wonder said. “When I wanted to work in law, I wanted to do crime scene stuff, so it was always related to science in some way. Now, when I go to college I will be looking into psychology. I will have to take biology courses and study the brain. Because I was in the biotechnology program, I will now know what to expect once I get there.”

While senior Jada Johnson has always been interested in the science field, she said that being in the biotechnology pathway has helped her see the different career paths should could possibly go in.

“I’ve learned so much since being in this pathway,” Johnson said. “I already had an interest in this field, but Mrs. Thompson has helped me see all the different areas of this field I could pursue as a career. I’ve really learned a lot since being in this pathway.”

In the life skills classes at Roxborough, students between the ages of 18-21 are learning skills that will help them transition out of high school.

“Part of the program is working on functional academics everyday,” said life skills support teacher Jim Polisi Jr. “We work on math skills so that they can go out into the community and shop and learn how to budget. We run a vocational component, also, where the students go to work three days a week at a variety of spots. The class goes to the Free Library to do book returns.

“We go to Shoprite where they do some bagging and returning items,” he added. “We work at the Roxborough YMCA where the students work the front desk. When it gets warmer, they will be working on the garden. They go to MANNA where they pack food for the sick and we go to Philadelphia University where we clean and work in the cafeteria.

“These students have been in school since they were little and will be here until they are 21. We want them to be as independent and functional in society as possible. We have four students graduating this year.”

The Roxborough YMCA recently awarded five students in the life skills program with the Volunteer of the Year Award.

“The event was nice,” said life skills student Darien Robinson. “I didn’t want to leave. I’ve been at the YMCA for a while. While I’m there, I sweep, vacuum, and work the front desk. I also talk to the people who come in the building. It’s a lot of fun.”

Life skills student Amira Hepp was also one of the students who won the Volunteer of the Year award from the Roxborough YMCA.

“I’ve been going to the YMCA for a year and I really like it,” Hepp said. “I work the front desk and by doing that I get a chance to talk to different people. I also participated in the National Student Walkout day. That protest was about gun violence.

“As far as my classes, I like math,” she added. “We’re doing equations, angles and degrees. I also like learning about history because I like finding out different things about the past. Roxborough is a good school. I like Principal Jenkins and the teachers are really nice. I really like going here.”

chill@phillytrib.com (215) 893-5716

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