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Anchorage School District Graduates First Business Academy Cohort

by | May 15, 2024 | Education, Featured, News

Business Academy Coordinator Laura Potter awards cords to program graduates.

Naomoto Akiko

The first cohort graduated this month from the Anchorage School District (ASD) Business Academy, a program designed to benefit both career-minded students and businesses. Begun in 2022 in partnership with UAF, the academy recruits high school juniors (and seniors if space is available) interested in pursuing futures in financial services, administrative assisting, or bookkeeping and accounting.

College Credit for Career-Minded Students

Business Academy Coordinator Laura Potter recalls her efforts to launch the program. “It starts with a clean slate full of possibilities,” she says. “Each step of the process is happening for the first time, so it requires constant evaluation, creative thinking, [and] workflow organization. Developing relationships with key stakeholders is essential.”

The program lasts two years for each participating student, during which time they enroll in one or two UAF courses per semester, attended online. They receive in-person coaching and mentoring and are required to work as an intern in their senior year, making them career or college ready once they graduate.

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The academy benefits students in several ways, Potter says. Accessing college-level business courses while in high school gives them a jump start on career and college preparation. Students also have opportunities to meet and network with each other and adults in the business community, and internships provide real-world experience. Academy graduates are more prepared to become employees or entrepreneurs.

Student Christalyn Matheson says, “Being part of the Business Academy has helped me grow in so many ways, personally, professionally, and academically. For the fall semester I’m going to attend the University of Pennsylvania to study accounting and finance.”

Another participant, Rylee Abbett, says, “I gained so much confidence! I can do this!”

Benefits to business owners and managers are also tangible. “When our business partners host an intern,” says Potter, “they are an important part of the pipeline supporting students in their next steps after graduation.” Some businesses end up hiring their interns, she says—a win-win situation.

Dawn Hoxie, a branch manager at Northrim Bank, says the academy was a great partnership because the bank worked directly with teens to show them the ins and outs of working in a professional environment. Hoxie says the institution’s employees got to experience “mentoring a young adult to prepare them for the workforce.”

Juniors and seniors in the Anchorage School District’s Business Academy.

Laura Potter

In addition to Northrim, ASD’s Business Academy has partnered with ConocoPhillips Alaska, Granite Construction, Aurora Military Housing (on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson), Alaska Teamster training center, Alaska Earth Sciences, and Spire Commercial Real Estate.

Part of the ASD Career and Technical Education department, the Business Academy has, so far, included forty-two participants, with more than 260 college credits and 11 occupational endorsements earned.

For next fall, twenty-five new students are coming aboard. Potter says she is thrilled to see the system growing.

The graduating cohort is the forerunner of a Career Academy concept rolling out to all eight ASD high schools this fall. Last week, a school board work session studied a proposal for twenty-three academy programs, ranging in subjects from science and technology to hospitality training. The expansion of the academy approach coincides with other big changes coming to ASD, including 6th graders fully transitioning from elementary to middle schools and new start times to give teenage students more sleep.

Alaska Business June 2024 cover
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June 2024
Welcome to the June 2024 issue, which features our annual Transportation Special Section. We've paired it this year with a focus on the Pacific Northwest and Hawai'i, as Alaska has close ties to both that reach far beyond lines of transportation. Even further out past our Pacific Ocean compatriots and our Canadian neighbors to the east, Alaska's reach extends to India and Singapore. Enjoy this issue that explores many of Alaska's far-flung business dealings.
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