High schoolers getting head start on careers; Program offers specialized courses at area schools


Although high school senior Heather Snyder is years away from her dream job as an international finance manager, she is only months from reaching the first step toward that goal.

In May, when Snyder, 16, graduates from Northeast High School in Pasadena, she will also be a graduate of the Academy of Finance, where she has gained much of the business knowledge she will need to pursue her dreams.

"It is the best way to learn about my field," Snyder said yesterday at Annapolis High School, where state politicians and educators gathered to announce a partnership with the National Academy Foundation -- the organization that came up with the academy concept.

While there are 15 academies in six Maryland school districts, yesterday's agreement -- backed by County Executive Janet S. Owens, county schools Superintendent Carol S. Parham and Gov. Parris N. Glendening -- formalizes a plan to encourage all Maryland high schools to establish specialized programs in tourism, finance, law and computer information technology.

"It used to be that all you needed was a strong back and a good work ethic to guarantee a secure, good-paying job," Glendening told about 300 local and state officials who attended the ceremony. "Individuals who do not have access to knowledge and skills will find themselves left behind."

The National Academy Foundation, founded by Citigroup chief executive officer Sanford I. Weill, opened its first academy in 1982 at John Dewey High School in New York City. Since then, educators and the foundation have opened academies at 300 schools in 38 states. The purpose of the program is to create partnerships between schools and private industry that allow students to take classes in specific fields while earning their diplomas and work at paid internships during the summer.

In Anne Arundel, six high schools have opened academies based on the foundation's model. Besides the Academy of Finance at Northeast High in Pasadena and Old Mill High in Millersville, there is an Academy of Travel and Tourism at North County High in Linthicum, an Academy of Law and Public Service at Annapolis and Meade high schools and an Academy of Computer Information Technology at Chesapeake High in Pasadena.

"We are preparing students for continuing their education and for the work force of tomorrow," Parham said during the ceremony. "These academies have been successful, but we should not rest on our laurels. Our work now is to promote them and make sure that each student has the chance to reach their potential."

The academies require students to complete 4 1/2 credits in their field in addition to the courses the state requires for graduation. Between their junior and senior years, they must work at a paid internship in their field, earn three college-level credits in their fields and participate in leadership activities with their mentors.

Last summer, Snyder worked in the finance department of the Maryland Aviation Administration at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Jaime C. Lang, 17, also a senior at Northeast and one of Snyder's classmates at the academy, said that while she plans to become a pediatric nurse, the skills she has learned in the academy have been invaluable.

"It has really prepared me for the real world," she said. "I'll have a step up compared to other students my own age. "

Pub Date: 9/30/99

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