NAF is a non-profit national organization that works to prepare students for future success in college or a career through the high school experience via its NAF academies – small learning communities within the high schools themselves – with a focus on skill development and the opportunity for businesses to partner with schools through career-relevant curricula and work-based experiences.
IHS Academy of Engineering, Academy of Finance and Academy of Information Technology were all recipients of the recognition.
NAF Assistant Director of Academy Development Jessica D. Williams said its design is structured around academy development and structure, advisory board, curriculum and instruction and work-based learning, the cornerstone of the academy quality process.
“The highest scores on the assessment are NAF Model academies,” she said. “A subset of those academies—which achieve additional thresholds—are recognized as Katherine Blasik Distinguished – NAF’s highest level of achievement.”
Williams said HIS’s continued success are achieved by the teachers, the community, a strong district support team and the relationships built and sustained with professional partners.
“The Academy of Engineering’s biggest strength stems from a firm belief in open enrollment, with the academy director, school administration, and district administration all championing the cause,” she said. “Additionally, local partnerships have provided internship opportunities to students and enabled them to learn from dedicated mentors.”
She added the Academy of Information Technology also has an open enrollment policy and has promoted female students in the information technology field where young women are lacking and the Academy of Finance provides a sense of community where their hopes and aspirations are validated allowing students to form a sense of self-worth and confidence by setting and reaching goals.
“Project-based learning also provides countless opportunities to boost their own abilities to become better critical thinkers,” she said.
The Katherine Blasik Distinguished Academies award is in honor of NAF’s former vice president of Research and Evaluation, who passed away in 2019.
“Under Katherine’s leadership, NAF’s continuous improvement cycle and academy assessment system became what it is today – an essential measurement tool to help academies become the strongest that they can be, so that students get the best possible opportunities for success.” she said.
This year, 201 academies in the national NAF network have reached Katherine Blasik Distinguished level and in total, more than 200 have reached Model level on NAF’s annual assessment – delivering high-quality educational experiences for high school students across the nation, she said.
“Immokalee High School is home to three Katherine Blasik Distinguished academies,” Williams said. “The Academy of Engineering and the Academy of Information Technology first became Katherine Blasik Distinguished during the 2017-2018 school year and the Academy of Finance has been Katherine Blasik Distinguished since the 2020-2021 school year.”
Since earning this esteemed recognition, each of the academies continues to meet the rigorous criteria each school year – continually demonstrating their impact and sustainability.
Williams said the recognition is a significant accomplishment for an academy’s school and community and reflective of the entire team’s hard work, strong commitment and proven contributions to student success, including district leaders, advisory board members and local supporters.
“Katherine Blasik Distinguished academies also act as exemplars and share their best practices with the rest of the national NAF network,” she said. “First-time Katherine Blasik Distinguished academies receive a one-time honorarium to support their academy’s excellent work.”