Barry Ross, founder and principal of Apprentice Academy High School (AAHS) of North Carolina, is opening the doors this August to students looking for more than a traditional high school. Ross explains, “The mission of Apprentice Academy High School is to provide students with a career and technology-focused education that prepares them for post-high school employment and delivers the academic rigor necessary for college success.” AAHS will be a 21st century vocational high school. With 9th and 10th grade enrolling now for the 2018-2019 school year, there are a total of 178 seats available. AAHS currently has a one year lease with Forest Hill Church’s Waxhaw campus located at 8120 Kensington Drive, Waxhaw, NC.
“During the 9th and 10th grades, students will participate in a career exploration curriculum where they learn about work. Students participate in activities such as job-shadowing. In the 11th and 12th grades, Apprentice Academy students will participate in work-based training. They will have the opportunity to earn money as paid apprentices and interns as a part of their regular school day while learning a trade of their choosing. We are very fortunate to already have corporate partners willing to train and hire our future students. Our partners include Mechanical Contractors Inc (MCI), Ingersoll Rand, Howard Brothers Electric, SteelFab, Shelco, Edifice Construction, NexCom and Cisco Networking Academy.”
Each student at AAHS will have a customized and mentored program set out for them. Ross states, “We are a part of the Summit Learning Community that enables teachers to customize learning to student needs. In our model, students will alternate between their teachers, collaborating with their peers on projects, and working independently. Apprentice Academy students will also be supported by a unique mentoring process. All students will receive weekly one-to-one mentoring with a teacher who coaches them through their academic and career goal progression. These mentors suggest strategies students can use to overcome obstacles and provide as much or as little hands-on support based on individual student need. Learning for all Apprentice Academy students is personalized using blended and project-based learning. Finally, students have access to a student mental health counselor who provides individual and group counseling to students who need it.”
Ross became interested in a vocational based education when he was dealing with his own son’s education while he was working as an alternative school principal. “When I was principal of South Providence, Union County Public Schools (UCPS) had a program called BusEd. As a part of BusEd, community representatives including industry, law enforcement and higher education spoke with students throughout the county about their field of interest.”
“One of the biggest challenges I faced as principal was trying to figure out how to keep my students engaged and interested enough to stay in school and graduate. The BusEd day of the 2013-2014 provided the answer. One of my school’s attendees was Ron Hinson of Hinson Electric. A group of students gathered to hear Ron’s presentation on becoming an electrician apprentice. Listening to Ron was like the blinding flash of the obvious for me. It came to me. South Providence lacked a vocational program. It wasn’t that my students were not capable of going to college because they were, but that’s not what they wanted. These students needed to earn money during and after high school. From that point, I made it my mission to make it happen. Since I could not do it within the school system, I decided to launch my own charter school for students looking for a different path.”
Apprentice Academy is a publicly funded charter school and accepts all students, including those with Individual Education Plans (IEP) and 504s, with classes starting on August 13th, 2018. Enrollment is easy. Parents can enroll their students at www.aahsnc.org. While there are still seats available, if more than 178 students register, a lottery system will be implemented by a third party to award seats. Ross is also actively looking for a permanent location for the school after the one year lease with Forest Hill’s Waxhaw Campus expires.