Sylvan Hills High and Arkansas Children’s Hospital form an education partnership

Arkansas Children’s Hospital is partnering with Sylvan Hills High School to support not only a career academy in medical sciences but also an academy in business.

The academic alliance between the pediatric medical institution and the Pulaski County Special School District — orchestrated by The Academies of Central Arkansas — was announced Thursday at the Sylvan Hills High 10th-12th grade campus in Sherwood.

“Your students are now our students,” Marcy Doderer, president and chief executive officer of Arkansas Children’s, told the audience that included Superintendent Charles McNulty, Sylvan Hills High Principal Tracy Allen, Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce Chairman Rajesh Chokhani, and more than 100 other students, educators, and government and business leaders.

“We believe that,” Doderer continued. “We will wrap them up. We will take care of them and we will help launch them into being the contributing adults they will be upon graduation.”

The formation of the school/business partnership is the latest development in a multiyear effort led by the Little Rock chamber to establish and pair career academies in Little Rock, North Little Rock, Pulaski Special and Jacksonville/North Pulaski high schools with related businesses. The partnerships are meant to provide students with guest speakers, field trips, career expositions, job shadowing, internships, certifications, capstone projects and other resources.

Previously announced partnerships are between Little Rock’s Southwest High and Baptist Health, and Little Rock Parkview Magnet High and Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Additional business and high school alliances will be announced in the coming days and weeks, Markous Jewett, the chamber’s vice president of academies, said.

The interdistrict academies initiative is built on the Ford Next Generation Learning model, which is a national model for blending core academics with career and technical education, enabling students to see the relevance of traditional school subjects through the lens of career fields.

More than 40 communities across the nation, including Louisville, Ky., and Nashville, Tenn., have adopted the model.

Sylvan Hills also has a third academy — one in engineering — that is yet to form a business partnership, Allen, the principal, said.

Doderer and Children’s Hospital have been involved for at least five years in tailoring the career academy model to Pulaski County’s nearly dozen high schools.

“Now it is time to actually see it to fruition and reap the rewards,” Doderer said, adding that the principles of the Academies of Central Arkansas deeply align with the mission of Arkansas Children’s — “to champion children by making them better today and healthier tomorrow.”

Doderer, who himself was a finance major in college, explained the reason for extending the hospital system’s partnership beyond the Academy for Medical Sciences to include the school’s Academy for Business.

“A health system is so much more than a site for clinical care,” she said, adding that the system depends on some of the region’s smartest, best-prepared professionals in human resources, information technology, finance, law, strategic planning and marketing . The hospital also runs day care, food service, environmental services and security systems.

“Every profession you might think about happens in the hallways of a health system. That’s why … we wanted the opportunity to impact and grow students from a business perspective,” she said.

McNulty, the superintendent, welcomed the medical system partnership with its potential impact on students.

“It’s a powerful outcome of the passion we all feel for what we want now and what we want for the future,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion.

“When I was in high school, I was just told to go to college,” he recalled. “I had no idea why. I didn’t see myself all the time in what I was doing. Through these partnerships, our young people can see themselves today and see where they want to go in the future.”

Ian Morales, an 11th grader at Sylvan Hills, said he is participating in the business career pathway — which existed prior to the Arkansas Children’s partnership — in anticipation of a career as a lawyer and owner of his own firm.

“I am currently in a management marketing class where I am getting foundational experience in running a business,” Morales said. “I do welcome the opportunity to shadow the attorneys at Arkansas Children’s to learn more about business law.”

Jacee Wheat, also a Sylvan Hills High junior, is participating in the school’s medical career academy. She said she is an aspiring pathologist.

“The classes have offered me so many opportunities to study different medical branches such as patient care and methods of treatment for different diagnoses,” she said.

She is currently taking a class on human body systems, after taking principles of biomedical science last year.

photo Savannah Hart, an athletic trainer for Arkansas Children’s, demonstrates how to measure Sophia Diamond’s knee range of motion Thursday during the Arkansas Children’s Hospital and Sylvan Hills High School partnership announcement event in the school’s Performing Arts Center in Sherwood. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

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