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Academies a smart approach to education

Imagine graduating high school with a two-year associate’s degree in hand and the skill set to enable you to immediately enter the workforce.

It’s an appealing idea, for both the students and employers who are looking for smart, capable and willing-to-work employees.

And it’s an appealing idea for Dr. Mark Bazzell, superintendent of the Pike County School system.

The system has quietly and systematically worked to create a trio of dual-enrollment programs that do just that: a Business and Finance Academy, created in conjunction with Enterprise State Community College; an Aviation Academy, in collaboration with Troy University; and now an Agriscience and Horticulture Academy in conjunction with Wallace College in Hanceville.

The programs, open to rising ninth-graders, offer a viable alternative to students seeking careers in these fields. They allow students to complete their high school coursework while focusing on training and education necessary to earn the two-year associate degree in these fields.

When the students graduate, they can either move directly into the workforce or choose to transfer credits and their associates degrees to four-year or extended courses of study.

It’s a brilliant approach to education. We know that not every student will choose an academic career at a four-year college or university. But, if 35 to 40 percent of the students in Pike County schools choose these academies, they will earn the skills and training necessary to move easily into the workforce, giving them an appealing option to traditional education.

The academies reflect a willingness to adapt the traditional models of education to meet the needs of students and the needs of society. They are effective and popular, both with students and with the employers who benefit from the programs.

And that’s the ultimate goal of any educational program.