Omaha Public Schools: College and career program is a success, looks to expand it next year

Research shows that students are 11% more likely to graduate if they take 3 or more career-oriented courses
A program with Omaha Public Schools is giving students opportunity
Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 6:56 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Omaha Public Schools says its new College and Career Academies and Pathways program has been a success so far. So much so, they’re looking to expand it. It’s a program that started district-wide this school year. Now, schools are presenting to the OPS Board with updates on the college and career-oriented program. Most recently, it was Central High, which is where Joshua King attends.

“I’ve always known that I wanted to [major in] business, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to [do] in business,” he said.

Joshua King is a senior taking part in the business pathway at Omaha Central High.

He says he ultimately wants to go into business management, thanks in part to the program.

“I wish that I was able to do that earlier so that I could have a head start on what I want to do. It’s kind of pushed me later on in life to be able to actually see the different mechanics of business and marketing. But now these freshmen have an opportunity to grow and understand at a younger age,” he said.

Danielle Brandt is the assistant principal at Central High. She championed its implementation.

“The idea was how can we as a district make it so that every student has access to things that are going to be happening after high school,” said Brandt.

The academy and pathway options vary based on high school.

“So if a kiddo is at Central and they say, ‘I really want to be a doctor,’ but we don’t necessarily have a specific medical pathway, we’re going to look and say, ‘Hey you know what? We do have a global health studies pathway that is still going to get you exposure to UNMC or different places,” she said.

They can also make their own pathway with a counselor -- or switch if their current path isn’t a good fit.

“This was our first year doing it, and we were able to give every student the pathway that they wanted to choose,” said Brandt.

6 News spoke with the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s vice chancellor, Dr. Rich Klein, who helps oversee undergraduate admissions. He says even if one doesn’t fall in love with the track they pick, there’s still value in participating in it.

“I don’t think it locks them into a particular field long term. If anything, it may demonstrate their ability to be successful in more challenging and rigorous courses, which is something that can be applicable across a different discipline should they choose that long term,” said Klein. “The earlier you make that change the better.”

OPS says it hopes to expand and connect with more local Omaha employers to provide internships and extracurricular experiences as a part of this program.

OPS research shows students who take three or more career or technical based classes graduate at an average rate of 11% higher than those who don’t.