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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Never Too Early to Plan: A Career Head Start

A program in California guides high school students on their chosen professional path.
By Edutopia Staff
Credit: Max Seabaugh

Considering that students in Pasadena, California, live in a community that boasts such renowned institutions as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), it's not surprising that many aspire to careers in science, engineering, and space exploration.

Some get a head start on their dreams at Pasadena's GeoSpace Academy, where they gain hands-on experience in fields such as aerospace research, laser technology, and computer-aided drafting. A few even get the opportunity to work side-by-side with some of the world's leading scientists.

The GeoSpace Academy, a partnership between the Pasadena Unified School District, JPL, Caltech, and others, is one of seven Pasadena Partnership Academies that together enroll more than 700 students. The other academies focus on health, technology, visual arts, computers, graphic communications, and business and finance.

Located at various high schools, each offers a rigorous blend of academic and work-based learning to a broad spectrum of students, including those at highest risk for school failure. Thanks to dozens of partnerships with area businesses and institutions, academy students make full use of the technologies available in their chosen career field.

Academy graduates are well prepared for entry-level jobs in their particular field. "By the time they graduate, our students have résumés and a portfolio of their accomplishments," says Marla Keeth, coordinating teacher for the Health Academy. "They've presented a senior project, visited colleges, put on health fairs, and worked extensively with adults." But, because they have also received a solid grounding in academics, the vast majority of graduates opt to continue their education at two- or four-year colleges.

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