George Lucas Educational Foundation

Connecting High School to College and Career

A new approach to career and technical education is engaging high school students by combining rigorous academics with hands-on learning in specific fields of professional study and training. More to this story.
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Connecting High School to College and Career (Transcript)

Teacher: All right. Okay, guys, heads up.

Narrator: Something big is taking off at high schools all over California.

Alan: If it wasn't for the Academy, I- I probably would've dropped out, and, you know, I'm graduating now and gonna go to college.

Narrator: More than 1,000 schools within schools are merging college prep and career and technical education, making the high school experience real, rigorous, and rewarding.

Teacher: I know it's going to be a thicker viscosity.

Steven: This is about making sure that the young people of today in California and across the country are prepared to go on to higher education, go into the world of work, and be successful because the skill sets that they're getting really are 21st century.

Teacher: The average velocity is- that was your velocity…

Narrator: Described by different labels and delivered in various forms, the concept is as old as apprenticeships-- to link learning to careers.

So what are two ways of stimulating your heart rate?

Narrator: At Bravo Medical Magnet High School in Los Angeles, all students are exposed to career opportunities in the health field.

Student: This electrode's going to be measuring your brainwaves, so I'm going to put an electrode on your forehead and one electrode on your ear.

Student: Okay.

Narrator: There are also smaller academies within the school, like the Engineering for Health Academy, in which students move together through a three-year curriculum of focused, academic, and technical study.

Teacher: And when it's such a small amount, we do really need to make sure that it's exact.

Narrator: Bravo forms partnerships with local businesses and institutions like the University of Southern California Medical Center, which provide internships and other work-based learning opportunities.

Faizan: I've been testing my compounds, which are my drugs, basically trying to find a cure for cancer.

Mark: Education has to be much more hands on. We can't continue to just educate students in silos and not integrate technologies into- into medical applications in this case.

Student: So where's the edit at right now?

Narrator: Since academies generally have a limited number of slots available, students develop a sense of community, and learning becomes personal because teachers know each student individually.

Shawn: What is this poster representing since you're putting it in?

Narrator: Shawn Sullivan teaches a sequence of animation courses at Sheldon High School in Sacramento.

Shawn: Doing an academy is really important. It gives a chance for the students to be around likeminded students.

Student: Okay, so we're going to start off master chart right here and the narrator introduces the film, "Ah, the natural selection pet shop."

Shawn: What they're really learning is what they can take to any job they do as working with teams, coming up with an idea and sharing it with others, and seeing it being finished and created.

Student: One, two, three, go.

Student: Oh, I just signed up to see what it was, green energy technology. Wonder what it is. Took the class, love it. Just going home, telling my parents, "Look what I learned. I made biodiesel. I created a solar bicycle ambulance." All right. Act sick. Actually want to continue, maybe become electrical engineer.

Student: Let me see if the light works. Check it out.

Narrator: According to recent studies, academies have higher attendance and lower dropout rates. Twice as many high-risk students complete required core classes when enrolled in academies, and more of those students apply to college.

Student: Bravo has been great. This is like the only place that offers me a chance to work at a lab, and this experience has helped me. Yes, it's actually pretty fun.

Keith: I chose this academy because I'm trying to get into like a computer-based technological-based career when I grow up, and so like this really helps me with the hands-on problem solving.

Teacher: This one's going a long way.

Keith: Yeah. It just integrates everything in to where you have to learn how to work together with people and things to get something finished and accomplished.

Teacher: Was a good shot. Nice, Keith. All right. Back to the launch site.

Narrator: For more information about what works in education, go to Edutopoia dot org.

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Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis


  • Karen Sutherland

Associate Producers

  • Doug Keely
  • Kathy Baron

Camera Crew

  • Jeff Freeman
  • Rebecca Usnik
  • Mike Elwell
  • Hugh Scott

Additional Camera

  • Doug Keely
  • Ken Ellis

Video Programming Producer

  • Amy Erin Borovoy


  • Michael Pritchard

Original Music

  • Ed Bogas

Edutopia's Schools That Work Merging Career Tech and College Prep installment is supported by a grant from The James Irvine Foundation.

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