Only one Wilson academy goes on college tours, visits local fish wholesalers, and meets executive business owners. Next year, however, it might not be able to due to a decrease in funding.
The Academy of Hospitality and Tourism receives extra funding every year from the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) because it is a member of a nationwide nonprofit that supports academies. This organization is called the National Academy Foundation (NAF).
Funding from OSSE was $85,000 when the academy was started in 2014. This year, the academy received $55,000. Next year, it will receive only $45,000.
“Every time those funds are reduced, that means fewer college tours, fewer work-based learning trips,” said Erin Bibo, Deputy Chief of College and Career Education at DCPS.
NAF supports academies in five areas: hospitality and tourism, information technology, engineering, health sciences, and finance. The hospitality academy is the only NAF academy at Wilson, which means it receives the extra state money each year.
The District requires that NAF academies have two staff members: a director and a coordinator, giving them more support than regular academies. According to Bibo, these academy leaders, “have very specific role expectations and receive a lot of support from our team to ensure that students in the academy are succeeding.” At Wilson, Alex Wilson heads the hospitality academy, while Andrew Barnes is the NAF coordinator.
NAF outlines the curriculum for all of its academies. The official Hospitality and Tourism curriculum “engages students through a series of career exploration courses,” and mandates project-based learning.
The academy’s curriculum is divided into four years, with course material getting more difficult each year, similar to SciMaTech Project Lead the Way (PLTW) classes. The difference, however, is that the focus of the academy is completely on customer service and business management.
A large part of the course curriculum is preparing students to succeed in the college and the job application process. “I didn’t know how to write a resume before I got to the class and I didn’t know how to do job interviews,” sophomore Aline Contreras said. “Now I’m really good at talking at job interviews.”
There is no required number of students to be enrolled in the pathway. But funding can be dependent on the number of students enrolled, which puts pressure on the academy director to keep students in the academy.
Like all electives, if not enough students are enrolled, people can be randomly placed into the class. Multiple students in the hospitality academy said that they did not sign up for the class but were placed in it, though all of those students said they enjoy the course nonetheless.
Contreras had previously left the pathway but was encouraged by Alex Wilson to rejoin. “He didn’t really pressure me, but he just kept telling me that it’ll help get a job after high school,” Contreras said.
Next year, Wilson hopes to make the Biomedical pathway of the SciMaTech academy NAF certified, which would mean the course would receive more funding and opportunities, like the hospitality academy does.