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HCS Academies of Hampton hosts two-day study visit

The Academies of Hampton in partnership with GEAR UP Virginia, Ford Next Generation Learning and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), hosted a two-day study visit on October 26-27, 2022, showcasing how Hampton City Schools created partnerships with the community to build and sustain the Academies of Hampton.


Registered guests included over 44 division leadership, school board members, teachers, counselors, and business leaders representing 19 school divisions from across Virginia.

The study visit kicked off with a reception held at the Virginia Air and Space Science Center (VASSC). Executive director/CEO of VASSC, Chuck English, led an interactive exhibit tour for guests. Academy ambassador Sarah Graham from the Academy of Health, Human, and Financial Services at Hampton High School welcomed guests from across Virginia as well as local legislative leaders including state delegate for the 91st District, A.C. Cordoza; state delegate for the 92nd District, Jeion Ward; and chief of staff for Senator Mamie Locke, Theressa Park. 


Bethel High School AFJROTC members presented the colors followed by a solo performance of the national anthem by Justin Baines, a senior in the Governor's Health Science Academy at Bethel High School. Students in grades 6-8 from the Jones Magnet Middle School choir and the Jones Jaguar choristers, led by Suann Strickland and Kelly Dee, performed a beautiful peace blessing that consisted of the words for peace in Hebrew, Latin, and English.  


In addition, opening remarks about the transformation of community partnerships and the impact that the Academies of Hampton has had on creating a pipeline of qualified and talented candidates for the workforce was led by Vice Mayor Jimmy Gray and City Manager Mary Bunting. School Board Chair Dr. Richard Mason shared with the audience the importance of leveraging relationships with the school boards members as they serve as a tremendous support to the school district during various phases of the academy transformation.


The remainder of the evening reception was filled with networking and engaging speakers such as Ford Next Generation Learning Executive director,Cheryl Carrier; director of college access & PK-12 outreach SCHEV, Erin McGrath, assistant, director of finance policy and innovation at the State Council of Higher Education, Wendy Kang; CEO of Garrett Realty Partners, Greg Garrett; and notably, HCS alumni and Portrait of a Graduate, Janae Thomas. Thomas shared how as a first-generation college student, the academies model provided her with the opportunity to accumulate over half a million dollars in postsecondary scholarships and she eventually enrolled in the College of William & Mary with a 100% tuition scholarship.


The site visit, held at the Academy of Bethel High School and the Academy of Phoebus High School, showcased the proven strategies and structures that transform high schools into personalized learning communities and prepare students for college, career, and life success.


Students in the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism at Phoebus High School graciously plated and served guests lunch and dessert while academy ambassadors representing each high school provided the keynote address and discussed the impact of the academy model through the lens of students.

Led by academy ambassadors, guests experienced the high school academies in action through school tours and interacted with students and teachers who showcased collaborative project-based and interdisciplinary learning examples. Guests also networked with community and business partners who are critical in transforming high school pathways and offer robust work-based learning opportunities, and learned how Hampton City Schools is designing a PreK-12 Academy Model to ensure a high level of student success at all ages.


The academies site visit concluded with roundtable discussions that offered guests to do a deeper dive into topics such as project-based learning and guaranteed viable curriculum. Student voice, the roles of the executive and academy principal's roles, teaching through the lens of a core and CTE teacher, as well as implementing a middle school alignment and the role of Ford Next Generation Learning were discussed.

Here is what some of the participants had to say about the experience:

“Small, tight-knit learning communities within the Academies of Hampton give students the support and confidence needed to succeed in high school and beyond. Meeting AoH student ambassadors confirmed this – their poise and outstanding performance was undeniable.” – Erin McGrath, assistant director of College Access & PK-12 Outreach, State Council of Higher Education for Virginia

“The Academies of Hampton provide a true career college-going culture that is visible by the students, teachers, school staff, administrators and the community.” - Linda G. Staylor, partnership specialist, GEAR UP Virginia and State Council of Higher Education for Virginia


“Hampton is a model for embedding college and career planning into students' high school experience. We are grateful that Hampton is part of the 2021-2027 GEAR UP Virginia (GUV) cohort and are very glad to be a partner in showcasing the academies model to other GUV school divisions. We look forward to continuing this partnership and supporting our GEAR UP schools in ensuring students are college and career ready.” -Rebecca Lytash, GEAR UP Virginia director