Written by Melissa Jaggers, President & CEO of Alignment Nashville

You would think that after more than ten years, I would be used to seeing the impact of the Academies of Nashville on our students. But here’s the thing – every time I walk into a school, talk to a student, witness learning in action – I’m amazed by how the Academies of Nashville are changing students’ lives every day.

Last week, I had the privilege of visiting Maplewood High School, a school that has been transformed in a remarkable way, as part of the VIP Tour hosted by the Nashville HubMaplewood buzzes with the energy of students who are genuinely engaged in their learning.

How does this happen? Committed educators who do what’s best for students. Partners that see a need and find a way to make a difference. A community that believes that when we say all students deserve a high-quality education, all truly means ALL.

While touring Maplewood High School this morning, I was able to interact with several students who shared a piece of their individual story with me. One young lady is in the Academy of Engineering and loves that she is currently building a bridge – but after graduation, she plans to pursue a career in law. Another impressive young lady shared that her work in the Academy of Health Sciences has helped her understand her academic content (precalculus!) because her math teacher works closely with her health teacher to plan lessons.

But probably the most memorable interaction I had was with a shy, soft-spoken young lady in the cosmetology pathway (which is part of the Academy of Entrepreneurship and Innovation). She was styling the hair on a mannequin when I asked if I could watch for a second to pick up some tips. When I asked her about what she wanted to do after high school, her face lit up and she said, “I want to be an entrepreneur and open my own salon.” She hesitated for a second, then she said, “I missed a lot of school earlier this year because I had some family problems. But I couldn’t wait to get back here to see my teachers, get caught up, and do what I love.”

I was struck by the fact that the Academies are giving her a safe place with caring adults. And by equipping her with entrepreneurial skills in addition to her cosmetology skills, they were giving her real skills that will help her succeed.

It was also exciting to see up close how several different local organizations have aligned to support the Academies. PENCIL recruits and manages business partnerships for the schools. The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce supports the overall business engagement structure by convening the CEO Champions and Industry Partnership Councils. Alignment Nashville continues to align the work of various non-profits to support the Academies in a multitude of ways.

If you haven’t visited an Academies of Nashville school in a while, you simply must find a way to see what’s happening. Visit the Nashville Hub website to learn more and sign up for future events. And then get involved – I promise you will be glad you did.