RACINE — Alex Garbo loves cars.







Horlick student

Benjamin Stephan, a student in the Horlick High School Academy of Education and Technical Services, works on a project. That academy was one of six from the Racine Unified School District that was nationally certified last month.




He often tinkers with and takes apart vehicles to understand how they work. He figured his career would involve working with cars. His high school experience — which was not completely consumed by classrooms, worksheets and sitting at desks — solidified those plans.

Garbo graduated this year from the Horlick High School Academy of Education and Technical Services. He received hands-on experience working with area companies and called it a rewarding, informative time.

“It showed you what it’s like along the way,” Garbo said. “It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed almost all of it.”

The Academy of Education and Technical Services was one of six academies from the Racine Unified School District that was nationally certified last month. Six academies, two each from Case, Horlick and Park high schools, received “model” status from the National Career Academy Coalition, a private company that evaluates schools with academy models.

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“I am extremely proud of the team and the efforts that they put into this work,” RUSD Superintendent Eric Gallien said.

RUSD did an internal review of its 12 academies last fall and chose those six for evaluation. The remaining six academies should be reviewed next year by the NCAC.







Alexander DeBaker

DeBaker


The NCAC graded the six academies on 10 standards and found that they were all “model” academies. Alex DeBaker, Racine Academies executive director, said the eventual goal is for all 12 academies to be awarded “model with distinction” status, the highest possible grade.

The national certification does not directly result in action like additional funding, but is an indication that the academies appear to be headed in the right direction.

“It’s a way to keep ourselves accountable to the benchmarks that they set for us,” DeBaker said. “We just want to constantly look to improve.”

The evaluation process occurred in May, and it entailed NCAC workers interviewing students, teachers, principals and businesses that work with the academies. NCAC grades were finalized about a month later.







Horlick student2

Horlick High School student Ricardo Osorio scrapes Horlick stars, which were one of the items made by students in the Horlick High School Academy of Education and Technical Services as part of a project with candy company Haribo. That academy was one of six from the Racine Unified School District that was nationally certified last month.




RUSD’s academy model began six years ago. It is a career-focused education style that ideally engages high-schoolers in what they’re interested in and connects them with community organizations. Students take general courses as freshmen and more specific classes over the next three years, depending on which academy they are in.

DeBaker said the academy model is different from his high school experience, so he is “a little jealous” of students like Garbo who receive hands-on training.







RUSD Superintendent Dr. Eric Gallien

Gallien


Of the Academies receiving “model” status, DeBaker said, “It really just proved that what we’re doing is working, and the community has played a huge part in that.”

The academy certifications “demonstrated for me how collaborative this community is,” Gallien added. “To really be able to see it take off from the start to now is tremendous for our students.”







Horlick stars

Horlick stars were one of the items made by students in the Horlick High School Academy of Education and Technical Services as part of a project with candy company Haribo. That academy was one of six from the Racine Unified School District that was nationally certified last month.




Most of Garbo’s junior year was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which was challenging because some courses required hands-on work. His senior year was much better. Garbo and his classmates worked with the candy company Haribo on a long-term project to design, engineer and 3-D print treats related to Racine. Garbo made five items symbolizing the area: a Case tractor, a Horlick star, a block of cheese, a lighthouse and an anchor.

Gallien said Garbo likely would have succeeded regardless of the type of education he received, but his experience working with a company is “exactly what the academies were intended to do.”

DeBaker said businesses like Haribo provide crucial support to students.

“It comes down to the community,” DeBaker said. “We can’t have the academies if we don’t have partners who support it.”

Garbo, who plans to study mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, said his academy experience was helpful yet challenging.

The academy model benefited Garbo’s career plans, and the school district aims to continue that for students going forward.

By AKDSEO