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Career Academies Offer Career Pathways to High School Students

Lake Wales High Now Offers Seven Programs

Pathways leading to college or directly to highly-paid careers are open to students at Lake Wales High School thanks to the seven "Career Academies" offered at the school.

Assistant Principal Jasmine Ansley heads the career academy program and was happy to report that 1,039 of the school's students are now enrolled in one of the pathways. The program helps keep students engaged in what they like to do at school, resulting in a lower drop rate, she said.

A recent special gathering in the school's media center offered highlight presentations from instructors in the various academies, which offer accelerated college entry with advance credits, or immediate jobs which may be available without a college degree.

Skills and certificates in Culinary Arts, Personal Training, and Agriculture are offered, leading to careers as chefs, trainers, or even veterinary technicians.

Other academies, including Applied Engineering and Early Childhood, offer classes geared toward future careers in engineering or medicine. Health Science students may earn EKG technician certifications and participate in the Polk Fire Department cadet program, eventually becoming emergency Medical technicians.

Students are encouraged to participate in the academies for three to four years at the school. "We like them to start in the 9th grade to give them time to complete the courses," Ansley said.

The program also allows students to qualify for the Bright Futures scholarship program, which can potentially pay college tuition through graduation, Ansley said, adding that the industrial certificates earned by students can substitute for other graduation requirements.

Many of the students participating also serve as Career Academy Ambassadors, helping to recruit new students into the program, and explaining to parents and visitors the value offered by the programs.

Among the non-degree pathways offered is a drone pilot certificate, which enthusiastic instructor Ian Lilly told Lake Wales can result in immediate employment with pay starting at more than $100,000 per year. The pilots are currently in high demand, he said, performing tasks such as inspections of utility lines, 3-D mapping, agricultural imaging and spraying, and search and rescue operations.

Educator Kyra Love leads the Digital Design Academy, which offers students a way to earn three different certifications in high demand by software companies, including Photoshop and Illustrator.

Visitors to the program were offered tours of the classrooms and facilities, which featured the computers, drones, and specialized equipment students can work with in the learning process.


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