Academies Spotlight: McGavock High School

Experience MNPS: The Academies of Nashville at McGavock High School
Posted on 11/30/2022
High School student holding a kitten in veterinary sciences class.

“You Have to See It, to Be It” – and at McGavock High School, students have multiple opportunities to see and experience a variety of careers, all with the goal of helping them plan for their futures. They not only hear “You Have to See It, to Be It,” they experience it every day throughout their high school years. High School senior, wearing stethoscope, holding a kitten

McGavock, one of MNPS’s largest schools, enrolls more than 2,000 students in grades 9-12. Despite the school’s size, each student is assigned to a smaller learning team to ensure each is known to staff and that their needs, interests and goals are met – including their goals for life after graduation.

McGavock is one of 12 MNPS high schools that offer the Academies of Nashville model, which gives students an opportunity to combine learning with real-world career opportunities as they prepare for both college and career – so that at graduation, the opportunities are endless. Metro Schools’ Academies model is world renowned, with visitors from all over the globe touring the district to learn how to replicate the Academies in their own schools.

Students begin in the school’s Freshman Academy before selecting and moving into one of four additional academies that offer 12 unique career pathways. Partnerships with many area companies and organizations provide hands-on, real-world learning experiences and opportunities for career certifications that are at the core of the Academies programs.

“We begin by asking our students ‘What kind of life do you want?’ ” said Dr. Asa Bradley, McGavock’s academy coach. “Questions like: ‘Where do you want to live,’ ‘Where do you want to shop,’ ‘What kind of car do you want to drive,’ ‘What type of family and lifestyle do you want to lead?’

“We use their answers and go backward from that, helping students create a plan to attain their goals. Whether or not they end up in a career aligned with their chosen academy, students leave our school having tried many different interests and can make an informed decision about their future.”

As part of their Freshman Academy, students learn about various jobs and careers in general, what type of educational requirements and costs are required to get those jobs and what type of pay they can expect as a new employee. Students attend the district’s annual Career Exploration Fair to talk with representatives from a variety of careers and companies, and they spend time researching what jobs are growing in demand in the Nashville and Two students in McGavock High School classMiddle Tennessee area.

A Unique Resource 

Senior Vidhi Patel says she always knew she wanted a career helping others. She chose the Therapeutic Services pathway in the Aegis Sciences Corporation Academy of Life Science and Law, where she has learned to prepare herself for work in the healthcare sector. While in school, Patel has earned her OSHA-10 certification and is working toward her Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) certification this year.

“We have been offered such a unique resource,” Patel says. “I get to try out everything and graduate with industry certifications. It’s helped a lot of people get an early start in their careers and helped save money in college expenses.”

In addition to their academic and extracurricular activities, students at McGavock are running businesses, leading court cases and winning awards. Students operate a school-based credit union branch through a long-standing partnership with US Community Credit Union; they conduct actual Juvenile Court hearings in a new courtroom inside of the school through a partnership with Davidson County Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway; they learn from noted chefs in the culinary arts pathway that is part of the Gaylord Academy of Hospitality; and they produce award-winning videos in the CMT Academy of Digital Design and Communications.

And there is more. Students are learning how to fly, too.

Students in the Academy of Aviation and Transportation can earn their drone certification and earn dual credit with MTSU or work in the Cummins Tech Lab to learn about electric, gas and diesel engines. All pathways provide industry certifications that offer jobs right out of high school or college credit for two- and four-year degrees.

Serving Every Student's Interests and Goals

The success of the Academies model relies on the commitment and involvement of multiple business partnerships, including those who sponsor the programs, volunteers who train and mentor students, and organizations who help create hands-on learning experiences. McGavock student at school banking desk

J.R. Jernigan, senior assistant vice president for project management at US Community Credit Union, has volunteered at McGavock since his company began its partnership in 2011. Credit union staff talk with students in personal finance classes, and they host tours, job shadowing and internships in addition to summer employment at US Community Credit Union branches.

“The most impactful thing is the internships,” Jernigan says of the work at McGavock. “Students gain experience and understand what people are doing with money, they learn financial money management and literacy, and they share that information with others.”

These skills, Jernigan explains, are critical for every student no matter what career they pursue. Jernigan says the reason for his company’s involvement is to give back and to share with students all the distinct types of jobs – from IT positions to marketing positions – that are part of their industry. Some students have even come to work for them while in high school, continued to work through college and are now full-time employees – all because of the exposure they had while in school.

Emily Gruening, director of leadership and training at Ryman Hospitality Properties, says she has seen firsthand the impact of the Academies on students and their selection of a career path. Most recently, the Grand Ole Opry House chef, Shawntae Johnson Rosser, has been teaching students in McGavock’s culinary arts pathway. Some of these students are now working part-time positions for the company.

And it is not just businesses that are contributing to students’ success in the Academies pathways. Bradley says one of the more popular partnerships is with local non-profit Nashville Cat Rescue, which gives students in the veterinary pathway the opportunity to foster and provide basic veterinary care, such as immunizations, to kittens received by the rescue group. Students also volunteer with adoption events to place these kittens in permanent homes.

There is a lot to see – and be – in McGavock’s Academies.

“Not every student will choose college,” said Bradley. “The Academies of Nashville serves all students’ interests and goals and emphasizes career – whatever that career might be and whatever training is required.”

McGavock Academies and Pathways

Freshman Academy
Academy of Aviation & Transportation
  • Automotive Maintenance and Light Repair (MLR)
  • Aviation
  • Mechatronics
The CMT Academy of Digital Design & Communication
  • Digital Design
  • A/V Production
  • Audio
Aegis Sciences Corporation Academy of Life Science & Law
  • Criminal Justice
  • Therapeutic Services
  • Veterinary Science
The Gaylord Opryland Academy of Hospitality & USCCU Academy of Business & Finance
  • Culinary Arts
  • Finance
  • Tourism

McGavock High School student in veterinary class

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