Academies Spotlight: John Overton High School

Experience MNPS: The Academies of Nashville at John Overton High School
Posted on 02/22/2023
Overton students

five Overton students in front of school banner

Whether students seek careers in information technology, health sciences, or engineering, want to become an entrepreneur, or want to continue focusing on their academic success, the Academies of Nashville at John Overton High School can propel them toward promising futures.

Overton has five career academy programs offering 10 distinct pathways and multiple industry certifications. They include the Health Sciences Academy, the Information Technology Academy, Engineering Academy, Academy of Interdisciplinary Research, and the Freshman Academy.

The academies in MNPS’s zoned high schools were created in part to form smaller learning communities for students to gain more individualized attention while being exposed to exciting career possibilities.

Most student learning experiences include collaborating with more than 50 community business partners to implement real-world experiences through work-based learning programs, job shadowing, and internships. Academy Coach Sally Spear serves as the liaison between Overton and its business partners, setting up learning experiences for students and helping teachers find ways to use the partners in the curriculum. 

student in engineering class, with wood model

When students enter Overton in ninth grade, they are introduced to the Freshman Academy, which houses more than 550 freshmen. Freshman Academy features a seminar that acclimates students to the academy model and helps them identify meaningful skills and talents through the YouScience aptitude test. Students learn about various industries as they prepare to transition into the academy programs and pathways during their sophomore year.

The most popular academies are Health Sciences and Engineering, with more than 400 students taught in each.

This is the second year Overton has offered work-based learning to students. Students are currently employed by HCA, Accenture, Asurion, Enterprise Solutions, the Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration Disaster Recovery Program, Finney and Murray PC, Metro Nashville Public Schools’ Technology Services Department, Melendez Carpentry, and Oasis Center. 

Exploring Career Plans

Joanna Martinez, a self-motivated junior in the IT Academy, credits Overton and her work-based learning job at Accenture, a global IT company, with helping develop her 10-year career plan. She is on the digital arts and design pathway and wants to become a software architect, and she takes the opportunities she has through the academies extremely seriously.

“If I come in knowing Java, Python, coding, Swift, etc… I want to have that advantage,” she says.

Martinez has obtained several certifications through the academy programs, such as Scrum Master, Artificial Intelligence Robotics Building, Photoshop, and OSHA, to name a few. 

student working on a dummy patient

The academies constantly monitor student interest, which helps to inform which types of programs and pathways are implemented. As a result, the Academy of Interdisciplinary Research was created with pathways in Interdisciplinary Science and Research, Marketing, and the Cambridge Advanced International Certification of Education. This academy teaches students how to use research skills in business, sciences, and global engagement.

Aliza Avelar Prieto is a junior in the ISR pathway in the Academy of Interdisciplinary Research in addition to the therapeutic services pathway in the health sciences academy. With Prieto’s job shadow programs with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and emergency room nursing, she struggles with which career path to choose when headed to college.

Prieto is grateful that teachers allow students to be a part of the learning process by asking for student input on which topics they would like to learn. She says her classes feel “free-spirited,” with a wide range of topics.

“We go from learning about forensics to geology, so I enjoy the fact that I will get to know and understand different types of science research.”

Partners Providing Opportunities

Community partnerships with some of Nashville’s largest industries are the glue that holds the academy programs together. Exploring various career options allows students to make informed decisions about future careers.

While junior Daniel Caicedo has another year to explore his career options, he is currently in the Academy of Interdisciplinary Research focusing on marketing. Caicedo understands the importance of community partnerships.

“Job shadowing and the field trip lets us see different careers and what you may want to do in the future,” he said.

Students are allowed to explore different academies outside of the ones they have committed to. No one is prouder of these opportunities than Overton’s executive principal, Dr. Jill Pittman.

“We are very proud of the O because it stands for more than Overton,” Pittman said. “It stands for Opportunity. Opportunity for students to see what they can be; opportunity for partners to engage with an international student body that will shape the future of Nashville; and opportunity for our faculty and staff to work together to prepare students for post-secondary readiness. Many trends in education come and go. The Academies of Overton are here to stay!”

Career Clarity

Hallah Alabed, a senior Academy of Interdisciplinary Research student with pathways in marketing, business, and ISR, appreciates those opportunities to discover other academies. a robot made by a student

“Whether you like your program or you don’t, at least you know (how you feel when) leaving it,” Alabed said. “This helps with overall clarity before you take the big leap into whatever you do after high school.”

Some students already know exactly what they want to do. Senior Mitchell Leander studies in the Academy of Interdisciplinary Research with pathways in Interdisciplinary Science and Research and the Cambridge AICE Diploma Program. Leander is laser-focused on becoming a lawyer and credits his academy internship with a local law firm with helping him delineate which types of attorney he does and does not want to be.

“I think I’m at least prepared for college,” Leander said. “With the levels of diversity in academies, diversity of pathways, and diversity of pathways within those academies and how people utilize those skills, it shows us what a day in the office would be like.”

The connections previous Overton students have made with community partners have lasted well beyond graduation. They have completed college internships, and some are now working for partners they originally met on field trips or job shadows in high school.

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