Jacksonville-North Pulaski schools join with Unity Health to establish academy

JACKSONVILLE — The Academies of Central Arkansas announced Tuesday the establishment of the Unity Health Academy of Health Sciences at Jacksonville High School.

According to a news release, the creation of the academy comes as a result of a partnership between Unity Health, Jacksonville High School and the Jacksonville North Pulaski School District. It is part of a career-focused trend that the Academies of Central Arkansas is implementing within the four public school districts across Pulaski County to give students tools to succeed beyond high school, and positively impact education within the county.

The Academies of Central Arkansas is a joint initiative of the four public school districts and the regional business community. In 2019, the Jacksonville North Pulaski, Little Rock, North Little Rock, and Pulaski County Special school districts, together with the five Pulaski County chambers of commerce and business and civic leaders, began implementing high school academies within all public high schools in the county, serving all students.

Through their four years at Jacksonville high School, students in the Unity Health Academy of Health Sciences will benefit from enhanced learning opportunities. Students in freshman seminar will be given a number of opportunities for career exploration, one of those is the ability to participate in the annual career exposure event. Unity Health, and several other central Arkansas businesses, will be participating in this hands-on event for all ninth graders.

Beginning in the 2023-2024 school year, students will be able to participate in industry field trips, job shadowing, career mentoring, mock interviewing, and potential internship or externship opportunities. If a student is nearing graduation from the Unity Health Academy of Health Sciences program, they will also have the opportunity to earn a concurrent credit, industry recognized credentials, and the ability to create a capstone project co-developed by a team at Unity Health and the faculty at Jacksonville High School.

“This partnership with Unity Health is gonna create a pathway between our high school and the hospital,” Jeremy Owoh, superintendent of Jacksonville North Pulaski School District, said after the announcement.

According to the press release, Unity Health representatives are hoping the partnership will plug the healthcare worker hole in Central Arkansas and introduce students to futures in the medical world.

“There is a shortage of healthcare workers,” Kevin Burton, administrator at Unity health, said following the announcement. “This is an opportunity to really catch them at a time when they are making future decisions and give them the training they need to make a good decision.”

Filling areas of high demand for new employees, and reinvesting in the Pulaski County community is the point of emphasis at Jacksonville High School. Not only will students gain the skills they need for success beyond school, but also the opportunity for further education

“Because we know the medical field is a high-demand area, we are excited about the opportunity to partner with Unity Health,” said Jacksonville High School Principal LaGail Biggs in a press release. “It increases scholar options for college and career. This partnership will provide exposure to real life industry standards, the skills required to gain the appropriate certifications, and most importantly grow our own talent to work here in the city of Jacksonville at Unity Health.”

The academies of Central Arkansas vision will take several years to be fully fleshed out, according to the announcement press release. The Little Rock Regional Chamber is still currently recruiting business partners for all academy High Schools. Businesses interested in getting more information can reach out to the chamber directly or visit www.academiesofcentralarkansas.org.