Once Kensington Culinary Arts High School became Kensington Health Sciences Academy in August, more changes were made in hopes of leading high school students toward a more successful educational path.
“When you’re talking about serving the masses, talking about serving the community, we needed to upgrade,” Principal James Williams said. “With health care, there’s no comparison in terms of salaries that can be generated and what our dental program is going to be able to do to kids compared to what a culinary program could potentially do.”
The school motto, “Where today’s learning brings tomorrow’s success,” is fulfilled by acquainting students with the health care industry.
“Ten of the 20 fastest growing jobs in America are in the health care industry,” said Guidance Counselor Bob Nelson, which is why health sciences were chosen over culinary arts.
Upon completion of the Health Related Technology Program and the Dental Assistant Program, students can become certified medical or dental assistants. These programs offer an education in nursing, medical therapies, dental hygiene, laboratory technology and pharmacy among others. The program list will soon expand as the principal plans on adding more areas of study.
“We are looking at being the first school in the state of Pennsylvania at the high-school level of having a Pharmacy Tech program,” Williams, who has been the principal since 2010, said.
In addition to expanding the fields of study, the school’s advisory board, which includes representatives from various state colleges, is currently working with Temple University’s Kornberg School of Dentistry to enhance the dental program.
“We are developing a major internship program so that kids during their senior year won’t even come to campus; they’ll report directly to Temple,” the principal said about such a program, which doesn’t exist yet at high schools in Philadelphia.
As of right now, the school has 20 slots open to students for internships at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia. By giving students the opportunities to receive a paid internship with partnered schools and organizations, the Health Sciences Academy is placing hope toward the future of post-secondary education.
“Four years ago, you can count on one hand the number of students who moved on in doing college and having a successful go of it,” said Nelson, who gives college advice to many interested students. “At last year’s graduation, we were close to 60 percent. This year we expect to succeed 70 percent.”
In order to accomplish this goal, the 12 Plus non-profit organization located inside the school, enables students to have one-on-one mentorship with undergraduates from surrounding universities as well as after school tutoring sessions.
In December, 12 Plus started the “Project: Flight” campaign, which is a fundraiser to raise $20,000 to provide more than 50 seniors with college scholarships. They currently have about $2,000 left to raise.
“We really want to empower our students to kind of believe that post-secondary education is possible,” Founder Raymond John said. “We start from the moment that they walk into the door to the moment that they leave.”
To support the “Project Flight” campaign, visit the 12 Plus website.