It did not start with the round table discussion two years ago. It began even before Old Main was up for demolition or renovation.

Transformation and a vision for the future has always been the goal for education leaders in Peoria Unified School District. Planning for the future required a trip to Blue Valley, Kan., where PUSD Superintendent Denton Santarelli witnessed firsthand the strides being made in the medical, engineering and technology (MET) fields at that school district’s Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) by students in a unique program.

Those strides are being taken now in the MET Professional Academy, a professional immersion, where students will be working with professionals in business.

The program’s new director, Adriana Parsons, said she was intrigued and inspired by what Assistant Superintendent Heather Cruz and Santarelli were doing. She joined the program last August.

“They sent me to Kansas when I was hired,” Parsons said. “The business relationships they have in Blue Valley is unique to that location.”

The focus at MET Academy is “high-demand careers,” Parsons said, “to make this program flourish.”

The technology strand started Jan. 5 with nine students as a pilot program. They are dual-enrollment students with Estrella Community College.  For the fall, Parsons said the goal is 24 in each strand – medical, engineering and technology. Registration is starting now for the 2015-16 school year.

An information packet calls MET Academy “Education with an entrepreneurial mindset.” Students are treated as working professionals, while preparing them for higher education. Students are immersed in a professional setting and gain experience working with real employers who help them learn through real-world projects.

The medical strand prepares pre-med students entering colleges and pursuing careers in bioscience and health care. Local health incubators Bio-Accel and BioInspire, Grand Canyon University and Glendale Community College are integral partners in this strand.

The engineering strand leads students to degrees and careers in engineering principles and renewable energy. Parsons said the entire state – ASU, UofA, Embry Riddle, and Estrella Mountain CC are involved in this strand, with Estrella possibly providing funds from an energy grant focused on renewable energy careers.

The technology strand emphasizes careers in network engineering, computer programming and cybersecurity. This week, APS, Palo Verde, FBI and American Express were on tap to help with the focus on cybersecurity.

The MET Academy does not compete with the Career and Technical Education programs in the district. Instead, Parsons said, “we want to be complement with CTE.”

High school juniors and seniors are eligible for the program. While enrolled, they earn industry credentials, college credits, employability skills such as communication and leadership, and professional skills such as critical thinking and business ethics.

Requirements are:

  • Have attained junior or senior status
  • On track to graduate
  • Desire to work in a project-based, real-world environment with business professionals and other PUSD students
  • Be willing to comply with business ethics and dress codes as determined by the MET strand in which they are involved
  • Be willing to spend three hours a day away from their home school
  • Be able to access transportation to and from Old Main and potential business partner sites

For business professionals, getting involved allows them to contribute to development of future professionals, reduces recruting, training and onboarding costs, and receive support for special projects or start-up endeavors, and provide development opportunities for their current and future workforce.

Business professionals interested in contributing to the future of PUSD students and the economy are asked to contact Parsons to learn how to get involved. Call 623-332-0657, or e-mail aparsons@peoriaud.k12.az.us.