JA Academy: Beyond the classroom walls

JA Academy is empowering today's generation to be more prepared and motivated than ever before. Real-world connectivity is infused into the everyday learning experience and the result is a highly engaging and
relevant learning environment.

Business connectivity through case studies and site visits are two components that give students these
types of opportunities to connect their academics to life beyond the classroom walls. Integrated within
the standard curriculum, the students work through business challenges presented by and in conjunction with advisers from partnering companies.

As the groups of students work to develop a solution to a real issue that the company has faced, they
are exposed to the intricacies of the day-to-day for many employees in the business world. What makes this company who they are? How can we solve this challenge in a manner that reflects those values? What are the implications of our decision? Who do I collaborate with to make this happen?

The site visit serves not only as a culminating experience after weeks of research, discussion and preparation, but also as an opportunity to discover positions, companies and industries they may not have known existed. 

JA Academy at Norcross High School’s first site visit was to WestRock, a Fortune 500 global printing, packaging and recycling company headquartered just three miles from the school. Through the case study, the students discovered that the process of printing something as unassuming as a tissue box involves infinitely more steps, collaboration and decision making than they imagined.

While in the Structural Design department, students built off of what they learned in class to get a complete scope of the challenge. Does the client choose the design of the box? What if they don’t like what you come up with? Let’s back up; what kind of technology and background do you have to have to create these in the first place? What if the material the client wants doesn’t do the job as well as another material may, how do you relay this information to them?

In a span of a few minutes, students fed off of each other’s questions to dive into what actually goes on in these employees’ work days. They went beyond the surface level questions and into the questions that will begin shaping the trajectory of their own aspirations and futures as they discover how their interests can translate into career.

These are the kinds of unassuming moments that can last a lifetime. When we provide authentic experiences students become energized around not only what they could become, but what they can do now to help get them there. That’s where the transformation of education becomes obvious; when students begin connecting their academics to their future possibilities, they are more motivated in the classroom and empowered to go further than they can dream.