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First day of classes held at new Career Academy in Nebraska

By Chris Dunker, Associated Press | Posted - Aug. 23, 2015 at 9:01 a.m.

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — There are certain hiccups you can chalk up to first day jitters.

Sitting down in the wrong classroom, for instance, or losing the battle to open a stubborn locker.

But even on the first day of school, walking in some 30 minutes late usually doesn't elicit a round of applause from the faculty, the Lincoln Journal Star ( ) reported.

Unless you're a student at the Career Academy, where the excitement and enthusiasm for a developing partnership between Lincoln Public Schools and Southeast Community College outweighed any scheduling snafus.

"Where else can you say 'I got to school late and they still clapped for me?'" Career Academy Director Dan Hohensee asked LPS juniors and seniors who found themselves in the middle of a new, $22.7 million facility this month.

Envisioned as a place where Lincoln's high school students can enroll in career education, both to lay the groundwork for education beyond high school as well as prepare for future employment, the Career Academy features 16 pathways for students to explore ranging from food science to welding.

It was the right opportunity for Brayden Hansen and Jasmine Suarez, who said although they have gone through many "first days" before, starting the 2015-16 school year at the Career Academy carries new meaning.

Hansen, a junior at North Star who is enrolled in health sciences, said he has been looking forward to learning more about his future career aspirations while also working to "shave a year off" his education calendar en route to becoming an anesthesiologist.

"It's a different environment — you've got a whole bunch of kids from different schools, so we'll get to meet each other," Hansen said. "I'm looking forward to it."

Suarez, also a junior at North Star, was the first student through the Career Academy's doors. She said she has planned to attend law school since she was an eighth-grader, but her ambitions don't stop there.

"I want to be able to open my own firm one day," she said, leading her to enroll in the entrepreneurship pathway. "I want to be ahead of the game so when I do get out of law school, I'll know where to start."

Hohensee said the Career Academy is geared toward providing students with a positive experience in their career field exploration while also reinforcing their education.

"It's about them and what they're experiencing and how we can make them as comfortable as possible with the choices they make," Hohensee said.

More than 350 students are enrolled in classes at the Career Academy during the inaugural semester, Hohensee said.

"... in three or four years, I fully expect us to have 1,000 kids," he added.

That will swell areas like the "Synergy Space" that runs nearly the length of the building on the SCC-Lincoln campus near 84th and O streets.

Hohensee said the program aims to give as many students as possible the tools they need to successfully gain employment or enroll in more education to contribute to their families and community.

He asked the juniors and seniors from across LPS gathered Wednesday for the first time to consider a quote from hall of fame NFL receiver Jerry Rice: "Today I am doing what others won't, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can't."

That started with each of the students getting on the bus to the Career Academy — even if the buses ran a little bit late.

"The bus was the opportunity, and you got on the bus," he said. "Because you did that, you're going to accomplish more."


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star,

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Chris Dunker


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