Community members met the Norfolk High School's career academy students on Thursday.

Norfolk Public Schools hosted a kickoff luncheon at Northeast Community College to mark the first year that the school is offering the academies, which allow students to go through course work tailored to specific career fields.

Students had the opportunity to enroll in drafting, construction, health sciences and agriculture — both plant- and animal-focused — academies this year.

"We're very excited to be able to give this opportunity to our students to be able to go down a path for their future," said Jeff Hoffman, career academy coordinator. "This is not just a Norfolk Public School venture. This truly is a collaboration with our community. We have many of you in here who have spent a lot of time on our advisory teams, on our steering committee, and we want to just say that we really appreciate all the work."

The career academies are designed to allow students to explore various career options so they can graduate with skills they need, knowing whether they should pursue a two-year degree or a four-year degree or enter the workforce right away.

Both Hoffman and superintendent Dr. Jami Jo Thompson spoke to the benefits of such a program during the luncheon.

"As career academy students, you will be provided with an in-depth knowledge of a career area of your choice while you earn college credit through Northeast Community College and you obtain real hands-on experience within our community and secure industry-related certifications all prior to graduating from high school," Thompson said. "Those industry certifications may be the end result for some of you who want to enter the workforce right after high school, or those certifications may be the very beginning for those of you who want to pursue post-secondary education. All of our career academies are designed to provide both options for students. Our goal is to be college and career ready, whichever you choose."

Jake Luhr, Norfolk High principal, also spoke and emphasized how the skills students will learn during the academies can be used to benefit Norfolk.

"We're proud of you taking the first step in being our first group of career academy students," Luhr said. "We hope that you find passion and purpose and a desire to be very, very successful in what you are doing. As the building principal I am confident that these wonderful faces sitting here looking at me, you will find that passion, you will be successful, and hopefully, many of you return back to our community."

Next year the school will be rolling out academies in the areas of automotive, welding, early childhood education, culinary, information technology, hospitality and tourism, business management and administration, finance and marketing.

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