Avonworth High School students will begin gearing up for careers as early as next fall.
Through a "career academies" program, the school in Ohio Township hopes to give students a taste of various professional fields before they enter the workforce or go to college.
"We're going to do a lot of career exposure," principal Kenneth Lockette said.
He said the program will reorganize elective courses around each academy and encourage faculty to cultivate connections between their courses and the professional world outside the classroom.
Students will meet for quarterly seminars and be given the chance to conduct internships, job shadowing and mock interviews.
The five career academies will be in arts, innovation and communication; business, finance and entrepreneurship; health and medicine; public and international relations; and science, engineering and technology.
Ninth-graders will get information about each academy and can start to participate in grades 10-12.
The program is voluntary and is open to students who are in good standing in attendance, have a 2.5 grade-point average, write a letter of interest and have a teacher's recommendation.
"We want kids to have a broad base of experience and knowledge about the world," said superintendent Tom Ralston. "It's certainly a journey they follow even when they're in middle school."
When asked about whether there are drawbacks in encouraging students to focus on career paths in high school, Mr. Ralston said the program is meant to be flexible and not "stifle [students] or put them in a box."
Students are allowed to leave the academy if they don't like it, or switch to another one, provided they have enough room for the credits.
Mr. Lockette emphasized the career academies aren't just for academic superstars.
He said he doesn't just want the "high flying kid in all honors classes" to participate.
He wants students who are curious about the world around them.
Kerri Villani, a studio arts teacher, said she's excited to inspire students by demonstrating there are career options in the art world.
She will be faculty leader of the career academy for innovative arts and communications.
"It's important for the kids to show them that they can have a sustainable career in art," Ms. Villani said.
She plans to deepen the school's relationship with the Andy Warhol Museum and experiment with virtual sessions with the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Jeff Broggess, who will lead the Career Academy for public and international relations, said his students will work with the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh.
Although the program is still in development, Mr. Broggess said he hopes to bring in guests such as university professors and diplomats during his quarterly seminars.
"It will give students a chance to get involved in the global community."
Alex Zimmerman: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3909 or on Twitter @AGZimmerman