Career-Focused Learning

Romeo and Center Line schools receive Ford NGL designation.

by Nick Leo

Today’s schools are doing a better job at preparing students for careers. Schools in Macomb County, for example, are placing greater emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) classes, offer skilled trades classes, job shadowing, manufacturing days and much more. Two local school districts, Romeo and Center Line, have taken it a step further with Ford Next Generation Learning (NGL) designation.

Ford NGL is nationally recognized for its unique approach to transforming public high schools into career-themed academies that better prepare students for college and professional success.

In order to be designated Ford NGL communities, Romeo and Center Line schools had to develop a three-year master plan that would ensure that all high school students are learning in career-themed academies. The master plan also had to create structures and processes to engage local and regional employers and civic leaders in supporting and sustaining the academies.

Romeo offers four academies: Ninth Grade Academy; Academy of Health, Human and Public Services; Academy of Design, Engineering and Manufacturing; and Academy of Business, Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Center Line, meanwhile, offers three academies: Freshman Academy; Information, Technology and Innovation (ITI) Academy; and Health and Human Services (HHS) Academy. The student response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“These classes have helped me understand what I want to do in my future,” said Antonio D’Agostino, a junior in the Center Line ITI Academy.

Fellow student Jessica Woolsey, meanwhile, is in the HHS Academy.

“The classes are helping me figure out which aspect of HHS I want to focus on; they’re giving us experiences that we would not normally be able to get,” she said.

“I learned skills that are more specific to my future, along with life skills. I received a job through the DEM (Design, Engineering and Manufacturing) Academy,” added Romeo High Schools’ Brandon Furnari. He plans to study mechanical engineering at MSU.

It’s not just students who are excited about this initiative. School administrators and personnel are just as ebullient. “The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Everyone is excited to see students coming out well prepared for these roles,” said Christine Akroush, Center Line academy coach.

“Across the board, kids are more engaged with their education. Ford NGL answers the ‘Why do I need to learn this?’ question because they can see how the classes they are taking apply toward their career goal,” said Rick Boggio, Romeo academy coach.

“Through Ford NGL, our students are better prepared for life after school. We’re also thankful for the assistance we’ve received from Macomb County Planning and Economic Development department, including bringing companies and businesses together to determine what is needed in our classes,” added Lisa Oleski, Center Line assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

She explained that it was determined that a welding class was needed as part of the curriculum and the county helped make it happen.

“Now we have a certified welding class in our program. It’s yet another thing that students can experience while in school to determine if it’s something they want to pursue after graduation,” Oleski added.

“We’re not trying to push kids to make decisions about their future in ninth grade. We are enabling them to see their curriculum through the lens of their career paths,” said Cheryl Carrier, Ford NGL executive director. “The students aren’t merely learning math. They’re learning math through the lens of their careers.”

“The Ford NGL partnership gives students and teachers a competitive edge that improves their chances for future success and will benefit the workforce and economic development needs of the region for years to come,” Carrier added.

Even before the COVID pandemic, our region was facing a critical shortage of workers with the skills needed to thrive in today’s – and tomorrow’s – workplace. Programs such as Ford NGL are helping address this issue.

“Currently, there’s a huge work gap and the more we can show students that Macomb County is a viable place for them to stay and succeed, the better our chances of closing that gap. With NGL, we’re planting the seed,” said Vicky Rowinski, director of Macomb County Planning and Economic Development.

For more information about Ford NGL, including the steps required to receive designation for your community, please visit

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