Ask any employer or college professor which characteristics support success in work or learning, and the answers will be similar:  communications skills, critical thinking skills, and project management skills will be at or near the top of any list.

One example of a local high school Career and Technology program helping to build those skills is the Cisco Networking Academy at Friendship Academy of Science and Technology (F.A.S.T.), located in Highlandtown.  Willie J. Sanders, Jr., the Cisco Academy instructor, describes the way his students learn and practice real-world life skills.

F.A.S.T. takes a real world approach to preparing its students for career and college readiness.  In addition to teaching high school students advanced computer hardware, software and networking skills, F.A.S.T. requires them to perform professional tasks related to the industry.

Colorful graphics enhance the Academy classroom.

One such project currently underway is the building of a computer lab in the lower level of the school. This is the sort of project implemented by many networking academies, but what makes this particular project unique is that students at F.A.S.T are mirroring the business side of a networking project.

A class of 11th and 12th grade Cisco Academy advanced tech students forms the project team. The team elected a student project manager to lead them. Together they analyzed actual school system IT proposals for the lab, which helped them identify the key elements and structure of a professional proposal document.

The student project manager assigned roles based on student interest, and the team is working diligently on designing solutions for the school’s proposed lab. This has included everything from designing blue prints of possible lab layouts, to performing cost analyses, to assisting the school’s administration in purchasing decisions.

The goal of this project is to create tech and business-savvy IT professionals. Project- based learning like this places the students of F.A.S.T. at an advantage as they enter college IT programs and the work force.

Today’s high school graduate enters a rapidly changing world, where their future employment and learning opportunities may be based on career choices that don’t even exist today.  The communications, critical thinking, and project management skills F.A.S.T.’s Cisco Academy students are learning and practicing will serve them well!

Students explore their creative as well as technical interests.