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How a Community Rallied around a New Concept in Educating Its Youth

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania  (9/19/2017) – The Pittsburgh region faces a serious workforce shortfall in the years ahead, according to a recent report from the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. An aging population, slow inward migration, and disruption created by technological advances threaten to leave employers with a deficit of skilled workers. Meanwhile thousands of locals are unemployed or under-employed due to lack of training for the most in-demand jobs. How will Pittsburgh’s leaders ensure that the region’s youth are prepared to take part in its growth? One high school presents a compelling answer. 

Opened in 2014, Nazareth Prep is a transformational, independent Catholic high school that provides an affordable, STEM-focused education to a diverse student body. Since its inception, it has partnered with major Pittsburgh employers to bridge the gap between education and the world of work, connecting students to companies and nonprofits that are eager to recruit, retain and promote Millennial talent.

Starting freshman year, each Nazareth Prep student spends one full day per week gaining workplace experience at an internship. These opportunities are provided by more than 70 of greater Pittsburgh’s top employers, including UPMC, PNC Bank, Eaton Corp., FedEx Ground, United Way, MARC USA, Pittsburgh Technology Council and most recently Allegheny General Hospital. 

“Since 9th grade, I have gained many skills, like communication, organization and patience,” says senior Leah Jones. “The [internship] program is one of the best opportunities I have ever gotten, because it will help me in my future career.” 

The program enables employers to truly invest in the next generation of workers and leaders. Internship partners help underwrite the tuition of their student interns through tax credits and other contributions, making a private, individualized education accessible to students who couldn’t otherwise afford it. 

Nazareth Prep also collaborates with other Pittsburgh schools to expand quality education as a member of Schools that Can (STC), which unites leaders from traditional school districts, private schools and faith-based schools in working to close the opportunity and skills gap for urban youth. 

In addition to internships, the school offers students training and learning opportunities through collaborations with its Network Campus Partners, including The Citizen Science Lab, Duquesne University, Children’s Museum, the Confucius Institute at the University of Pittsburgh, Saturday Light Brigade and Manchester Craftsman’s Guild – making a Holy Family education a true community effort.

For many students, the chance to get hands-on experience in potential future careers makes their high school experience more meaningful and bolsters their commitment to academic achievement. Along the way, they cultivate a career toolkit that includes not only useful concrete knowledge but also vital, 21st-century workplace skills like collaboration and creative problem-solving.

What internship partners are saying about Nazareth Prep students:

“Amanda is eager to work, accurate, friendly, engaging and a quick learner.” -UPMC

“Marquise showed a comfort level with the software system that we use and was able to complete a routine task much quicker than usual.” - Pittsburgh Steelers Operations

“Shane and Sean assisted with our upcoming New Hire training… Their assistance [has been] invaluable.” - FedEx Ground

“Adarian has been working on a project for the Y and has managed his time very well. We are excited to see what ideas he comes up with to help us attract and retain Millennials and Gen Xers.” - PNC YMCA

“Daria continues to impress with her initiative and readiness in accepting new responsibilities.” - Carnegie Science Center

By investing in today’s youth through their collaborations with Nazareth Prep, Pittsburgh’s business and nonprofit communities are investing in their own vitality, supporting a generation of workers who will infuse their companies with new ideas and cutting-edge skillsets – and whose diversity will equip them to tackle the complex challenges of the future.  

Here is a link to images of Nazareth Prep’s first senior class arriving to the first day of school, 2017-18.