Shabazz unveiled as Newark’s fifth career academy; will offer engineering classes

With great fanfare, Newark has unveiled its latest career academy, one with an engineering focus at Malcolm X Shabazz High School.

Even though it’s more than midway through the semester, Shabazz students could start engineering classes as soon as next week, district officials said. They did not say how many students would enroll in the academy.  

Students may earn college credit from the New Jersey Institute of Technology for their academy courses. As with other career academies, students will be paired with mentors in industry, district officials said.

The engineering career academy will provide coursework rigorous enough for students to be creating work that they could patent, according to the district. The academy will offer various engineering certifications.

This marks the fifth career academy launch — and the fourth in recent weeks — in Superintendent Roger León’s 17-month tenure, all part of his goal to revamp traditional high schools and better prepare students for college and careers.

Superintendent Roger León announces the new engineering academy at Malcolm X Shabazz High School in Newark’s South Ward. (Devna Bose/Chalkbeat)

The district is pairing each academy with one of the district’s selective magnet schools and with a college and an industry partner. 

Shabazz students will be supported by the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Stryker Corporation, a medical technology company. The school will will partner with the magnet school Technology High School.

“For these incredible, beautiful, brilliant students, we want three entities to say it’s legit. We want the magnet to say that it’s worthy of our brand. We want NJIT to say [this work] meets our standards, and we want Stryker to say this will prepare them for the future,” Leon said at the public announcement Wednesday. “I am extremely excited about the incredible work that’s underway.”

The academies are also aimed at making the city’s comprehensive high schools more attractive to students, closing the gap in attendance between the district’s more selective magnet high schools, where the district’s higher-achieving students enroll, and non-selective comprehensive schools, where the city’s neediest students enroll. The academies may allow students at comprehensive high schools to take courses at the partnered magnet schools. 

Shabazz sophomore Kennedy Amoako, who participates in robotics, video production, and virtual reality programs at the school, is looking forward to the new classes. 

“I want to be an architect based in the engineering field, so I was happy to hear about this,” he said. “It’s going to help me because I’ll have the opportunity to interact with 3-D printing and all this new stuff.”

The New Jersey Institute of Technology will provide staff development, equipment, and financial support. Stryker is providing mentorships and helping Shabazz shape curriculum. 

“We hope we’re helping this high school generate graduates that are committed to this journey,” said Robert Cohen, a vice president and chief technology officer at Stryker. “It’s not technology by itself that does anything, it’s the people who use the technology. If we can help this generation find this technology and use it to improve health care, that’s a good thing for Stryker to do.”

A 3-D printer is used in a lab at Malcolm X Shabazz High School. (Devna Bose/Chalkbeat)

Pegi Haliti, who has a master’s in biomedical engineering from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, will be teaching engineering design at the academy. 

“What they learn in the class, it will be enough for students to pass any exam related to engineering design,” she said.

She said academy courses will culminate in introducing students to biomedical engineering.

Two weeks ago, Weequahic High School unveiled its allied health services academy in a partnership with Rutgers School of Health Professions, Rutgers School of Nursing, and RWJBarnabas Health.

Last spring, East Side High School opened its teacher training academy, which is partnered with Montclair State University and the American Federation of Teachers. 

Barringer High School and West Side High School launched their career academies last month. Through a partnership with Rutgers Law School and the McCarter & English law firm, Barringer students will learn about law and safety, while West Side is partnering with Rutgers Business School and Google Creative Labs to teach students about business and finance. 

Malcolm X Shabazz High School Principal Naseed Gifted, who has a background in engineering and a degree from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, has come full circle with the academy. He credits his education in Newark with launching him into technology.

“It was exposure that inspired me to create and become a problem solver,” he said. “Today is that moment where we get to help develop the next generation of technology leaders, and the young people in front of you will lead the way.”