Students at the Academies of Loudoun this week got a visit from the woman in charge of the United States Department of Education.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited the Leesburg-area school Tuesday morning as part of Career and Technical Education Month—a public awareness campaign led by the Association for Career and Technical Education that celebrates the value and achievements of nationwide CTE programs, which prepare students for high-wage and high-demand careers. The secretary’s visit began with a brief overview of the school by Principal Tinell Priddy, followed by a roundtable discussion and a visit to three classrooms to talk with students.
Also in attendance at the roundtable were Ashley Ellis, the county’s assistant superintendent of instruction; Michael Richards, the county school system’s chief of staff; Association for Career Technical Education Deputy Executive Director Steve DeWitt; and Advance CTE Executive Director Kim Green. Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) was also in the crowd.
In outlining the school’s four-pillared mission aimed to help students explore, research, collaborate and innovate, Priddy mentioned that the school is the largest one that the county has ever built, that it retains a placement coordinator to help students find internships and careers, and that its emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math make it anything but average. “This is not a normal high school,” she said.
When DeVos asked Priddy how students get into the school, the principal said that they go through a competitive application process. Azrin Rahman, a student in the school’s entrepreneurship program, said that she applied because she wanted to know more about STEM. “I never thought this process would bring me to where I am today,” she said.
DeVos also visited the school’s makerspace, greenhouse and radiology technology classroom.
In talking with radiology students, DeVos, who was in a wheelchair following a bicycle accident, mentioned that she had recent first-hand experience with the type of X-ray technology that the students were learning about.
According to Priddy, the academy’s two-year pathway radiology program is the only one in Virginia.
In the makerspace, DeVos learned about a “trailable tiny home” project—a small model home towed behind a remote controlled car—from its creator, Ford Downer, a junior engineering student. Downer told the secretary that his tiny home design was intended for military veterans and that it would help them to maximize maneuverability and maintain their lifestyles.
In the greenhouse, DeVos met with two biotechnology students who were working on science fair projects involving plant cloning and hydroponic research.
Opened in August, the Academies of Loudoun houses the county’s three specialty STEM programs under one roof—the Academy of Science, the Academy of Engineering and Technology and the Monroe Advanced Technical Academy.