Weekly Feature

2017-05-18 / Local News

LHS Academy of Finance reaches pinnacle of recognition

by ALAN RIZZO Reporter


Brandon Wingard, center right, a student in Lancaster High School’s Academy of Finance, is interviewed by Randall Clark of Foresters Financial Services during a Mock Interview Project run by the academy. Brandon Wingard, center right, a student in Lancaster High School’s Academy of Finance, is interviewed by Randall Clark of Foresters Financial Services during a Mock Interview Project run by the academy. With a seven-year streak as a “distinguished” program — the highest level of recognition possible from the National Academy of Finance — Lancaster High School’s Academy of Finance has reached the top tier in career prep, one of only four academies in 675 to do so nationwide.

According to a recent Lancaster Central release, the LHS academy reached the distinguished level this year along with 39 others recognized by the NAF and will be honored at an annual conference in Dallas in July.

According to Patti Smith, director of evaluation and continuous improvement for NAF, it shares the honor of being a distinguished academy for seven years along with programs at high schools in Sanford, Miami and Pinellas, Florida.


Lancaster students pair up with local business leaders for a Mock Interview Project via Lancaster High School’s Academy of Finance. Lancaster students pair up with local business leaders for a Mock Interview Project via Lancaster High School’s Academy of Finance. Smith called the LHS academy “outstanding” and deserving of such a record because its work-based learning program has led to results, year after year.

“What is most impressive about the academy is that since 2008, they have achieved 100 percent internship placement,” she said, indicating that the program has placed 440 students in paid internships in the last nine years, many of which have been set up by the students themselves, after being trained by the academy’s advisory board.

“Not only does Lancaster have a strong internship program, but it provides annual work-based learning activities for all academy students in grades 10 through 12 that prepare them for the paid internship, and for leaving high school with strong career readiness skills.”

Smith also credited the academy for being an early adopter of the NAFTrack Certified Hiring program, which guarantees students interviews with corporate partners such as Xerox and JP Morgan Chase upon graduating from college, and praised academy director Scott Dixon as “one of NAF’s strongest academy leaders.”

Dixon likened the continued success of the program to “winning the national title seven times,” and called the recognition deserved because the academy continues to serve as a national model.

“When entire school districts, such as Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools in Charlotte, North Carolina, invite us to teach them about our work-based learning program, or districts from California and Michigan reach out to us for assistance, we know that we are doing something great here in Lanc aster,” he said.

He explained that the academy has performed so highly because teachers work with local and national business professionals in designing classes and teaching students, and because the academy values diversity — and not academic perfection — in its applicants.

“We do not accept students based upon grades, but rather seek to have the same diversity in our academy as throughout the entire school,” he said. “We’ve had numerous students rank in the top 10 as well as numerous students that initially struggle academically. Each student rises because the work we do is so relevant. The top students gain leadership skills, and the struggling students find motivation and reasoning behind their work.”

Dixon said graduates of the academy have ultimately gone on to positions with U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s office and the New York Federal Reserve, to roles in management with Southwest Airlines and at Wal-Mart’s corporate headquarters, and to employment with prominent local companies.

To learn more about the Lancaster High School Academy of Finance, visit www.lancasterschools.org/finance. To learn more about the National Academy of Finance, visit www.naf.org.

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