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Andraya White Brings Career Academies to Life

By Meital Caplan
May 25, 2022

The OneGoal Leadership Network connects district leaders with flexible and data-driven leadership coaching to collaboratively create an actionable plan aimed at increasing postsecondary outcomes and decreasing equity gaps among their students. Andraya White serves as the Postsecondary Leadership Coach for Freeport SD 145, Harlem SD 122, Round Lake CUSD 116, and Waukegan CUSD 60. She worked with Freeport to help them optimize their career academy plans.

A few years ago, Freeport School District 145 launched a career academy model to enhance students’ college and career readiness. Then the pandemic hit and Freeport’s rollout of the new model had to be significantly scaled back as they focused on keeping students safe while continuing to engage them to prevent learning loss.

Fast forward to the spring of 2022, when the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) offered districts the opportunity to engage in the OneGoal Leadership Network at no cost. Freeport saw their chance to relaunch their career academy work with the added benefit of receiving support and leadership training from OneGoal Coach Andraya White, who is experienced in career academies.

The Career Academy Model

Career academies engage students in postsecondary planning early in high school by curating classes through the lens of potential careers. Freeport has three academies: HEAL, focused on health sciences; LEAD, focused on business and hospitality; and CREATE, focused on engineering. Each student’s schedule is tailored closely to their interest area and students can switch between academies throughout high school, creating a low-risk opportunity for exploring a number of possible career paths. For example: students with an interest in medicine take science classes focused on biology and anatomy, and students who wish to pursue business work on professional writing in English class. Classes are small, and since their peers are exploring similar careers, students build a community to learn from and lean on. Career academies also tap into the local community to provide real-world experiences, internships, and apprenticeships so students graduate high school having earned college credits and/or certifications.

Before joining OneGoal, Andraya saw the power of career academies firsthand while working as the lead school counselor for Bryan Station High School in Lexington, Kentucky. She was instrumental in implementing the career academy model, transforming the school and district’s existing systems to build a new way to engage students in postsecondary exploration. She says, “I’m so passionate about career academies and enjoy working with districts who are in the process of developing this because I’ve seen the transformative nature that it has had on students, as well as school and community culture. It really does change the trajectory of a student’s life.”

The Importance of Student Voice

In partnering with OneGoal and Andraya, Freeport sought to create a plan to relaunch their career academies in the 2022-23 school year and integrate them into the community, district, and school culture. Andraya and Thedford Jackson, Freeport’s College & Career Academy Coach, got to work assessing Freeport’s yearly academy goals, exploring how to build upon some of the existing systems the school already had in place, and prioritizing key initiatives that would help drive integration into the school culture.

As one example, knowing how important student investment is within this academy model, one of the priorities was to create a student ambassador initiative. Andraya reflects, “Student ambassadors serve as advocates for their school, their academies, and their peers. It’s a wonderful leadership training for students and the initiative ensures student voices inform the growth and improvement of their academies.”

Freeport is in the process of finalizing their student ambassadors for the upcoming school year after going through a process that consisted of nomination, information sessions, applications, and interviews. It’s a big win to set Freeport up for a strong start in the fall!

Making College and Career Readiness a School-Wide Focus

One of Andraya’s most important priorities was to help Freeport integrate its postsecondary success work directly with the overall school improvement efforts.

“For so long, college and career readiness efforts have been disconnected from school improvement planning and siloed into one area of the school, usually falling on the counseling team,” Andraya said. “Through this work, I, alongside the other OneGoal coaches, collaborate with district partners to develop coaching plans with a clear vision and defined areas of focus for our partnership. This allows us to develop strategies that are meaningful, based on analysis, and comprehensive in how they address students’ postsecondary needs.”

For large strategies such as launching career academies, which change school’s entire ecosystems, it’s all hands on deck.

“We’re thinking through everything from webpage redesign, staff buy-in, to recruitment for career technical student organizations, to community and stakeholder engagement,” Andraya said. “We want to take it beyond just a student being enrolled in an academy and career pathway, but where career academies are so embedded within the school and community culture that postsecondary becomes a school-wide focus.”

In reflecting on his partnership with Andraya, Thedford said: “I was amazed at Andraya’s knowledge and resources in working with academies. Andraya’s energy, wisdom, and knowledge have played a significant role in my personal and professional development and I am excited to see how the OneGoal program impacts our students in the upcoming school year.”

While relaunching career academies has been the priority of Freeport’s partnership with OneGoal, it’s certainly not the only one.

“Freeport has been an excellent partner, and has taken the tools and strategies learned through the OneGoal Leadership Network to help ensure alignment across all four of their strategic priorities (MTSS, Freshmen on Track, wall-to-wall Career Academies, and wall-to-wall embedded SEL instruction), Andraya said. “They’ll also be implementing OneGoal’s flagship Classroom-Based Model this Fall to help ensure that their students are able to identify, pursue, enroll in, and succeed in their postsecondary path of choice. They are truly passionate about student success and it’s been great seeing their excitement as we continue to advance this work.”

Andraya White, M.A.
Postsecondary Leadership Coach, OneGoal

Andraya facilitates learning experiences for school and district leaders and provides one-on-one coaching to build their capacity to improve postsecondary success for all students. Previously, Andraya served as a Director of Teacher Support at OneGoal, leading professional development sessions, coaching teachers, and working with school leaders to improve postsecondary outcomes in their schools. Before joining OneGoal, Andraya was a lead school counselor designing a comprehensive school counseling program to provide preventive services supporting students’ academic, career, and personal/social development and promote student success. Andraya is an experienced and former adjunct instructor and trauma-informed trainer in teaching elective courses at the graduate level focused on how best to support students experiencing trauma and how to cultivate school communities of resilience and provide learning experiences to educators that build trauma-informed and resilience practices within their schools. Andraya began her career in education in Lexington, Kentucky, after earning a BA in Secondary Education and a MA in Education at the University of Kentucky. She also holds a MA in School Counseling from Eastern Kentucky University.

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