You wouldn’t expect to find a fully operational auto repair shop, health lab, full-service beauty salon, and energy training lab when you walk through the front doors of most neighborhood high schools, but that’s exactly what you’ll find at Maplewood High School.
Maplewood, one of 12 Metro high schools that make up the Academies of Nashville, offers students five fun and practical Academies paths—each designed to help students create their own high school experience. The academies create unique experiences for all students through job shadowing, experiential learning opportunities, guest speakers and networking with industry experts.
Just ask James Rigsby, a junior at the Maplewood Academy of Entrepreneurship and Innovation who is turning his love of tinkering with cars into a rewarding education and fulfilling career through the vehicle maintenance and light repair journey.
“It helped me because [my teacher] taught me more than I ever thought I knew,” he said. “When I go to business school, I know I have more knowledge than anyone else.”
Rigsby plans to specialize in diesel engines after he graduates – but while he is still at school he takes part in hands-on learning at the Firestone Complete Auto Care Shop. More than just an interesting classroom full of car parts and car tires, the Auto Care Shop is where students learn and receive hands-on learning from their instructor, TJ Williams.
For Academy Coach Lanedria Marshall, the hands-on experiences students participate in—whether in the auto shop, beauty salon, or other classroom setting—are what make the academies so impactful for all students.
“The Academy model allows students to experience all of these different things while students are still in school,” she said. “It really brings so many different experiences to life.”
What started as a personal hobby for Rigsby has grown into industry certifications and other learning experiences that extend beyond the classroom.
“I look forward to coming back after graduation and speaking to other students to show them what they can get out of this program,” he said.
In addition to the Automotive Maintenance and Light Repair Pathway, the Academy of Entrepreneurship and Innovation includes two other pathways:
- Entrepreneurship taught by Roger Jones
- Cosmetics, headed by Sonja Colquitt
Maplewood is also home to future architects, engineers, and electricians, thanks in part to the school’s Academy of Health and Electrical Services, which houses the power and electrical distribution path.
Junior Bernardo Diaz is one of the students who enrolled in the Energy and Power Distribution Pathway, an experience developed by Academy partners Stansell Electric and Nashville Electric Service.
Diaz credits his journey not only with interesting projects — like building parallel circuits and working in the outdoor energy and strength training lab — but also with improving his overall high school experience.
“[The pathway] helped me get into high school better and made me feel more comfortable,” he said. “I can keep in touch with my other classmates while we work on projects together.”
And at a school like Maplewood with almost 700 students, an important part of the school day is creating a community for students. Because Pathway students take many of the same classes and courses at the same time, they can network and support each other.
“The smaller communities of learning created through the diverse pathways help students form life-changing connections,” Marshall said.
In addition to the energy and power distribution path, the Academy of Health and Electrical Services includes two other paths:
- diagnostic services
- Therapeutic Services
- Teachers: Megan Lawrence and Heather Casteel
Kennedy Green, a senior at Maplewood, is enrolled in the Therapeutic Services Pathway, which prepares students to work in the high-demand healthcare field.
In addition to her hands-on experience in the classroom and at the on-site Ascension St. Thomas Medical Primary Care Clinic, Green also utilizes dual-credit courses, where she earns high school and college credits simultaneously.
“It means a lot to me to have the opportunity to take a college course, especially for something that’s really close to my heart,” Green said. “I feel like this recognition will give me more exposure when I apply to colleges because they will [see that I] already have some experience in anatomy and physiology or in biology.
“I feel like it gives me an edge, but it also helps people see, ‘Is this what you want to do when you get to college? Are you passionate about it? Is it something you can envision in the long term?”
Academies of Nashville at Maplewood High School
Academy for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
- Vehicle maintenance and light repairs including the Firestone Complete Auto Care Shop
Academy of Health and Electrical Engineering
- Energy and power distribution
- diagnostic services
- Therapeutic Services
Maplewood also offers dual credit courses, dual enrollment courses, and industry certifications.