|Headquarters||New York, New York|
|Sanford I. Weill, Chairman
Chairman Emeritus, Citigroup
NAF (formerly known as National Academy Foundation) is an educational non-profit organization. The mission of NAF is to solve some of the biggest challenges facing education and the economy by bringing education, business, and community leaders together to transform the high school experience. NAF's educational design ignites students' passion for learning and gives businesses the opportunity to shape America's future workforce by transforming the learning environment to include STEM infused industry-specific curricula and work-based learning experiences, including internships. Since 1980, NAF has been partnering with existing high schools in high-need communities to enhance school systems at a low cost by implementing NAF academies - small learning communities within traditional high schools.
NAF was created by philanthropist Sanford I. Weill. His proposal was accepted by the New York City Board of Education to open the first Academy of Finance in a Brooklyn public high school, John Dewey High School, in 1980. The program was designed specifically to address the disconnect between the need for skilled workforce talent and the lack of opportunity for young people in New York City.
As Weill explained in his testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee:
You saw young people playing in the street, young people without having a clue of what life was about, and how they can become part of the system. That was the beginning of the idea that maybe the private sector should get together with the public sector and see if we can create a high-school level program that can expose young people for a career in the financial services industry.
In 1987, NAF's Hospitality and Tourism theme was launched with the opening of two pilot Academies, one in Miami, Florida and another in Richmond Hill, New York, with support from the American Express Foundation.
In 2000 NAF piloted a third theme, opening Academies of Information Technology in 12 high schools across the country with support from Lucent, AT&T Corporation, United Technologies, GTE/Verizon, Oracle, Computer Associates and Compaq.
In 2002, the first set of Career Academies outside the US were set up in the United Kingdom by Career Academies UK, affiliated with NAF.
In 2007 NAF launched its fourth academy theme, the Academy of Engineering as a collaboration between NAF, Project Lead The Way (PLTW), and the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc. (NACME) to provide underrepresented students with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in STEM careers.
The latest theme launched in 2011-2012, the Academy of Health Sciences is already making an impact in preparing young people for health careers.
As of the 2019-2020 school year, NAF serves 112,208 students in 37 states, in addition to the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. NAF supports a national network of 620 academies:
"College prep plus" aptly describes the career academies of the NAF. NAF sponsors these differing institutions of learning to encourage and facilitate both preparation for college and technical training in a career path.
NAF academies can be characterized as 'schools within schools' and serving a small community of students for two or more years. Normally these academies are run and taught by the same teachers for a number of semesters. During that time a number of different components come together to prepare students for both a potential career and going onto college. The teachers of the academies generally are skilled in both academic and the technical knowledge of the field in which the academy is focused. They meet often to coordinate the curriculum, take care of administrative details and are involved outside the classroom with local businesses and sponsors.
Summer internships of about six to eight weeks are centerpieces of the academy programs and usually pay the students for their work. During the internship the students spend some time training and often report to a school staff supervisor and sometimes have a workplace mentor. Seniors in the program combine work-based learning with corresponding curricular activities to learn more about the industry, job, "explore careers, plan for college, and develop their social and interpersonal skills."
There have been significant reports and statistics on the outcome of students from these Career Academies. Milton Chen, author of Education Nation and former executive director for the George Lucas Educational Foundation, sums up the most recent reports:
Currently NAF focuses on five career themes: Finance, Hospitality & Tourism, Information Technology, Engineering, and Health Sciences. These themes are carried out by teachers supported by NAF professional development, training, technical support and curriculum. NAF academies usually run throughout the high school experience to better prepare students for college and/or a career.