Academies Spotlight: Hillwood High School

Experience MNPS: The Academies of Nashville at Hillwood High School
Posted on 11/09/2022
student in class, holding up a wood model he built

Hillwood High School students soon will enter a beautiful new facility with a new high school name, but the school's academy offerings will remain rich, rigorous and engaging as they prepare students to become college- and career-ready. student holding up a wood model he made

Hillwood offers three career-themed academy programs along with a freshman academy for ninth-grade students. The career academies include the Academy of Art, Design and Communication; the Academy of Business and Hospitality, and the Academy of Health Sciences, while Freshman Academy introduces students to the academy model and helps them transition into their career pathways as sophomores.

Each academy drills down into career pathways that provide students specific areas of focus with high levels of support and direction from teachers and community partners. No one knows the benefits of Hillwood’s academy programs better than the students.

Academy of Health Sciences senior Samira Makhkamjonova encourages freshman students to choose their academies wisely and take advantage of what they offer.

“Look at the academy that you can see a career in, be open to the career options and take advantage of the programs, because there are a lot of opportunities out there,” Makhkamjonova says.

Hillwood partners with several local businesses and organizations to offer more than 10 industry certifications to students, including OSHA, Adobe Photoshop, EKG technician and clinical medical assistant, to name a few.

“We have strong health science, engineering, culinary arts and work-based programs at Hillwood,” Academy Coach Mary York says.

York believes students benefit tremendously from work-based learning programs because they get to network with partners and learn about careers they would not otherwise be exposed to. In addition, students have opportunities to job-shadow and work at local businesses such as Slim & Husky’s Pizza Beeria and Bongo Java.

What students seem to appreciate most about the academies are receiving dual credit through partnerships with Nashville State Community College and Nossi College of Art, opportunities for industry certifications, and hands-on learning experiences with partners such as ASD Sky, Holiday Inn Vanderbilt and Hospital Corporation of America.

Foundation for the Future

Cameron Wilson has always wanted to own his own business, so he immediately knew the Academy of Business and Hospitality was the pathway to help lay the foundation for his future. 

“We’ve learned what a business is and the inside elements it takes to run it,” says Wilson, who participates in a work-based learning program at a local hotel that is preparing him to create events from start to finish and troubleshoot any potential issues.

student and teacher in culinary class

Every Hillwood academy program is accredited through the National Career Academy Coalition. The Academy of Art, Design, and Communications is accredited with distinction, as is the Academy of Health Sciences. The Academy of Business and Hospitality is accredited with model status.

Steven Ligon, an Academy of Art, Design and Communication student with a digital design and engineering pathway, holds several certifications, including OSHA-10, OSHA-30 and Adobe Photoshop. Ligon, who plans to become an aerospace engineer, appreciates the teachers and the hands-on learning opportunities he gets at Hillwood.

“It’s more hands-on learning rather than sitting and taking notes,” he says. “One of the first things we did was build bridges. During that process, we gained information on how to build a bridge through software – but mainly by doing the building ourselves.” 

Hillwood High School is in the process of transitioning into a new state-of-the-art facility renamed James Lawson High School – in honor of the Civil Rights Movement legend – in Bellevue. The new building, officially branded as Lawson High School, will house 1,600 students and have a greater focus on the academy programs.

“We are excited about moving into our new building because everything will be centered around our academy programs,” York said.

The Academy of Health Sciences is one of the more popular choices among students, including seniors Joey Zhu, Suoz Tovi and Sarah Daniels, who have internships under the clinical science and diagnostic pathways.

“We are going to intern with HCA, where we chose which type of programs we want to go into and do rotations with the staff,” said Zhu, who aspires to become a nurse practitioner.

Hands-on Experience

While some students, such as Tovi, are still undecided about their future career goals, having the hands-on experience gives them several options to look at.

three students in white medical coats working on an infant doll

“I see the healthcare field as expansive, and I’ve considered becoming a pharmacist, but I love the hands-on things we do in class and the labs, so I’m undecided,” Tovi said. 

The Academy of Health Sciences offers two pathways – diagnostic services and medical therapeutics. Each of them offers students multiple areas in which they can specialize.

Daniels is clear that she wants to become an obstetrics and gynecology doctor, or OB/GYN, and encourages students coming behind her not to be afraid to try different pathways.

“I think being on the health science pathway can prepare you whether you want to be in pre-med or a nursing student,” she says.

No matter which field of study students choose at Hillwood, the common thread is to take a chance and not be afraid to try different experiences within the various academies.

student in the back of an ambulance during nursing class

To learn more about Hillwood High School’s Academy programs and offerings, visit the school's website

Hillwood High School Academy Programs

Freshman Academy
Academy of Art, Design and Communication
  • Digital Design
  • Audio/Visual Technology
  • Engineering
Academy of Business and Hospitality
  • Hospitality and Tourism Management
  • Culinary Art
Academy of Health Sciences
  • Diagnostic Services
  • Medical Therapeutics

Academies of Nashville

Learn more about the the district's Academies of Nashville programs and partnerships.

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