Academies Spotlight: Pearl-Cohn High School

Experience MNPS: The Academies of Nashville at Pearl-Cohn High School
Posted on 01/25/2023
student singing at microphone in recording studio

Excellence lives at Pearl-Cohn High School, as seen in the stellar talent in its sports program, its extracurricular activities and its academics. student working at a recording studio sound board

You can also see this excellence through the lens of Pearl-Cohn’s Academies program.

Pearl-Cohn, one of the 12 zoned MNPS high schools that proudly offer the Academies of Nashville, extends opportunities to students beyond the classroom. Students can enter either the Academy of Entertainment Industry, where they can choose to focus on audio production or audio/visual production, or the Academy of Health Science and Personal Care, where they can pursue a focus on therapeutic services or cosmetology.

Academies Coach Brittany Edmondson has worked hard with each pathway in fostering relationships with community partners to improve, revamp and grow the Academies program at Pearl-Cohn to give students more opportunities to learn about and explore possible careers. From Warner Music Group to Paul Mitchell the School Nashville (a cosmetology school) to HCA, every pathway at Pearl-Cohn has many active partners that are invested in the future of each Firebird student.

“When you have a group of people, even a group of people who don’t even know our students, showing up for them, you start to see these students showing up for themselves,” Edmondson said.

Known as the entertainment magnet school, Pearl-Cohn is also becoming recognized for its impressive and flourishing health science pathway. With Meharry Medical School in its backyard, and with strong and expanding partnerships with organizations like Vanderbilt, HCA, Tennessee State University and Nashville State, there’s no wonder it has become the most popular pathway at Pearl-Cohn. student working with dummy patient in healthcare class

Academy of Health Science and Personal Care

Edmondson and Dr. Miriam Harrington, Pearl-Cohn’s principal, both came to the high school in 2018. They brought with them the mission to create the Academy of Health Science and Personal Care.

Today the high school and its partners associated with the Academy are building up the school’s own health science lab with the goal of deepening students’ experience by developing hands-on skills and positioning them so they can envision themselves as health professionals.

Joya Lewis, a senior at Pearl-Cohn, knew she always wanted to be a nurse – a labor and delivery nurse, to be specific. Her end goal is to be a nurse practitioner.

Lewis is in the health science pathway and participates in MNPS’s Work-Based Learning program at Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital in the heart clinic. Lewis is earning credit hours, participating in hands-on learning with responsibilities that include taking vitals, monitoring blood pressure and doing EKGs – all while earning a paycheck.

Lewis is one of the many Pearl-Cohn students excelling in this pathway. She has loved her experience so far.

“I think Pearl-Cohn is a really great school,” she says. “You just have to put in the effort. The opportunities are here, and they’re giving you the resources and anything you might need to go wherever you want to go.”

This past year, Vanderbilt University Medical Center has also become more involved with the Academy of Health Science by engaging with students before and after graduation. Vanderbilt recruits Pearl-Cohn students directly after graduation to attend its job-embedded Medical Assistant Program. This program provides a unique opportunity for students to pursue a health career that is in high demand and provides the opportunity to work as a medical assistant at Vanderbilt.

Also within this academy is the cosmetology pathway, which is taught within the framework of entrepreneurship. Students are learning to take ownership of their own talents and work on creating their own business models within the personal care industry. Upon completion, students will earn their OSHA 10 and Cosmetology License. Pearl-Cohn also pays for them to become certified in braiding, which previously required each student to pay the fee.

This past year, students in this pathway welcomed a professional who worked on the TV series “The Walking Dead” and helped them learn new skills involving prosthetics. These students also have opportunities to work with some of the talent that comes to Pearl-Cohn via the Academy of Entertainment Industry.

Academy of Entertainment Industry

Students in the Academy of Entertainment Industry are at the forefront of the music industry in Music City. Relentless Entertainment Group is Pearl-Cohn’s student-run music label – and the first of its kind. It has partnered with Warner Music Nashville for several years and adds even more credibility to an already solid program. student singing at a microphone in recording studio

Israel Perez is a junior at Pearl-Cohn, and he is using his experience in and out of the classroom to build his personal brand. He looks forward to continuing to learn as much as possible through the Academy and the partnerships it promotes.

Perez and other students learn everything involved with the production of music -- from artist representation to brand management to working the mixing board. Students in this pathway have the opportunity to experience all aspects of the industry, allowing them to find their niche. Perez found his in production and social media.

Perez’s favorite memory is his first time in the school’s studio: “I remember my first day walking into the studio when I was a sophomore and seeing this big studio with a lot of buttons; I geeked out a bit.”

Perez moved to Nashville in 2020 from Los Angeles. The point was to play football originally. But he was raised around music and naturally found himself excelling at Pearl-Cohn in this program. Perez has two uncles in the music industry – one is an LA artist, and the other can play just about any instrument set in front of him.

Edmondson said one of the opportunities she’s most excited about is the academy’s developing relationship with Belmont University. She is working with the university, known for its music business program, to create a certification for her students. These students will take a course at Belmont, gaining credentials while also being exposed to the partnerships and opportunities within the university as well. If students choose a different school or route, they’ll have credentials they can carry with them to the next step in their careers.

Finding Paths to Success

No matter what academy or pathway a Pearl-Cohn student may choose, rest assured that they will leave with the knowledge, foundation and capability to excel after graduation. This is in part thanks to the alumni, partners, staff and community.

Edmondson values her relationships with each one of her students. She works to help them find their individual path to success, whatever that looks like.

Pearl-Cohn and its academies have a lot of strong attributes. Lewis will mention the resources, Perez the opportunities, and Edmondson the strong culture and pride. The common theme they all mention is the feeling of family at Pearl-Cohn.

Pearl-Cohn's Academies and Pathways

Academy of Entertainment Industry
  • Audio Production
  • Audio/Visual Production
Academy of Health Science & Personal Care
  • Cosmetology
  • Therapeutic Services

All ninth-grade students begin in Freshman Academy. In Freshman Seminar, students will plan for life after high school and learn about the career pathways offered at Pearl-Cohn.

student working on hair styling on a test dummy head

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