Academies Spotlight: Whites Creek High School

Experience MNPS: The Academies of Nashville at Whites Creek High School
Posted on 03/30/2023
three students standing next to a solar panel

students in a electric car

Cobra PRIDE (Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Discipline and Enthusiasm) is taught, expected and displayed across Whites Creek High School. There is no doubt that Whites Creek is filled with students with big dreams.

Many Whites Creek students know what or where they want to be, and they say it with conviction. Ines Busane, a sophomore, is striving to go to Harvard or the University of Southern California. Gracey Gregory, a senior, wants to be a software engineer in the automotive industry. Jerimiah Moore, a sophomore, plans to go to Belmont and study law. Felicity Stevenson, a junior, wants to start her own business after attending college. Sadie Scales, a sophomore, always knew she wanted to be a surgeon and would attend medical school.

These are just a few students pursuing their passions and planning their futures with the help and support of Whites Creek’s Academies and its exceptional pathways. Whites Creek is one of the 12 zoned MNPS high schools that offer the nationally recognized Academies of Nashville program.

Whites Creek has the Freshman Academy, which is required for all first-year students, and then the Academy of Alternative Energy, Community Health, and Law. In this Academy, students choose the pathway that interests them the most:

  • Alternative Energy & Sustainability
  • Community Health
  • Criminal Justice & Correction Services

“I always want students to make a solid educated decision when they walk out of Whites Creek High School. The more experience you have, the more exposure you have, the more concrete decision you can make,” Academy Coach Tiffany Littlejohn says.

three students standing outside next to a solar panel

Experience, exposure and hands-on opportunities are precisely what Littlejohn and her CTE team provide to Whites Creek students daily. Littlejohn has been with Whites Creek for four years and has consistently worked on building and maintaining community partners and outside relationships with the school.

Some of the school’s most involved partners include environmental engineering firm Brown and Caldwell, Kroger, Meharry Medical College, Metro Nashville Police Department and Waste Management of TN, to name a few.

Alternative Energy

The Alternative Energy pathway is the only pathway of its kind in the district. It prepares students to explore career paths within the agriculture, sustainability and energy technology fields. Jacquelyn Veith, a teacher who is described as one who fights for her students and is passionate about her role in teaching sustainability, leads the pathway.

Part of Whites Creek is even run off solar energy – with the panels on the campus so students can experience the effects first-hand and study the energy source in depth.

“I knew this pathway was really hands-on, and that’s what I wanted. Then I saw that part of the school was run on solar energy, and that convinced me,” said Stevenson.

Gregory and Stevenson are both in the Alternative Energy pathway and speak highly of their experiences and Ms. Veith.

Gregory’s favorite memory of the class has been the field trip they took to Gatlinburg for a Future Farmers of America (FFA) convention. Stevenson’s favorite has been the upcycling project, which required them to take one object and turn it into another functioning item that can be used on a daily basis.

From studying agrisciences and being hands-on in labs to engineering FarmBots to seed, water and grow crops to actually producing biofuels and alternative fuels – all within the classroom – students in this pathway are learning to leave the world better than they found it while earning industry credentials.

Criminal Justice and Correction Services

The Criminal Justice and Correction Services pathway is a comprehensive program that prepares students for a diverse range of careers in the legal system. With a curriculum that includes in-depth study of subjects such as crime scene analysis and forensic sciences, students are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in the field.

Kahliel Barlowe has been teaching at Whites Creek for three years and is constantly finding ways to make his curriculum even more engaging with his students. He was voted “Most Likely to Be Giving an Ethics Speech” at Whites Creek, reflecting his unwavering commitment to excellence and refusal to settle for mediocrity with his students.

“We are building a culture at Whites Creek; the Cobra Way is an ethos we’re building to show what it means to be a Whites Creek student,” said Barlowe.

Barlowe’s background as a Marine veteran and former attorney equips him to be the perfect teacher for the pathway. He knows not everyone learns the same way, so he works to make his teachings accessible to everyone. He ensures every student who comes through his pathway obtains the hard skills the program offers and the intangible soft skills that these students can take in all areas of life.

One of the most popular student experiences in the pathway is participating in Whites Creek Youth Court. Youth Court is a program that allows first-time offenders of minor crimes to be judged by a jury of their peers, with students serving as attorneys and jurors in actual trials. Many students find this experience eye-opening and fun, and it has helped them develop a deeper understanding of the legal system.

For students like Busane and Moore, the pathway has provided a solid foundation for their future career aspirations. With plans to study international business and law in college, they have found that their experience in the pathway has given them valuable skills and knowledge that can be applied in their futures.

Throughout his teachings, Barlowe has instilled in his students the importance of having a vision for the future and working towards it every day. His advice to his students is simple: Ask yourself what you are doing to get closer to your future goals. With his guidance, students in the pathway are well prepared to excel in their chosen careers and make a positive impact on society.

Community Health

student working on a dummy patientKyle Burton is a first-year teacher at Whites Creek. He has focused much of his efforts on being a positive mentor and exposing his students to as many experiences and opportunities in the community health pathway as possible. His goal is to have 10 percent of the program in the classroom and 90 percent in the lab.

Students can earn dual enrollment from Nashville State Community College. They will also earn OSHA 10 credentials, CPR certification and their Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) licensure so that once they graduate, they can begin working as medical assistants.

Burton introduced his students to the vast field of health sciences, where they can find their niche – from pharmacology to nutrition to psychology to everywhere in between.

Hannah Lawrence is a senior at Whites Creek and has committed to Middle Tennessee State University in the fall, where she plans to study psychology. She has always been enamored by how the mind works, so she naturally found herself drawn to the Community Health pathway.

“Take advantage of any and all opportunities presented, because you never know what door it will lead to” is Burton’s advice to students everywhere. “Meet as many people as possible and take on anything that comes your way.”

Creating Meaningful Experiences

As Littlejohn and her team look ahead to the future, they are fueled by the desire to provide their students with the best education and experience possible. For them, it's not just about academic excellence, but also about creating meaningful experiences that will stay with their students for a lifetime and prepare them for a successful future – whatever that looks like for them.

Littlejohn says it’s a joy to see her students really take pride and grow through their experiences at Whites Creek. She will say these experiences are all thanks to her passionate colleagues and the school’s many community partners. Her colleagues, community partners and, more importantly, students will credit these experiences to her.

No matter who gets the credit, Whites Creek’s Academies are giving students great insights into what their future careers might look like.

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