Big changes coming to RCAS’ two comprehensive high schools in the fall of 2020!

The Rapid City Area School District is launching a pathways approach that will provide all students with access to career-connected learning experiences. This approach will help students develop a plan that leads graduates to a successful transition beyond high school including postsecondary education and training, careers, and life responsibilities.

“This future-focused approach will not only provide more opportunities for college and career exploration for students K-12, but our kids will also learn about high-wage and high demand career pathways through career-connected learning experiences. I’m confident that through the Rapid City Pathways Approach, students will gain the knowledge and skills that will lead to success in the workforce and a lifetime of opportunity,” Superintendent Dr. Lori Simon said.

While many local employers offer excellent jobs leading to solid careers, the positions they offer are often hard to fill. Why? Because students don’t know about them, or they don’t have necessary skills to enter those in-demand career fields. Our vision is that the Rapid City Pathways Approach will be the key that leads to a better prepared workforce.

Jim Scull, owner of Scull Construction states, “Our Rapid City school system, under Superintendent Dr. Simon, is taking a huge step forward in preparing youth for careers after high school. We need to prepare all kids, regardless of their postsecondary aspirations, for a successful life after high school by introducing them to a career path which will allow them to be independent, prosperous, and self-reliant. Thanks to the Rapid City School District for this Pathways approach.”


The structure of the Rapid City Pathways Approach

There will be six academies at the high school level (listed below). Each academy will have multiple pathways. A pathway is a more specific course of study organized around a career theme. For example, within the Health Services academy, there will be two pathways: Pre-Health Professional and Allied Health Professional.

The Pre-Health Professional pathway will build the foundational skills and knowledge students need for a successful career in nursing and pre-medicine opportunities. Students in this pathway have postsecondary goals that align with a four-year or professional degree.

The Allied Health pathway will prepare students for successful careers in healthcare that are aligned to certifications and a one or two-year postsecondary credential. This pathway will help students gain almost immediate access to a successful career in the healthcare industry.

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Student Pathways Experience

  • During elementary and middle school, each student will be learning about a full range of careers. Every 8th grade student will take a Career Exploration course and identify career interests to further explore in high school.
  • In 9th grade, each freshman will take Freshman Seminar to explore each of the six academies and to learn digital citizenship, computer applications, and workplace skills. At the end of a student’s freshman year, they will choose an academy.
  • In 10th grade, students will take an introductory course in their chosen academy, which will introduce them to the various career opportunities available in that specific area of study.
  • In 11th grade, students can either choose another academy, or choose a pathway, which again, would include courses organized around a specific career theme.
  • Seniors can choose a specialized pathway course and/or a capstone experience.

Each pathway will be designed to help students make successful transitions to apprenticeships or skills training, 2 or 4-year college opportunities, military service, and/or independent living.

The Rapid City Pathways Approach will equip our students with the knowledge and skills they need to explore career options in high school, while still giving students access to electives like Fine Arts and world languages.

This work began in June of 2018 under the direction of the Pathways Task Force; whose members include educators, community, and business leaders in partnership with the National Center for College and Career Transition with funding support from the John T. Vucurevich Foundation.

The Rapid City Pathways Approach was loosely patterned after the Academies of Nashville, which have seen huge success – including increased graduation and attendance rates, and higher engagement to name a few.