THE ALAMO ACADEMIES: SAN ANTONIO’S BIGGEST EDUCATION SUCCESS STORY OF THE PAST DECADE

BY NATIONAL CAREER PATHWAYS NETWORK : FEBRUARY 2014

The Information Technology and Security Academy (ITSA) is an innovative, award-winning national STEM-based instructional model operated by the Alamo Area Academies Inc. (www.alamoacademies.com), a nonprofit organization, in partnership with the Alamo Colleges; San Antonio area high schools; industry; and the cities of San Antonio, New Braunfels, and Seguin. This outstanding and unique program provides America’s youth with tuition-free career pathways into critical demand technical STEM occupations. The ITSA program utilizes a contextualized, hands-on, dual credit, industry-driven curriculum that prepares graduates to enter higher education or high-wage careers in the information technology and security industry.

ITSA students in the two-year program of study earn 33 college hours and a CompTIA Network+ Certificate at no personal cost. The students earn level I certificates of completion through the Alamo Colleges along with their high school diplomas. Sophomore and junior students from all the school districts and charter and private high schools in the Bexar County area are eligible to apply to the program.

Among the many unique aspects of ITSA is the industry-paid internship for students in the summer between their junior and senior years. Students work full-time for eight weeks, earning approximately $3,000 for the summer job, college credit, and “real world” work experience with one of our many participating industry partners such as Rackspace, H-E-B, Valero, ITM, CPS Energy, Denim Group, New Braunfels Utilities, City of San Antonio, SWBC, Accenture, M7Aerospace, Dahill, and the 24th Air Force. Local industries have agreed to provide hiring preference to successful interns after they graduate. In addition, the majority of our industry partners have tuition reimbursement programs that enable our graduates to earn AAS, BA, or MA degrees at no cost through our industry partners’ tuition reimbursement plans and scholarships.

Students in the ITSA program earned national recognition by winning the 2012 national championship at the annual CyberPatriot (www.uscyberpatriot.org) competition, the premier national youth school cyber defense competition created to inspire high school students toward careers in cyber security and other STEM disciplines critical to our nation’s defense. A 2011 ITSA team placed 3rd at the CyberPatriot national championship, our first year to participate in the competition.

For the past three years, ITSA teams have competed in the CyberPatriot competitions and have also won the local Mayor’s Cyber Cup, an award designed to recognize the best team from San Antonio area high schools based on their results from the regional competition as the top CyberPatriot team in the city. Members of winning Mayor’s Cyber Cup team have been awarded custom Air Force leather bomber jackets, $1000 scholarship checks from the Air Force Association Education Foundation, iPads, and Spurs tickets. One ITSA team advanced to the CyberPatriot national finals three years in a row. This year six ITSA teams are competing in the CyberPatriot competition.

The San Antonio community partners bring unique contributions to the ITSA program. The Alamo Colleges provide facilities, equipment, and instruction. The school districts provide textbooks and roundtrip transportation from students’ home campuses to the college sites. Employers pay the salaries of their summer interns, and the cities fund staff salaries and operating costs. After completion of the ITSA program, graduates can either attain high-wage/high-skill careers in the IT security career field or continue with their higher education pathway degree studies. Over the last four years, graduates have been awarded over $2 million in scholarships.

The program has earned several other state and national recognitions. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board awarded the prestigious 2012 Star Award to the program, recognizing exceptional contributions toward meeting the state’s “Closing the Gap” higher education goals. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis visited the ITSA program last year and tweeted to her followers: “Success stories at Alamo academies . . . today! Good hi-tech jobs await the students.” The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas recognized the program on its website as an industry-driven workforce development model that is helping solve the broken school-to-work pipeline. The National Journal highlighted this outstanding program in two articles in its national publication and website and also highlighted the model as one of fifty innovations across the nation providing a solution for problems facing America today.

ITSA is an innovative training and educational partnership, providing education, experience, and job opportunities for high school students who seek to jump-start their futures and make seamless transitions from high school to college and/or the workplace. The San Antonio Express-News summarized the success of this program when it described the Alamo Academies (ITSA) as “perhaps the biggest education success story of the past decade in San Antonio.”

Note to students: Alamo Academies is committed to your ongoing personal discovery and professional achievement, whether you join us during your junior or senior year of high school. With the option of five on-campus academies, Alamo Academies offers an opportunity to advance your education while growing your career opportunities. Check us out at www.alamoacademies.com.