Blair Health Academy Receives National Certification

Blair Health Careers Academy has received certification from the National Academy Foundation (NAF)! It is now officially a NAF Academy of Health Sciences.

A lot of work has gone into this certification process! The Health Careers Academy (HCA) went through a year of planning, followed by an intense quality review, before scoring high enough to achieve this Certification. Blair’s HCA, and Muir’s business and engineering academies, are the only academies/career pathways in Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) to be NAF-certified.

Certification from the National Academy Foundation demonstrates Blair’s HCA have attained a recognized standard for the quality of its program. It is proud of the program! Not only does the students integrate health profession skills into their high school studies, but Blair HCA students have a 97% graduation rate.

As a NAF member academy, Blair’s HCA will now also benefit from NAF’s network of 565 other academies across the United States. Through the network, its teachers can access resources such as fully prepared lessons, training, and updates on successful practices. For example, HCA current lead teacher Ms. Sofia Valadez-Paez attended a training conference in Florida last year and immediately applied what she learned, especially in implementing more integrated projects. The NAF has specific curriculum for the Career Technical Education classes taught in each grade of the Academy. Ms. Debbie Curtin teaches all four of these classes in Blair’s HCA. These include 9th grade Intro. to Health Careers, and Health Science 1, 2, and 3 for 10th 11th and 12th grades.

The key areas looked at in reviewing the programs were Academy Development and Structure, Advisory Board, Curriculum and Instruction and Work-Based Learning. As Blair’s HCA continue to improve, they would like to raise their certification to NAF’s highest level, Model recognition and have already created a specific action plan!

Its highest score in certification was in Work-Based Learning, and the academy has indeed always been very strong in this area. They have 100 % participation (!) in internships by its seniors, with some students completing more than one. Internships require 180 hours of hands-on experience; the two biggest internship locations are Kaiser Permanente and Huntington Hospital. It has also have many enrichment trips and guest speakers. The students are also active in HOSA, the national student organization of future health professionals. Students serve in leadership roles, and enthusiastically compete in regional and state events, wearing their signature blue HOSA blazers of course. The 2014 state HOSA conference is in March in Anaheim. Competition events will include medical terminology, persuasive speaking, CPR and much more.

Blair HCA also have a strong Advisory Board, giving information to new trends and helping them obtain internship placements. The Advisory Board meets monthly and includes community representatives, staff and student class representatives. Blair HCA will easily be able to improve their certification rating in this area by adopting formal bylaws soon.

In the area of Academy Development and Structure, Blair HCA would rate higher if it has a larger enrollment, but Blair is a small school. It currently has 115 students in the Academy in grades 9-12. It is, however, focusing efforts on strengthening use of data. It has further created a survey for its seniors and hope to track them longer than the usual one year after high school, following their education and professional endeavors. Intervention data from Blair counseling staff is helping them set up mentoring, with each HCA teacher closely partnering with two students for ongoing follow up. Using the latest five-week grading period data, a morning meeting is coming up soon to meet with parents of all students who received an F in any class.

A main focus of HCA staff this past year has been designing and implementing a series of grade level projects with common themes in all of its core classes. These integrated learning projects were crucial in the review of their curriculum and instruction for certification. Blair HCA now have a different project each semester for each grade. To plan these and coordinate between the different subject areas, the HCA staff have met several times after school in extended sessions late into the night.

Blair HCA has a long history. The oldest academy in PUSD, its Health Careers Academy was established in 1989 as a California Partnership Academy (CPA). Not only have CPA funds, through the California Department of Education, shrunk over the years, the CPA program has a specific emphasis on serving at risk students. PUSD currently has eight academies, with one more opening next year. (Blair’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Academy is in its year of planning to pursue NAF certification.)

HCA is housed in bungalows off the main campus parking lot. These are much more than regular classrooms, and their specialized medical equipment always impresses visitors on school tours. HCA staff include Ms. Sofia Valadez-Paez, lead teacher this year and English teacher, Ms. Debbie Curtin, Health Careers classes, Mr. Russell Wong, social studies, Mr. Tim Cook, math.

In addition to community service through HCA’s Leos Club, HCA welcomes the Blair community to support their quarterly blood drives on campus. Some of the blood drives are open to students under 18; contact the HCA for details.

Blair High School, 1201 South Marengo Avenue, Pasadena, (626) 396-5820 or visit

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