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August 29, 2023

ACSD Chosen as Semi-Finalist for Department of Education’s Career Z Challenge

The Ankeny Community School District has been selected as a semi-finalist for the prestigious Career Z Challenge, organized by the United States Department of Education. The Career Z Challenge seeks to promote innovative and impactful Work-Based Learning (WBL) programs that provide students with comprehensive career development opportunities. The announcement comes as the Department of Education releases the list of semi-finalists for this year’s competition.

The Career Z Challenge received entries from schools, non-profit organizations, and local educational agencies across 35 states, representing both urban and rural communities. These entries showcased a range of proposed WBL plans, outlining strategies to foster collaborative and sustainable ecosystems involving educators, business and industry partners, workforce professionals, and community stakeholders. The Ankeny Community School District’s inclusion in this esteemed group of semi-finalists is a testament to its commitment to providing students with interconnected and expansive career development opportunities throughout grades 9 – 12.

During the 2023-2024 school year, the selected semi-finalists will receive specialized technical assistance to refine further and implement their proposed WBL ecosystem plans. Additionally, they will participate in a community of practice (CoP), accessing enriching learning workshops, collaborative opportunities with peers, and various valuable resources. As the Ankeny Community School District progresses through Phase 2 of the competition, it stands to gain a potential prize of $10,000 for successfully aligning with proposal and submission requirements. 

The Ankeny Community School District will focus its Career Z work on further development and refinement of its “innovative secondary school” model.  Through collaboration with students, staff, parents, corporate citizens, higher education institution administrators, and non-profit leaders, the district will advance the work of developing an innovative, work-based-learning hub.  A dozen community organizations provided letters of support for the district’s application. 

Following the completion of Phase 2, up to 10 finalists will be chosen to advance to Phase 3, where they will benefit from tailored technical assistance to accelerate the expansion and sustainability of their WBL ecosystems. At the culmination of Phase 3, each finalist who meets the stipulated criteria will be eligible for a substantial prize award of $150,000.

“We are honored to be selected as a semi-finalist for the Career Z Challenge,” said Dr. Erick Pruitt, Superintendent of the Ankeny Community School District. “This recognition underscores our dedication to fostering meaningful connections between education and the workforce, ensuring our students have the resources and experiences they need to excel in their chosen careers.”

The Ankeny Community School District looks forward to bringing its proposed WBL ecosystem plan to life, embracing the lessons learned along the way, and ultimately contributing to advancing career development opportunities for students.