Kashmere HS students get safety equipment at Futures Academy celebration

The inaugural class of students inducted into the Kashmere High School Futures Academy on May 30, 2013. (Houston Independent School District)

The inaugural class of students inducted into the Kashmere High School Futures Academy on May 30, 2013.

One couldn’t fault observers for thinking a group of students at Kashmere High School were graduating. Students’ names were called and cherished items were bestowed upon them while the crowd cheered and cried. Except these students have to accomplish a lot more than good grades to get the diploma.

More than 50 students received a red hard hat and blue safety glasses – the school colors – in Kashmere High School’s inaugural induction ceremony on Thursday, May 30, into its’ newly-christened Futures Academy with a focus on chemical process technology.

Process technicians monitor, troubleshoot and adjust electronic and mechanical equipment used in chemical and refining industries. These students will earn their degree and certifications at a time when many local companies are searching outside of Texas to fill job openings.

The program’s first students will graduate in 2014, with two more cohorts to follow in successive years.

“This means that they have an option. They’ve already calculated a three-to-five- year plan,” said Tamika Cooks, the Futures Academy coordinator at Kashmere. “They’ve persevered. They realize the sky’s the limit. Nobody can keep them from achieving any dream.”

“As a high school student, they’re already taking classes that a 20- or 30- or 40-year-old are taking.”

Cooks said she organized the induction ceremony so students would make a physical connection to their studies and impending future.

“It’s the same gear, the same safety wear that students have seen in every real world experience we’ve gone on,” she said. “They can see over and over what they have to look forward to.”

Students who complete the program will have earned not only a high school diploma, but an associate’s degree in the relevant field as well as necessary technical certifications. Should students decide to continue to a four-year program, half of their course work will have already been completed by the time they doff their hat and gown.

Scott Godley, a recruiter from Houston Community College, reiterated to students and parents how the Futures Academy program would bring benefits not only after high school graduation, but how their skills and future development would translate to even greater possibilities.

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In addition to Kashmere’s chemical process technology, five additional HISD high schools offer the Futures Academy which allows students to earn an associate’s degree while completing a high school education.

All programs are still accepting applications from prospective students, including those in the North Forest Independent School District, which is scheduled to be annexed into HISD this summer.

Those interested in learning more about the program should contact the school with the relevant program for a tour and application information, or visit the Futures Academy website.