U.S. Secretary of Education visits OPS high school

U.S. Secretary of Education impressed with Bryan High School’s career academies, OPS academy goals

Less than a day after President Biden’s State of the Union address at the Capitol, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visited Omaha Bryan High School Wednesday. The last Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, was scheduled to visit the school in 2017 but ended up canceling. Cardona’s visit took him on a tour of the school focusing on Bryan’s career academies and pathways.

Bryan’s academies include: Construction and Design; Education; Transportation, Distribution and Logistics; and Urban Agriculture. Cardona was a previous career and technical education student himself and was impressed with Bryan’s curriculum.

“Last night, the president talked a lot about the opportunities that we have, and it’s going to take places like this to make it a reality for this country,” Cardona said. “I chose to come to this school the day after listening to him because you do it right.”

After the school tour, students participated in a discussion with the Secretary, and say that the career academies help them get opportunities outside of high school. Cardona studied automotive technology in his youth before entering the education field in Conn.

“You’re getting skills that are transferrable,” Cardona said. “I studied automotive technology, I wasn’t allowed near any land rovers, but it gave me skills working with customers and interacting with people that made me think, maybe teaching.”

Bryan’s career classrooms include a greenhouse, an animal science room and a construction room. Omaha Public Schools superintendent Cheryl Logan was also in attendance to talk about the academies and the work she’s put into them.

“We know it’s the right work because we know it’s something our state desperately needs in terms of preparing our students for the future but also keeping our society going,” Logan said. “There are so many areas where we’re experiencing a workforce shortage, the answers are right here in Nebraska with these bright, creative, interesting and funny young people that just had the opportunity to meet with the secretary and the experiences that they’ve already had and that they will carry forward to support the sustaining and the growth of our state.”

The academies were designed to offer students more opportunities for internships and real world connections. Journalism pathway students from Burke, South and Central high schools were invited to Bryan to cover the visit. Students being able to meet and speak with the secretary marks one example of the opportunities the academies aim to give.

“I’m confident that these experiences you’re having here are going to give you a leg up,” Cardona said.

In addition to experiences that the career academies offer, Cardona touched on other important aspects that they provide.

“Deep relationships with adults. Programs like this give you more time with a teacher, it’s not like a 42 minute period and then go onto the next one,” Cardona said.

Cardona spoke about wanting to bring the types of opportunities that OPS academies offer to the entire country.

“I want to make sure that every school here and across the country is a high quality school so that parents have options, but the best option is always the neighborhood school down the street where the neighborhood kids are,” Cardona said.

The visit and discussion with the Secretary of Education left a lasting impression on students who were in attendance.

“It makes me really proud that my school was chosen to be visited by the Secretary of Education and it makes me appreciate more of the experiences here,” Davila said. “I was already very appreciative before but knowing how important these programs we have at this school are, entices me to want to do more with my future.”

After Cardona’s visit at Bryan he traveled to La Vista, Neb. to speak with therapists and school staff about student mental health.