Through a partnership with Ford, these Detroit students are getting hands-on experience

Vaughn Springer
Feb 24, 2021 4:25:05 PM

Nestled in Dearborn, less than 15 minutes from where the first Ford automobiles were built and just blocks from the current Ford Rouge Complex sits Advanced Technology Academy (ATA), a pre-k through 12th-grade charter school. For more than 20 years, ATA has stood by their mission to create well-rounded students through the help of strong relationships with local businesses and community leaders. The strongest of them all with Ford Motor Company.

In 2007, Ford launched their Ford Partnerships for Advanced Studies (PAS), a curriculum that infuses students with knowledge through hands-on experiences in fields from engineering to marketing to accounting to mechatronics. ATA was one of the first schools to adopt this curriculum with Cynthia Andersen, now the Career and Technical Education and Early Middle College Director, being one of the first Ford PAS educators in the state of Michigan. This was just the beginning of a long relationship with the company.

ATA students’ education extends far beyond the classroom. With the Ford Rouge Complex being so close, they can get involved with a variety of different people there. The Ford Volunteer Corps has come to enhance ATA’s campus building three different playgrounds, a greenhouse, and a weather station where you can see live weather updates online! Students have traveled to the plant to get tours, taken internships with Ford Motors, and had mentorships with the IT department. However, there are a few opportunities that stick out more than others.

We have done a program called ‘lunch with an executive’ where students are invited to the Ford headquarters to have a luncheon in the executive board room with high-level executives like the Vice President of Quality and New Product Launch. It includes lunch and an informal conversation about how they got into these roles. We have a high African American population and both the executives we’ve worked with were African American as well. It’s inspiring for our students to see people that look like them in high-level positions.”

-Cynthia Andersen, CTE and EMC Director

A group of students sits at a large boardroom table with Lisa Cash, the Vice President of Quality and New Product Launch at Ford Motor Company

Another opportunity for students has been through career readiness assistance. From writing resumes and cover letters to helping students prepare for interview questions. After all this, they conducted mock interviews with students to see what they learned, helping them improve for the future. The business students develop business plans that are looked over by various managers - some of the plans have even sparked conversations around what it looks like to invest in a business! Ford even set up a career fair for ATA students showing all the career fields that are possible within their company.

While the main connection has been with Ford Motor Company, many other relationships have formed because of it. Kevin Ford, who was the Engine Plant Manager before retiring, joined ATA’s board of directors and now advocates and invests in ATA students. He was instrumental in the development of their $1 million mechatronics lab, which includes an auto plant simulator, in partnership with Henry Ford College. The Henry Ford Health Systems (HFHS) internship through the Ford PAS has created a relationship that allowed ATA to provide a space for COVID-19 testing in their fieldhouse. HFHS also established a program to teach students of all ages about nutrition and cooking which expands to a personal trainer program in the high school. Additionally, as students start to return to campus this spring and in the future, HFHS will place a nurse on campus throughout the week to make sure students are healthy and safe in their learning environment.

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The future of the programs Advanced Technology Academy and Ford collaborate on are endless. The automotive industry is constantly growing and changing. Right now, the big thing on everyone’s mind is sustainability. Cynthia Andersen hopes to see students getting involved in the development of electric cars in the coming years, mentioning a story of a man using his Ford F-150 onboard generator to power appliances during the recent Texas winter storms. Those are the types of things she wants to see students working on. As for Steve Quinlan, Director of Institutional Advancement at ATA, his visions are closer to home.

Ford is really passionate about sustainability. In their recent renovation, they put up a living roof to collect stormwater, implemented zero waste to landfill, and reduced the amount of water they use while painting. I’d like to get them involved in a solar program on campus. Putting up solar panels for demonstrations for students and classes, but also help us reduce our energy use.”

- Steve Quinlan, Director of Institutional Advancement

Two African American female students in purple winter jackets sit on the sidewalk on either side of a male African American student wearing a read jacket and smiling at the camera

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