A photo of three high school students at a desk working on small robots.The annual Summer Academies programs, which include the Engineering and Robotics Academy seen above, are expected to bring approximately 350 high school students onto the Sacramento State campus this summer. (Sacramento State/Morgan Murphy)

Two new programs have been added to Sacramento State’s popular Summer Academies for High School Students series and the career fields they explore couldn’t be timelier.

The Entrepreneurship and Innovation Academy and the Future Teachers Academy will join this year’s weeklong workshop, held on campus and taught by Sacramento State faculty and alumni. All told, the University will offer 14 academies between June 25 and July 27, and some 350 high school students are expected to participate.

The new programs come as Sacramento State increases its focus on entrepreneurship and as California faces a shortage of classroom teachers.

Summer Academies are designed to provide an engaging outlet for students during the summer and introduce them to the realities of professions or industries in which they have interest, says Jill Matsueda, director of academic programs for the College of Continuing Education, which runs the program.

“It’s got to be fun, but it’s also got to have some real-world application and relevance,” she says. “We want to help kids refine what they are interested in so they have a clearer pathway to get there.”

The academies lineup includes sessions on coding, cybersecurity, engineering and robotics, forensics, health careers, and law enforcement, among others. Each includes at least one field trip – a visit to a job site or office, for example – and ends with a culminating activity.

Matsueda began the Summer Academies program in 2012 as a way to bring school-age children onto campus and provide them insights into possible careers, showcase Sacramento State faculty and give the kids a taste of college life. Nineteen students attended two academies – Biotech and Health Care Careers – that first summer.

The program has no admissions requirements and Matsueda has some donor-provided money for tuition assistance. The fund is small and the program growing, but so far no one has been turned away solely because they couldn’t pay.

Her goal has been to add two to three programs each year, and entrepreneurship has been on the list for some time. Adding the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Academy also aligns with Sacramento State’s increased focus on the subject, as seen through the creation of the Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Seung Bach, professor of Entrepreneurship in the College of Business Administration, says he wants to help students realize that entrepreneurship can be practiced by anyone, not just people in the business world. It can instill confidence to engage with difficult issues.

During the program, students will be asked to develop a solution to a market-based or social problem, begin conceptualizing the solution and, at the end of the week, pitch it to a panel of judges. Students also will visit a local “innovation facility.”

“I want to open their mind and eyes and lead them to the field of entrepreneurship as a possible career,” Bach says, noting that the academy will help the new Carlsen Center fulfill its mission. “It’s about building an ecosystem out of Sacramento State to embrace the spirit of entrepreneurship throughout the whole region.”

The Future Teachers Academy arrives at a critical time for the education field. Amid a statewide teacher shortage, the program will provide students the opportunity to learn more about the profession’s challenges and rewards. Participants will visit the Sacramento STEM Center and Makerspace, hear from current K-12 teachers and Sacramento State alums, and develop and present a lesson plan.

“I want them to see this career in a deeper way, so that they know how a teacher works to prepare every lesson as well as the steps (necessary) to become a teacher,” says Chia-Jung Chung, a Sacramento State professor of education who will lead the Future Teacher Academy. “I want to plant a seed in their hearts about the teaching career.”

Matsueda says the value of offering the academies goes beyond the students who attend. Sacramento State gets to introduce itself to high schoolers and let them know why it is a good higher-education option.

The program also involves potential employers through partnerships and, by spurring students’ thoughts about possible careers, plays a role in developing the regional workforce.

“It’s why we work in public higher education,” Matsueda says. “Bringing the community here during the summer, when we have the capacity, it’s important.”

Visit the Summer Academies page on the Sacramento State website for more information. – Jonathan Morales