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July 24, 2018

Alumni create profession-based summer experience for middle schoolers


Jonathan Hart addresses an audience gathered to hear students' final presentations at the conclusion of a summer school program designed to introduce middle school students to Northland CAPS as well as varied career opportunities. (submitted photo)
Jonathan Hart addresses an audience gathered to hear students' final presentations at the conclusion of a summer school program designed to introduce middle school students to Northland CAPS as well as varied career opportunities. Hart established the program with Sandy Henshaw, and both are Northwest alumni. (submitted photo)

A pair of Northwest Missouri State University alumni are helping to revolutionize secondary education in Kansas City’s Northland. 

Sandy Henshaw, the executive director of the Northland Center for Advanced Professional Studies (Northland CAPS), and Jonathan Hart, who instructs the digital media and design strand within Northland CAPS and serves as director of Liberty Public Schools’ Summer CAPS Academy, have a passion for providing unique experiences to secondary students that help them connect with local industry partners, develop career goals and establish a direction toward continuing education. 

This summer, Henshaw and Hart, in partnership with Liberty’s summer school program, helped introduce 80 middle school students to the Northland CAPS’ profession-based learning model.

Each student researched a career passion and selected a dream profession. They analyzed one of three local real-world scenarios – including the construction of a new wing at Liberty North High School, construction of a new animal shelter and the construction of Liberty High School’s new performing arts center – through the lens of their chosen profession. The students presented their findings and ideas at the end of their summer school session to school district administration, parents and members of the community.

Hart says his education at Northwest helped him take initiative and be entrepreneurial in making positive changes. He received his specialist in education degree from Northwest in 2013 and is pursuing his Doctor of Education in educational leadership and policy analysis through Northwest’s collaborative doctorate program with the University of Missouri-Columbia.

“Northwest provided the tools to work with other professionals to create a plan and then, as a team, not only make the plan come to fruition but consistently be reevaluating for continued success, he said. “It was inspiring to see seventh and eighth graders’ accomplishments when challenged with a high level of expectations. It was exhilarating to see students’ learning being intrinsically motivated by their passions.”

Henshaw received her specialist in education degree in 2013, a master’s degree in education with an emphasis on guidance and counseling in 2003 and her bachelor’s degree in education with an emphasis on vocational home economics in 1986, all from Northwest. 

“We are excited about this pilot and look forward to working with our other school districts to see how younger students can take advantage of working with business and industry on authentic projects for their communities,” she said. “Their final presentations were fantastic.”

Christopher Hand, Liberty Public Schools’ director of assessment, facilitates the district’s summer school program. He noted the students fostered a significant collection of ideas through collaboration, communication, time management, problem-solving and creativity.

“Watching this diverse group of middle schoolers learn and grow in two weeks during the summer is remarkable,” Hand said. “The excitement and passion shown from the students as they grew in the program increased their willpower and fostered a positive attitude toward their future career.”

Launched in 2013, Northland CAPS partners with Northwest and Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City, Missouri, and awards college credit to students enrolled in the program. Among the largest innovative secondary programs in the United States, it is a career exploration program for juniors and seniors that provides students from 15 high schools with a professional, innovative and entrepreneurial education through full immersion in high-demand, high-skill careers. Northland CAPS students spend their first semester working on projects for business partners and the second semester in related internships with more than 400 area companies. Businesses establish connections with prospective interns and full-time employees who bring experience and understanding of the company.


For more information, please contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
mhorn@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468