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GISH Academies Celebration Showcases Student Achievements and Awards Business & Community Partners of the Year

2024 GISH Academies Celebration audience.

June 20th, 2024

Seven years into reimagining high school education and the Academies of Grand Island Senior High (GISH) show no signs of slowing down in equipping students to be college, career, and community ready. 

Welcoming community business partners, civic leaders, and GISH staff, the Career Pathways Institute was filled with friendly faces for the annual GISH Academies Celebration and Awards Ceremony.

Matt Fisher, GIPS Superintendent, acknowledged the years of support and innovative ideas from community business partners in making the GISH Academies a frontrunner in the arena of student empowerment.  

“When we think about the Academy model, it really is about providing opportunities for students to really soak-in and learn about careers they may choose to pursue.” Fisher said, “In order to make that Academy model — it’s really important that we have the business partners that we do.  And really today is about student success, yes, but also thanking our business partners.” 

Notable Academy achievements were shared as a report of the 2023-24 school year.  The shared benchmarks included:

  • 12 registered apprenticeships
  • 28 total student internships
  • 303 job shadowing opportunities
  • 342 industry certifications earned
  • 3,123 dual credits earned by 700 students

But the spotlight for much of the event belonged to student voices. 

  • Charlie Gentry, Class of 2024 - Construction Pathway
  • Elli Ward, Class of 2024 - Architecture & Design Pathway
  • Nyarout Wal, Class of 2024 - Healthcare Pathway

GISH student speakers: Nyarout Wal, Elli Ward, & Charlie Gentry.

For Charlie Gentry, the experiences he gained on construction sites and learning from the likes of industry professionals shaped his career trajectory.

“After seeing my work ethic and potential, Mr. Forsman, Miss Soundy, and Miss Luthi-Placke helped me become the first Junior to earn a [construction] apprenticeship.” Gentry, who will attend UNO set to major in Construction Management, said, “I have grown exponentially because of the environment, the teachers, the counselors, and the overall system in which each student is blessed with at CPI and the other Academies.”

For Elli Ward, she found her confidence and future in architecture.

“The Academies at Grand Island Senior High have had a huge influence on my decisions regarding my future plans.” Ward, who will attend Kansas State University to major in Architecture, said, “Although I had always entertained the idea of pursuing an architecture degree since Elementary school, I never thought that I would have the confidence in myself, in my skills to explore and pursue this opportunity.  Having an environment where I didn’t have to worry about the consequences of making the wrong decision was essential to me choosing the path that some might believe is more unconventional in comparison to what the majority of girls my age would choose.”

For Nyarout Wal, the Healthcare Pathway launched her to earning her EMT certification and a medical field future all before graduation. 

“My first job shadowing experience was when I knew that this is the field I would be pursuing.” Wal, who plans to attend a college in Minnesota, said, “Overall, this experience helped me realize this is the future I want for myself. I want to be the first face someone sees when they are in crisis and I want to help others who are in need in any way I can.”

Culminating the celebration were two awards presented by The Academies.

  • 2024 Business Partner of the Year
  • 2024 Community Partner of the Year

Selected from a field of nominees put forward by the GISH Academy Principals, the awards honor the business and community supporters who continue to not only provide career-making opportunities for Islander students, but who also contribute to the efforts of making the Academies all it can be.  This year’s honorees are certainly deserving.

CHI Health St. Francis was awarded the 2024 Business Partner of the Year. 

CHI Health St. Francis accepting the Business Partner of the Year award alongside GIPS & GISH Leadership

As a company, CHI Health St. Francis has been a community leader in providing immersive student learning experiences.  Hosting over 50 GISH students each year for job shadow opportunities, both short term and long term, Islanders in the Academy of Medical Sciences are granted rare, hands-on learning experiences year-round.  Additionally, CHI Health St. Frances hosts approximately 150 Medical Academy Sophomores each year over the course of two days for a full tour exposing aspiring future medical professionals to an inside look of the industry. 

“Giving these students the opportunities to really figure out where they want to be, or maybe we can help them find what their true fit is.” Kiley Grzywa, CHI St. Francis, Vice President of Patient Care Services,  said, “The success of our community and the success of our hospital truly relies on our youth.  We are honored to be partners!” 

Lisa Wilson, Human Resources Manager at Case New Holland (CNH), was awarded the 2024 Community Partner of the Year. 

Lisa Wilson of CNH speaking after accepting the 2024 Community Partner of the Year Award

As a vocal advocate for the Academy model, Lisa Wilson has gone above and beyond to support students as they seek career opportunities.  Throughout her work with the GISH Academy of Technical Sciences, Wilson meets with Islander students to map out two-year and four-year college planning, provides them glimpses into career opportunities at CNH, and has been instrumental in supporting the state’s first Registered Apprenticeships program for high school students at GISH. 

“This partnership has been amazing for us at CNH!” Wilson said, “In manufacturing, sometimes we have a negative stereotype, “negative atmosphere” or “hard work”, and that’s just not the world today.  So, this partnership has really helped us not only educate the kids but parents as well on the career pathways that we can provide in manufacturing… Very, very honored and very, very grateful for the programs we can provide for students.”

Enjoying his last Academies Celebration event before easing into retirement, Jeff Gilbertson, GISH Executive Principal, affirmed the vision of the Academy model as it continues to grow. 

“What began as an ambitious dream seven years ago continues to be a transformative experience for our students.” Gilbertson said, “Moreover, our students are graduating with more confidence in their abilities!  Most of them have a clear plan for their future… Our goal is to continually evolve and adapt to the changing world, the changing job market, and ensuring the best long-term experiences, and the best long-term economic benefits for our community of Grand Island.”