Creativity, collaboration and career cultivation have converged in the Waukee Public School District in the form of an innovative learning program called the Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS).
Different from test-centric Advanced Placement (AP) and dual-credit courses, CAPS is shattering the education paradigm. The program is centered on an evolving curriculum not bound by traditional lessons in the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, CAPS is a contemporary incubator for the developing minds of Waukee High School seniors as they delve into the world of business.
“CAPS came about due to our school system thinking about a couple of different things,” said Chris Bergman, Waukee CAPS Executive Director. “Besides thinking about our growth, we asked ourselves how we could make the senior year more rigorous. Instead of kids taking off blocks of time, we wanted to give them more opportunities to successfully launch their collegiate career. Once we decided that we wanted a different type of programming, our Superintendent, Dr. Wilkerson, started talking to people and it grew from there,”
Administrators sent business leaders and legislators to Overland Park, Kansas, to see one of the country’s three other CAPS programs in action. The networking paid off. CAPS has won the support of some key metro-area organizations, including Hy-Vee, Drake University, Principal Financial Group, Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and UnityPoint Health.
In a recent video produced by the CAPS program, business leaders said they were interested in sharing the functional knowledge of their industries as well as “soft skills” needed in business, such as clear communication, empathy and focus.
“We were contacting businesses that fit within our areas of study, and now businesses are coming to us looking to get involved,” Bergman said. She attributes this interest to the strong spirit of the community and its business professionals.
“We chose CAPS program classes based on economic trend data specific to central Iowa,” Bergman said. “We looked at which fields will be growing in our community in order to determine which courses were important so that students will be more prepared to enter the