PLANO -- Plano ISD students say it's unlike any other school they've ever attended.

There are no books. They work at their own pace. And they learn by working on projects with other kids.

The Academy High School opened four months ago. It's designed to prepare students for college and the real world.

The campus is anything but typical. Students must apply to get in and there are no set classes. The focus is on science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math.

'I want to go into the engineering or business field when I'm older,' said Hunter Hughes, a 10th grader. 'And I think this school really sets me up for a better college opportunity.'

The academy has 257 students, all of them are ninth and tenth graders.

'I feel this prepares me a lot because you work with groups, which is what you have to do in your own life in work and college,' said ninth grader Hannah Robinson.

Texas Instruments put in $5 million toward the Academy. Mentors from TI and other area companies often come here to connect with the kids.

'Let's say they're building a catapult of some kind, and they are connecting with a project manager from TI,' said Renee Godi, the academy principal. 'Well, that expertise from the real world is going to come in and provide a perspective for them they might not get from a classroom teacher.'

There's another advantage of the academy from the business perspective. These students are not only being prepared for success in college, they're already on track to enter the workforce.

'The more that we can do it here, at home, inside our backyard, and encourage kids to go to local universities and go get that degree and work inside our local industry, I think the better off we are,' said Kent Novak, TI Senior Vice President.

The district hopes to double the number of Academy students in the next two years.


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