Unique sports business classes may ‘bring kids back’ to AHS

Students learn how sports could become a career

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What started as a dead-end for a plan to create a new Jeffco charter school led to an opportunity for an Arvada High School program, with 2019-2020 the inaugural year for AHS’s Sports Business Pathway.

Mark McIntosh, board president and founder of nonprofit Sports Business Academy, and his colleagues had sought to create a SLAM charter school, or Sports Leadership and Management school, in Jeffco. Multiple such charters exist across the US with the original based in Miami.

The plans didn’t go through, but the district was open to the Sports Business Academy program establishing itself at AHS, McIntosh said.

Now, the career pathway is one of several that run at the high school, with freshmen taking an exploratory class to learn about each pathway. In six-week sessions, students explore the pathways, including STEM, Arts and Humanities and Sports Business.

During the sports business session, students are introduced to sports marketing, management, medicine, multimedia and coaching. Students can take full courses on these subjects as upperclassmen.

Currently, the sports business pathway at AHS is the only such pathway to exist at any public school in the nation, McIntosh said.

“For disadvantaged kids, we’re trying to show them that sports can be your ticket out,” he said. “We’re so grateful to Jeffco Schools for helping us do this.”

The program affords opportunities to learn skills students wouldn’t otherwise learn, and the school is working now to award students college credit for the classes, McIntosh said.

The nonprofit partners with multiple institutions, such as Colorado State University and Metropolitan State University of Denver, to provide learning experiences within the pathway. Students have taken field trips to CU Boulder and the Pepsi Center and frequently learn from guest speakers in the industry.

For Jessica McNeil, who works as a business development account executive at Kroenke Sports, speaking to Arvada High students in January was a chance to show students sports could be a career, she said.

“We grow up thinking the only way we can be in sports is if we’re an athlete,” she said during her speech. “That’s not true. There are many positions available.”

AHS freshman Austin Jackson said this message is exactly what he likes about the class, which is helping him as he’s forming big goals for the future.

“They tell us how we can accomplish those goals,” he said of the guest speakers. “I like that they come in to give us a speech on what they do.”

With the pilot program running at AHS, the Sports Business Academy aims to replicate the system in public schools across the area and, possibly, the nation, McIntosh said.

He added that, as enrollment at AHS has been dropping throughout the years, he hopes the new program will bolster enrollment.

“We’re hoping it becomes a real recruiting tool,” McIntosh said. “We want to bring kids back here.”

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