Link: Career-Focused PBL at North Wake College and Career Academy

WakeEd Partnership’s Link program partners businesses with educators to create possibilities for students. Already in 2019, nine Wake County public schools have collaborated with 13 area businesses to improve their school communities.


Fidelity Investments and Unity Digital are giving North Wake College and Career Academy (NWCCA) students the opportunity to explore finance and marketing careers through project-based learning (PBL). This early college high school, a collaboration between the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) and Wake Technical Community College, enables students to concentrate in areas such as Culinary Arts, Early Childhood Education, Emergency Medical Science, Business Administration, and IT-Tech Support. Jennifer Balgooyen, a Visual Design Instructor at NWCCA, is delighted that WakeEd Partnership’s Link program has given students an opportunity “for real-world application with industry experts.

Fidelity Investments has worked with WakeEd Partnership before, but only recently joined the Link program, so Control Representative Liz Simon was not sure what to expect when she arrived at the Link launch event in January 2019. She immediately connected with NWCCA educators as they discussed a shared passion for helping students grow and began planning for the year ahead. It was “an impactful time where we discussed a long-term relationship,” that would last longer than the current school year.


Fidelity Community Relations Manager Kristen Thompson’s passion for teaching financial literacy began with her own lack of understanding as a young adult. In her current role, she is excited to spark important conversations with students about debt, credit cards, checkbooks, and more. Both Liz and Kristin cherish the opportunity to educate students on how money works, what career opportunities exist in finance, and why financial literacy is critical to their future success.

In the spring, students from NWCCA visited Fidelity Investments, where employees exposed students to a variety of finance careers and discussed important financial literacy topics, including risk management and ethics in the workplace. Following their visit, students created project-based learning (PBL) presentations to share their new knowledge with other NWCCA students. Fidelity Investment employees also attended these presentations to help answer questions and provide constructive feedback for the student presenters.


As she reflects on her Link experience, Liz emphasizes the important role businesses can play in strengthening public schools. “It is important for businesses to be involved in schools as a representative of the community. Each business has something different to offer, and Link has helped to make those connections between professional skills and educational needs essential to growth and future career success.”

Unity Digital, a digital agency serving community-focused businesses, also collaborated with NWCCA to provide hands-on PBL experiences for students. When they linked with educators in January, Unity Digital was undergoing an internal branding transformation, and after hearing NWCCA’s goals for the year, saw the perfect avenue to involve students in their business.


Unity Digital posed as the “client” and allowed students to pitch re-brand proposals, including logo designs. Through this project, students were able to engage with a real-life client, practice with Adobe platforms, and present their creations to the Unity Digital team, who will soon choose a winner.

Lexi Namer, a UX Developer for Unity Digital, shared that although they have done community outreach in the past, they have never participated in a long-term project like this and are excited to continue working with students. Both Fidelity Investments and Unity Digital are hopeful their partnership continues to evolve and extends beyond the 2018-2019 school year.

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