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  • NGL Academy Opens Two US High Schools

    Omaha World Herald

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    Joe Ricketts
    A high school with ties to a billionaire philanthropist will open this fall in Bellevue.

    The NGL Academy will begin accepting applications Thursday for its inaugural class of about 15 ninth-graders.  The school, which will operate on the campus of Bellevue University, is aimed at lower-income students.

    The high school is being developed by Omaha-based Opportunity Education, which was started in 2005 by Joe Ricketts, who founded Omaha's TD Ameritrade.  Gov. Pete Ricketts, Joe Ricketts' son, is on the nonprofit's board of advisers, according to the foundation's website.

    Joe Ricketts began the education foundation after a trip to Africa's Serengeti plain.

    Rickett's safari driver said he was building a school and Ricketts decided to help, according to a video on the foundation's website.  Helping that one school eventually lead to helping schools and students in 11 countries in Africa and Asia.

    The Bellevue high school and one in Santa Rosa, California, also opening in the fall, will be the foundation's first projects in the United States, said Raymond Ravaglia, the school's chief learning officer.

    The NGL Academy will use Next Generation Learning curriculum developed by Opportunity Education.  In a press release, Ricketts said the school is designed to teach students how to learn.

    "We need to prepare young people to succeed in the jobs of the future, and since we don't know what these jobs will be, we need to teach them not just specific skills but more generally how to acquire skills," Ricketts said.

    The NGL Academy will be pursuing accreditation with the Nebraska Department of Education.

    The curriculum uses technology and personalized learning projects called "quests."  Teachers serve more as mentors, challenging and engaging students instead of lecturing to them.

    Ravaglia founded the Standford Online High School and was the director of pre-collegiate studies at Standford University.

    With Next Generation Learning the focus won't be on teaching to tests but helping students become self-educators, which is a skill that lasts forever, Ravaglia said.

    "The goal isn't to get into college," he said.  "The goal is to be successful when you're there and when you leave."

    Ravaglia said the school will be looking for students who feel confined in a regular classroom and would like lessons to be more interactive.

    "In an era where any fact is just a quick query away, and where even skills become obsolete over time, the content-centric view of education rooted in a factory model of schooling no longer serves," the school's website says about the learning philosophy.

    Tuition for the 2017-2018 school year is $14,500, although students who are admitted will receive near full-tuition scholarships as part of the Ricketts Family Scholars program.

    "the only way to break the cycle of poverty is to provide students with an education that will empower them to acieve their dreams," Ricketts said.

    The school is starting with about 15 students but would like to grow with future classes.  A bus will be available to transport the students to and from the college campus in Bellevue.  The school year stars on Aug. 22.

    Students and parents interested in applying for a spot in the school or in finding more information can visit www.ngl.academy or call 402-403-1267.