More than 1,000 CAPS alumni said that programs have a significant influence on students’ professional growth.
CAPS Alumni highly agree that they learned essential and durable skills and built confidence.
Fifteen years ago, the Blue Valley Schools leadership team concluded they could do more to connect young people in Overland Park, Kansas to meaningful work. They developed the Blue Valley Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) in 2009 and operated in community spaces for the first year. The spectacular CAPS campus opened in 2010.
CAPS, as a next-generation career accelerator, serves five suburban high schools in the Kansas City area, offering profession-based learning opportunities. Here, students embark on a journey into their future, immersing themselves in a professional culture where they actively tackle real-world challenges, utilize industry-standard tools, and benefit from mentorship by actual employers—all while earning high school and college credits. Within the six career strands encompassing bioscience, accelerator, business technology and media, engineering, human services, medicine and health care, CAPS students engage in client-connected projects and cultivate self-directed entrepreneurial experiences.
One of the remarkable benefits of participating in CAPS is the significant increase in social capital for students. As they actively engage with professionals, employers, and mentors from various industries, students expand their networks and establish valuable connections within their communities. These connections not only provide them with insights into potential career paths but also serve as a source of support and guidance.
The success of the CAPS model quickly gained recognition. In 2014, the increasing number of visitors signaled widespread interest in this innovative approach that seamlessly blends career education with college preparation, creating personalized pathways deeply connected to the community. By 2018, dozens of affiliated programs had sprouted regionally and across the nation.
The CAPS Network community shares core values that underpin its success: Profession-based Learning, Responsiveness, Self-Discovery and Exploration, Professional Skills Development, and Entrepreneurial Mindset.
CAPS success inspired the Kauffman Foundation sponsored Real World Learning initiative. As a result, there are 85 high schools in metro Kansas City adding internships, client projects and entrepreneurial experiences.
In 2021, the CAPS Network became an independent nonprofit supporting profession-based learning. With more than 100 affiliate locations in 2023, CAPS Network was recognized by HundrED as a leading global innovation.
CAPS Graduates Experiencing Benefit
There are more than 40,000 CAPS network graduates. Last fall, a survey of more than 1,000 of them showed that CAPS programs have significant influence on students’ professional growth. Over three-fourths reported an overwhelmingly positive experience. CAPS alumni are equally bullish on the role that their programs had in preparing them to find a job or enter college. And more than 7 of 10 said their CAPS experience directly contributed to their current success
CAPS Alumni highly agree that they learned essential and durable skills and built confidence. The top ten reported benefits of the CAPS program are shown below (on a scale of 1 to 5).
CAPS alumni appreciated experimenting with careers before investing in college. They appreciated being encouraged “to step out of their comfort zone” and “find themselves” through their exploration. More than 8 of 10 alumni said they were currently receiving scholarships and almost a third were receiving honors/awards.
The survey unequivocally demonstrates that CAPS has played a pivotal role in helping learners not only find their professional paths but also build connections and community ties that continue to fuel their growth and success, significantly increasing their social capital along the way.