Compton schools receive funds for engineering academies

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By Emilie St. John

Contributing Writer

COMPTON — The Compton Unified School District has launched three new NAF Academies of Engineering on three local high school campuses.

The academies were opened in conjunction with NAF, a national education nonprofit that claims to transform the high school experience, and RTX the world’s largest aerospace and defense company.

“This partnership between RTX, NAF and Compton Unified will impact students in the Compton Unified School District for generations,” said NAF CEO Lisa Dughi. “When school districts and employers work together to bring real-world opportunities to students of all backgrounds and capabilities, the results can truly be transformative. 

The new NAF Academies of Engineering will be housed at Centennial, Dominguez and Compton high schools, where nearly 200 students will participate in career-focused curricula focused in computer science, aerospace and general engineering.

Compton Unified School District Superintendent Darin Brawley said the partnership is an investment in the students. 

“Together we’re forging a path for our students’ success for 21st century learning, and a multitude of opportunities in engineering and STEM professions,” he said. “The NAF Engineering Academies at Centennial, Compton and Dominguez are more than a program, they are a gateway to a world of possibilities by integrating a STEM-focused curriculum, cutting-edge technology, and real-world experiences. 

“We’re equipping our students with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in a rapidly evolving landscape in the 21st century. Our students will have the chance to engage with industry professionals, gain hands-on experience and develop problem-solving skills that are crucial in today’s competitive job market.”

Compton school board member Micah Ali had what he calls a “phenomenal career in aerospace and defense” after working with Raytheon, now RTX, for over a decade.

This partnership with NAF and RTX will enable our Compton Unified School District students to focus on engineering and science as a conduit for careers in the aerospace community,” Ali said. “If they get a job in this industry, they will be doing more than just making money, they will be actually impacting our national security.”

Industry experts say there will be a tremendous demand for new engineers in America over the next few years. In fact, roughly 90,000 new engineering jobs will be needed by 2031, with a focus on infrastructure development, renewable energy, oil and gas extraction and robotics.

To help fill the workforce pipeline with diverse and skilled talent, NAF and RTX are committed to advancing equitable opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math fields. Students from the Compton Unified School District will benefit from the new NAF academies, where they will have access to three engineering pathways with career-focused curricula, experiential learning such as workplace tours, resume writing, mock interviews and paid internships, and connections to industry professionals like engineers from the El Segundo-based RTX facility.

The NAF Academies will offer students opportunities to earn industry based certifications prior to graduation.

“Because of the support from NAF and RTX, our students will have access to opportunities they need to build a life of upward economic mobility and success,” said Centennial High School Principal Bobby Walker. “Today marks the beginning of an impactful journey for hundreds of high school students in our district.

“In the next four years, these students will develop new skills, make professional contacts and be immersed in hands-on learning that will help them create a plan for their future and shape their career aspirations.”

Local students say they are aware of the unique opportunity ahead of them.

“I am proud to be one of the first students in the NAF Academy of Engineering,” said Centennial High School ninth grader Ja’mya Johnson. “It will help me to discover more about myself and my future. 

Emilie St. John is a freelance journalist covering the areas of Carson, Compton, Inglewood and Willowbrook. Send tips to her at

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