National Academy Foundation


“Through our support for the NAF Academies, we’re trying to help schools bring more relevance and rigor to the teaching of math and technology so students get excited about these subjects and so they get the preparation they need to succeed."

-- Carolyn McCullen, Director of Education Initiatives, SAS

Program Type

Curriculum/Instructional Materials
Hands on/Project-Based
Work Readiness/Employment
College Readiness

Target Audience

All Students

Teachers/Educational Leaders




Grades 9 - 12

 Accomplished link

Program Impact

About 70,000 students, mostly from low-income households, attend NAF academies in 565 schools across 36 states. Ninety-six percent of NAF seniors graduated in 2013, and more than half of NAF graduates earn bachelor’s degrees in 4-years—compared with less than a third of high school graduates overall. Evaluations show that NAF graduates earn significantly more than similar students who graduate from other high schools. NAF aims to reach 100,000 students by 2020.


Program Overview

Leveraging 30 years of success, NAF academy programs are predominately based in comprehensive urban public high schools, where they prepare high school students for college and career success. NAF's sustainable and replicable model provides rigorous curricula, a continuum of work-based learning activities including compensated internships, and local advisory boards made up of business professionals in STEM and other fields.

The mission of the National Academy Foundation (NAF) is to sustain a national network of career academies to support the development of America's youth. NAF was started in 1982 in response to the need for skilled, entry-level workers in the financial services industry. The results for the original 35 Academy of Finance (AOF) students suggested that a career-based, small learning community model located inside a comprehensive public high school was a powerful strategy to improve high school student performance and results. 

Over the years, NAF added four additional industry themes; Hospitality & Tourism (1986), IT (1999), Engineering (2007) and most recently, Health Sciences (2011). Each industry theme addresses a growing national concern over high school graduation rates, particularly in America's urban centers, the country's worldwide position in science and math, and the dearth of qualified entry level workers in STEM fields.

How To Get Involved

Employees of more than 2,500 companies volunteer in classrooms, act as mentors, engage NAF students in paid internships, and serve on local advisory boards.


Patricia Brown, National Director, Corporate Engagement

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Design Principles

The programs in this database clear a high bar. STEMworks reviewed each program against the Design Principles for Effective STEM Philanthropy.

  • Accomplished
  • Developing
  • Undeveloped

Overarching Principles

  • Need

    Identify and target a compelling and well-defined need.

  • Evaluation

    Use rigorous evaluation to continuously measure and inform progress towards the compelling need identified.

  • Sustainability

    Ensure work is sustainable.

  • Replication and Scalability

    Demonstrate replicability and scalability.

  • Partnerships

    Create high impact partnerships

  • Capacity

    Ensure organizational capacity to achieve goals.

STEM Principles

  • Challenging and Relevant Content

    Offer challenging and relevant STEM content for the target audience

  • STEM Practices

    Incorporate and encourage STEM practices.

  • Inspiration

    Inspire interest and engagement in STEM.

  • Under-Represented Groups

    Identify and address the needs of under-represented groups.