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Westcliff Unveils Prep Academy for Teen Entrepreneurs

A new preparatory academy is opening this fall in Irvine for future business leaders, tech execs, and, perhaps a few pro athletes.

Irvine’s Westcliff University announced Aug. 11 the launch of Westcliff Preparatory Academy (WPA), a new high school with a curriculum focused on “in-demand areas” like entrepreneurship and technology.

The academy allows for dual-enrollment, meaning that high school students can take college-level classes while they are still enrolled in high school.

The school says it’s an ideal learning environment for teenagers with “busy lives and extracurricular interests.” It touts course plans that a student can customize, allowing them to “define their own goals.” Remote learning options are available, it says.

The prep school is the latest endeavor for Westcliff, which earlier this year finalized its acquisition of Western State, Orange County’s oldest law school. Westcliff has also consolidated its operations at a new main campus, Intersect office park near John Wayne Airport.

Instruction this coming school year will be a blend of online and on-site, according to Westcliff officials.

Westcliff, founded in 1993, named Anthony Lee as chief executive in 2011. Since then, the school says it’s one of the fastest-growing universities, going from a few hundred students to 3,000.

“We’ll strive to create well-rounded students” at the prep school, Lee told the Business Journal. “They’ll be the most successful in the future.”

High School Diploma+

The privately held university said the academy will offer collegiate-level academics and athletics for high school students, with mentorship and tutoring opportunities from the faculty at Westcliff University, which offers degrees in 21 areas of study, including business, computer science and engineering.

The students will also earn transferrable college credit through concurrent enrollment at Westcliff University, allowing them the ability to earn an associate’s degree at the same time as a high school diploma, Julie Ciancio, WPA’s chief academic officer, told the Business Journal.

“What we offer is unique in many ways,” Ciancio said. 

The high school will permit year-round admission, flexible scheduling and remote learning options, allowing students to balance academic and athletic pursuits.

It’s aiming to have more than 50 students enrolled at the new academy this year, ramping up to over 100 students by 2023, officials said.

Instruction will blend on-site and online learning and will change in alignment with guidance from public health agencies.  

While no opening date has yet been set, the Preparatory Academy is expected to commence offering live online instruction sometime in the fall of 2021. Tuition is as high as $9,700 a year.

Sports Mentorships

The school is also offering Warrior Athletics, a program which will provide student-athletes currently in high school access to Westcliff University coaches and practice matches with its college teams.

The sports program will arrange “elite competitive opportunities,” the school said.

Warrior Athletics is led by Shawn Harris, who is Westcliff University’s Associate Dean of Athletics, where he oversees 23 sports teams. He’s also a certified agent of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).

The new athletics program will start with basketball this fall and expand to baseball, softball and a variety of sports programs in the coming years, Lee said.

The school also partnered with the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, offering student-athletes access to its trove of new playing fields and sports facilities, he said.

Personalized Learning

Westcliff Prep says its curriculum focuses on transferable skills that connect leadership and entrepreneurship to the vast and growing field of technology.

The young students will have the opportunity to learn about startups at Westcliff University’s Business Incubator.

Next summer, the school plans to roll out an “entrepreneurship boot camp” for students, in which students can submit their business pitches and receive feedback from professors and experienced entrepreneurs, Lee said.

Established entrepreneurs from Orange County will also lead guest lectures, Lee added.

The school will also offer several technology workshops, including web development, data analytics and cybersecurity.

“Westcliff Preparatory Academy’s foundation is rooted in cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset and equipping students with the leadership skills and technological expertise to advance their career potential and make a significant impact in tomorrow’s ever-changing landscape,” Lee said. 

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Audrey Kemp
Audrey Kemp
Audrey Kemp is a staff reporter and occasional photojournalist for the Orange County Business Journal. Her beats include — but are not limited to — healthcare, startups, and education. While pursuing her bachelors in literary journalism at UC Irvine, she interned for New York-based magazine Narratively Inc., wrote for Costa Mesa-based lifestyle magazine Locale, and covered the underground music scene for two SoCal-based music publications. She is an unwavering defendant of the emdash and the Oxford comma.
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