How a design college is powering new CTE opportunities for high school students

Parsons School of Design help instill the notion of "artivism"—that is, art plus activism.
By: | January 12, 2022
Newark School of Fashion and Design—powered by the Parsons School of Design—opened with 100 ninth-graders who will spend this year learning about themselves and what inspires them.Newark School of Fashion and Design—powered by the Parsons School of Design—opened with 100 ninth-graders who will spend this year learning about themselves and what inspires them.

High school students in Newark, New Jersey, now have an inside track, paved by higher ed, to the fashion and design industry.

The newly launched Newark School of Fashion and Design is a CTE partnership between Newark Public Schools and the New School’s Parsons School of Design where, by the time students graduate, they will have designed a line of clothing, put on a fashion show and started a business.

“The world of fashion is global, it’s universal, it’s a language everyone understands now no matter where you are in the world,” says Sakina Pitts, principal of the Newark School of Fashion and Design.

The school opened with 100 9th-graders who will spend this year learning about themselves and what inspires them. Along with their core academic classes, they will learn to sew and sketch as they study fashion history, and work with a team to design and create one garment by the end of the year. In their sophomore year, they will begin to determine what fashions other people like and design clothes for them.

Throughout, they will learn to use the latest design tools, including designing virtual clothing.

Driving the whole program will be the notion of “artivism”—that is, art plus activism. Students will explore adaptability and inclusivity in fashion by, for instance, designing uniforms for Special Olympics athletes. “There’s advocacy in fashion,” Pitts says. “Artivists create fashion with a purpose—through fashion, students can advocate for things they believe in.”

Students at the high school will explore a range of potential careers in the fashion industry, including marketing and social media. They also branch out into related professions, such as interior or graphic design.

Students at the high school will explore a range of potential careers in the fashion industry, including marketing and social media. They also branch out into related professions, such as interior or graphic design. 

Parsons faculty has been instrumental in designing a curriculum that’s informed by the latest industry trends and hiring teachers for the high school. Students will also be connected to Parsons alumni and the industry network. These are just a few of the reasons why the school’s official name is the Newark School of Fashion and Design powered by the Parsons School of Design.

“Our overall goal for the university, it’s all about providing design education for underserved and underrepresented communities in the design space, where there is not really diversity,” says Debbie Gibb, senior managing director at The New School. “Newark is very focused on career-ready schools, so students graduate with skills that give them choices.”

Students at the high school will explore a range of potential careers in the fashion industry, including marketing and social media. They also branch out into related professions, such as interior or graphic design. The university also will share its philosophy of global sustainability.

“That’s what students get with the pedagogy of the university—how to create a future that benefits everybody,” Gibb says. “It’s not just about making another fashion collection, it’s about coming up with their own creative voice  It’s about understanding who you are, your community, and where you’re from, and using that to express yourself in the design space.”