NAF, a national education nonprofit, has been working since 1980 to raise standards in education.

The mission is to help high school students master higher learning and reach career success, its website mentions. NAF partners with communities to establish NAF academies. Here, students will be exposed to work-based learning opportunities through resources such as Future Ready Learning, the one spot for all NAF curriculum and resources. Additionally, NAF Financial Expeditions will offer students a chance to interact with professionals in their field as they take on real world challenges, among other hands-on learning experiences.

“NAF understands that talent is universal, but opportunity is not, so we have always aimed to address the economic and social disparities that have marginalized too many students, in particular students of color, in this country,” NAF Chief Program Officer Dirk Butler told AFROTECH. “By bringing schools and businesses together, we can better prepare and support students for college, a career, and future success. By working with educators, business leaders, parents, and students themselves, we can help to create the network of support necessary for student success!”


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NAF was launched with one finance academy in New York City, NY, and has since expanded its industry reach to hospitality and tourism, information technology, engineering, and health science, among others.

According to information provided to AFROTECH, NAF has supported over 325 academies in 23 states to aid over 64,000 students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) pathways.

Additionally, NAF Academies of Information Technology — which encompass coding, computer systems, graphic design, and web development — have assisted 27,000 students in over 100 academies in 16 states. 

NAF’s impact has contributed to 99% of high school seniors graduating and 92% planning to pursue higher learning.


“NAF academies are small learning communities within existing high school settings that go beyond what traditional public education systems can offer,” Butler explained. “Students are immersed in STEM-focused coursework and experience hands-on learning that truly helps them not only learn about the field of study but supports their aspirations in defining a future for themselves, often in STEM.”

He continued, “At NAF, we know that it all begins with exposure to the right class, the right internship, the right mentor, or just stepping through the right door. Through their NAF academy experience, business professionals also help mentor and guide students and enable them to build their social networks while in high school.”

The organization continues to demonstrate it has not wavered from its commitment to educate the youth. Most recently,  NAF launched 35 new academies, with 70% focused on STEM. Participating areas include Alabama, Texas, Michigan,  Florida, and California.

“With the future being now, and the world being technology driven, it is critical to prioritize access and opportunity for the next generation of industry leaders,” Butler said. “NAF is where opportunity begins! For over 40 years, we have created a legacy of accessibility and equitable education for high school students of all backgrounds and capabilities, in particular students of color and students who may lack access.”

Looking ahead, NAF plans to launch KnoPro, a free digital work-based learning tool set to release in late September 2023.

“Only 2% of high school students in the U.S. complete a paid internship,” Butler detailed. “We believe that ALL students deserve access to rewarding work-based learning and career readiness experiences. We made KnoPro to reach the other 98%.”

With KnoPro, students will have a chance to work with real companies to solve problems. Additionally, they will receive mentorship to nurture their skills and will have an opportunity to earn cash and prizes to energize their interest.

What’s more, students can take their learning pathway a step further by participating in 10-minute daily skill builders or KnoPro’s monthly industry challenge, which will allow them an opportunity to develop solutions to community issues by pitching marketing campaigns, new products, or business ideas to judges. Participants are competing for cash prizes – up to $10,000 per challenge – each month.

“The possibilities are truly endless for student innovation and learning with the reach that KnoPro provides,” Butler expressed.