Workforce Advantage Academy Moves to New Covenant Baptist Church


Workforce Advantage Academy is an Orange County Public Charter High School doing an outstanding job of providing juniors and seniors the opportunity to both complete academic requirements for graduation and gain useful job experience.

In existence for 15 years, the school was recently forced to begin searching for new facilities when its previous leased location was sold. Founder and CEO Ken Hartsaw said he approached Sen. Randolph Bracy and told him about the school’s predicament, and Bracy suggested that Hartsaw and his team take a look at the New Covenant property.

New Covenant was founded in 1992 by the senator’s parents, Drs. Randolph and Lavon Bracy, and formerly housed another charter school on its property– The Rio Grande Charter School of Excellence. When it was closed in 2013, portable classrooms remained on site, creating, six years later, a near-perfect situation for Workforce Academy.

Sen. Bracy said he has known Hatsaw for a number of years and always assists the academy in whatever way he can whenever asked. The move to New Covenant “just made sense,” he said, for both the church and the school, and he remains committed to seeing the Academy perform successfully at its new location at 2210  S. Rio Grande Ave. in Orlando.

On September 26, 2019, the school held a “community media day” at its new location, showcasing the new educational campus, and thanking sponsors, business partners, families and teachers, alike. A tour of the facility was also included. Under the direction and vision of Hartsaw, the leadership team (Principal Belinda Jones and COO W. Carl Merrell) is extremely proud of their history, making this day a celebration of their achievement and hard work.

As an alternative to traditional education, Workforce Academy students “earn while they learn.” Teachers provide a hands-on approach to learning that gives students a skills-based focus, allowing them to apply what they learn in class to the things they do in the workplace. Workforce is not a school for non-performers. Students’ progress is monitored in part by people who demand and get the best out of their subordinates. Students divide each week between in-school classes and paid on-the-job internships– usually one full day in class followed by one full day at work. Teachers tailor their lessons to the needs and learning styles of individual students. Employers direct the student interns in applying those lessons in real-world experiences. The goal, Merrell emphasized, is to make sure every student “gets it.” If at first, a student does not pick up on what’s taught, the faulty moves to find other approaches until the student understands what’s being taught.

“At Workforce Academy, students develop the academic, employment and social skills they need to build rewarding lives,” Merrell said.

A broad range of potential employment opportunities for Academy students flows out of the numerous relationships with local employers the school has forged over the years. They represent a diverse array of career paths, including Manufacturing, Technology, Engineering, Automotive, Financial, Media and Law, to name a few.

These relationships have led to a number of success stories that are shared on the Academy website, but we ran into one former student at the event who credits