by Alyssa Cocchiola, associate editor

JANUARY 2022 — Seniors at Bio-Med Science Academy are required to take on an internship or independent study project in order to gain career experience prior to graduation. This is done as a part of their Senior Apex project, a final presentation that showcases their high school accomplishments.

“Since it is up to me to get my work done and there isn’t class time for my [independent study] project, it has taught me time management skills and personal agency skills,” Molly Morris, a senior, said.

Senior Apex is first introduced to students during their junior year College, Career, and Civics (CCC) class, when they receive an Apex handbook.

In the handbook, an intern is described as “someone who works in a temporary position for an employer that operates in an industry they are interested in working in. Unlike conventional employment, internships have an emphasis on hands-on, interactive training,” whereas an independent study is described as “an in-depth research study of an issue relevant to your preferred career field. While projects vary in their aims, scope and design, they should be designed so as to allow you to demonstrate your ability to apply the principles of research in a finished product.”

Students are able to pick which project best suits them and their future career path.

Katherine Huntley is a senior who has two internship positions. Her first internship is at Bio-Med with Ms. McKenna Tubbs, the eighth grade math teacher, on Mondays and Tuesdays. During the other half of the week, she interns at the Weathervane Playhouse in Akron, Ohio.

“I just wanted to try out different types of things,” Huntley said. “I love theater. I just wanted to try out musical theater and what other avenues within it are available to me and then last year, I was like, ‘I want to see what something really practical would be like,’ and it’s nice to kind of see the two different sides of it. It is nice to get a change of scenery to do that.”

In order for students to complete their independent study or internship project, their schedules look different compared to other grades. Their first decision, regardless of whether they want to pursue an independent study or internship, is deciding their elective courses and thinking about the amount of Senior Apex credit hours they want to take. Depending on the number of credit hours, the number of elective courses and time for their independent study or internship — otherwise known as contact hours — can vary.

The one-credit Apex option requires students to complete 120 contact hours, along with taking two elective courses. The two-credit option requires 240 contact hours, plus one elective course. Finally, the three-credit option requires 360 contact hours and offers no elective courses.

At the beginning of the school year, the juniors are introduced to senior Apex. The handout contains information about what Senior Apex is and the requirements and deadlines for it. Upon receiving the handbook, a signature from a parent/guardian is required. If a signed paper is not returned by the due date, students are automatically assigned to an independent study project and ineligible to secure an internship. This handout is expected to be contained in students binders for the College, Career, and Civics class, taught by Mrs. Whitney Mihalik. Photo by Alyssa Cocchiola.

All seniors are also required to take language arts, a science class, and a math class. Language arts credits are through the College Credit Plus (CCP) system or Edgenuity, an online English class offered through Bio-Med. As for math classes, students can choose between College Math, Pre-Calc, Statistics, or Calculus. Calculus and Statistics can be completed either through Bio-Med or CCP.

In the past, the required science class used to be physics. However, it is currently unknown what science courses will be offered to senior students for the 2022-2023 school year.

Junior students are presented with the opportunity to select their elective courses for their senior year around the end of January or early February. This is done through a Google form during their CCC class.

The current elective courses for the 2022-2023 school year are CCP Introduction to Anatomy and Physiology, Human Pathophysiology, Aerospace Engineering, Environmental Science for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Education Principles, or an additional math credit.

Miss Stephanie Hammond, the guidance counselor for grades 10 through 12, helps create the senior schedules based on what classes students choose. Unlike schedules for the other grades, which are created through a computer, Hammond creates the senior schedules by hand.

“Based on what students want, we create that number of sections,” Hammond said. “So if I have 50 students that want to take pre-calc, I need two of those, and I might not run a stats class. Or if I don’t have anybody that wants to take a college math, we’re gonna be running more of something else. I first need the numbers. Once we have the numbers, then we make the senior schedules based on sections and what needs to run when. There’s a lot of puzzle pieces that get put together. Once that is done, then I take everyone’s sign-ups and I plug it in. I always start with math because that’s really the least flexible class, that and electives, so I schedule everyone into their choices, and then you get your schedule.”

Though students get a say in what classes they take, their classes might not occur during their desired cores. Hammond realizes that a student’s idea of a “perfect” schedule might not be attainable, and there is a chance that a schedule could be altered after the fact.

Huntley’s initial schedule enrolled her in classes that were scheduled for cores two and five, which did not work well with her off-campus internship.

“It would just be impractical,” Huntley admitted. “What a lot of us do is sometimes you just sacrifice taking the classes you want in order to make your schedule work. My physics core was core two, and then my math that I wanted to take was core five. I didn’t want to switch which math I was taking, so you just speak to Miss Hammond about it…. If it’s what works, it’s what works. You just basically have to talk it through and figure out what you’re willing to take and sacrifice to make your schedule work.”

Still, Hammond advised students not to switch their elective courses solely based on what core they’re offered.

Hammond explained, “We adjust schedules to what we need to with the question coming back of ‘What do you want [and] how can we make this work so that you’re taking courses that are meaningful to you?… It’s hard enough to stay engaged in senior year. Students are so ready to graduate, and I get it, so we want to make sure that we choose classes that are going to be beneficial to us to not only finish, but then be able to help us with, again, whatever life after Bio-Med has to offer.”

On top of scheduling their elective courses, juniors who plan on taking on an internship position are also required to reach out to at least five different organizations with an inquiry about working with them. This must be done through email, and students are encouraged to attach their resume. Mrs. Whitney Mihalik, the CCC teacher, must be CC’d on these emails, in order to keep track of which students meet the requirement.

Mihalik commented on the reasoning behind the internship, stating, “The best way to learn hands-on is to actually do it. That’s the idea. Some places are willing to let us do that and some places are not, and that’s more difficult for certain fields. But the idea is that before you leave here, you’ve had real-world experience in the thing that you focused on.”

She continued, “Even at the end of the year, if you’re like, ‘This internship sucked, I do not want to do this anymore,’ that’s a successful internship because you didn’t spend four years going to school for that thing and learning you didn’t like it.”

While the internship can help students experience a field of their interest, other students, like Huntley, use it as an opportunity to compare what two different careers are like. Currently, Huntley aims to pursue musical theater. However, she noted that her career aspirations could change as auditions are a rigorous process.

“My future is very up in the air because what I want to do is a very interesting field, and [an] unpredictable field. If I were to follow the path completely, I would say [my internship is] helping me a lot. The point of your senior internship is to see if it’s something I like and if this is something I pursue, it is definitely going to be helpful. If not, it was a really cool experience to get to find out,” Huntley concluded.

The majority of students choose to complete an internship project during their senior year. However, that is not their only option. The independent study project still provides an engaging, hands-on experience for seniors.

Mihalik commented, “I think students just hear ‘internship, internship, internship,’ and we harp on that. I think that’s what some kids think is the cooler idea because it gets them out of the building, which there’s no requirement to be in the building if you do a research project, but kids think ‘internship, I get to go somewhere,’ and so they don’t want to focus on that research project or independent study, but a lot of students aren’t going to get an internship in what they want to do. That independent study gives them the opportunity to really study the thing they want to do.”

Previously, the independent study was known as the “research project.” This was changed during the 2021-2022 academic year in order to have a more inclusive title that encompasses the variety of projects students can take on. A common misconception with the previous title led students to believe that if they pursued the research project, they would be required to write a research paper.

Mihalik advised students to consider the independent study option, especially if they could not receive an internship that would be relevant to their future.

“We have had students in years past who were like ‘I want to be a nurse. I can’t get an internship as a nurse,’ so they’ve done internships in interior design. Well, you didn’t learn anything from that internship, so it is kind of a waste of their time, but you could have studied different practices in nursing, or studied medicine. It doesn’t have to be a paper. I would have loved to write a paper — I love writing — but other people aren’t going to be interested in that. There’s different things you can design or plan, or something that will give you that experience without actually being in a doctor’s office or something like that.”

Morris’s independent study project deals with music’s effects on short-term memory. To conduct this study, she plans on meeting with students and collecting preliminary research on the subject. Her final plan is to submit a scientific journal for her final project.

“It relates to my future goals because I want to go into neurology and my project has to do with the brain since it is about memory,” she said.

She also elaborated on the decision to choose her research project in relation to her desired career: “Since I plan to go into the medical field, it’s kind of tricky to do work, like working with patients because of HIPAA laws, that will prepare me for my career. I wouldn’t say this research project is preparing me for my career field. However, I know that everything I am learning through this research project will be relevant information and knowledge for my future career goals.”

Butifel Miller is another student who is doing an independent study project. She intends on creating a research paper based on how teens are impacted by schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression.

“This relates to my future goals because I plan on becoming a psych nurse practitioner. A psych nurse practitioner is a mental health therapist/nurse. They talk to patients about their problems, assess them, diagnose them, and then prescribe them the medication they believe would help this patient,” she explained.

Due to their internship/research project, the senior schedule differs from the other grades at the Rootstown campus. For grades seven through 11, schedules are not the same each day. The typical seven-11 schedule consists of a “purple day,” which is shown on the left. In that schedule, students attend four out of their six classes a day, and they are set on a rotation schedule. Since seniors taking on an internship position work with outside organizations, a rotation schedule would complicate students’ schedules with their internships. As a result, their typical day runs on a “blue schedule,” shown on the right. This schedule runs cores one through six during the same times each day. However, senior students still have modified schedules for Orange days, which contains a period for Flex, Photo by Alyssa Cocchiola.

Despite requiring a certain amount of contact hours, elective credits, and core classes, the senior schedule is rather flexible. As long as students are getting the hours they need, there is no rule stating that students need to complete those hours during that time.

Hammond concluded, “What I love about senior year is that outside of the classes you have to report here for, your time is your own. If a student wants to do [their credit hours] in the evenings or on the weekends, I have students that do that. And if they need 10 hours, they’ll do a Saturday and a Sunday. I had a student a couple years ago who did an internship in Cleveland. That’s not feasible for a drive. They were from this area. That’s not feasible to do every day, so the days that they didn’t have the time in their schedule, they worked on homework and they did other things, and then they worked that schedule around the internship on the weekends. It doesn’t have to happen during the school day, but we want to provide that time for students that maybe have to use it during that time.”

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