All over the country, school systems realize that students are living in a new era. This is no different in our local schools. All over the Metro, schools are changing the way students approach their studies. To meet the demands of the changing world and to prepare the next generation to take the reigns or the flight controls, these five high school courses challenge students with next level education, offering them a chance to change the narrative of education.

Biomedical Science (Mercy Academy)

“We had a course called Advanced Biology II for years and years, and it was kind of boring. But with this big STEM focus we’re really trying to bolster our science, technology, and math, so we shifted that course into something called Biomedical Science,” says Mercy Academy (5801 Fegenbush Lane) faculty and Science Department Administrator Patrick Burton.

Burton took his experience from a stint in medical school and updated the advanced biology course to meet the interests of the students and demands of their potential careers.

At Mercy, an all-female Catholic school, the introduction of STEM-style courses broadens the focus from regular science to something that can be applicable in a later college or career decision.

Students in the Biomedical Science course are provided the chance to discover biology through the fields of medicine and applied technology. They are given the opportunity to explore minor diagnosis, symptomology and, in the process, gain valuable patient interaction and interview skills. Students are also taught to build medical models and develop biomaterials to mend simulated broken bones.

“I gave groups of students a patient case, and they got a patient profile and some x-rays that showed some broken bones,” says Burton. “They had to design a biomaterial that would fix that. In the end, I felt like they learned more about the structure and the surgical process than I thought they would starting out.”

Burton finds the course revitalizes the material, and the students agree. Senior Jessie Nalley says of the course, “Coming into the class I was really interested in the medical field. I’m interested right now in going into radiology. This class allows you to look at everything outside the box.”

Philanthropy (Kentucky Country Day)

Nestled on 85 acres in Northeast Louisville, students at Kentucky Country Day (KCD) (4100 Springdale Rd.) get the chance to give back to the local community. In fact, they are taught how to give back through a unique course called the Philanthropy class. Juniors and seniors are given instruction on the history of philanthropy, serve as the board of the school’s Artemis Fund, host a fundraiser, solicit, and award grants to local nonprofits. The course is an elective for juniors and seniors in regular courses but mandatory for juniors in the Honors program.

The course was the brainchild of former KCD parent, Judy Miller whose Miller Family Foundation funded the original Artemis Fund with $10,000. The original endowment has grown, according to the, to more than $130,000.  Each group of students enrolled in the Philanthropy class replenishes and awards new monies to grantees.

The students gain valuable insight not only into the importance of stewardship to their community but they learn skills necessary to make their giving effective and sustainable. Past grant recipients have included Dare to Care, Americana Community Center, The Lincoln Foundation, and Visually Impaired Preschool Services.  

KCD Director of Development and course instructor Gentry Easley says of the students’ experiences in the Philanthropy class, “I think it’s very eye-opening to them when in a very short period of time we get upwards of 20 grant applications for a couple thousand dollars. It’s important for the students to see how much of an impact they can make with a small amount of money.”

National Air and Space Education Institute (Assumption High School)

Dr. Tim Smith, pilot, educator, and founder of the Air and Space Academy believed that helping kids apply STEM knowledge in the field of aerospace would deliver a well-trained workforce and help students discover a field they might never have considered. Assumption High School students have the exclusive opportunity to enroll in the Academy.

The program extends past Assumption High School to several high schools in Kentucky and Tennessee. Students from all of the programs get the opportunity to expand both their STEM knowledge and experience the world of aerospace. These students are in grades 9-12 and join a yearly academy-wide competition hosted in Somerset, Ky. Students can participate in flight training, design and engineering, restoration, and mechanics—all skills that will transfer to advanced aerospace learning or the workforce.

The operations base of the academy is at Bowman Field on Taylorsville Road, which is just a short drive from Assumption High School (2170 Tyler Lane)—an all-female Catholic learning environment.

Freshman, Alayna Breslin says of her experiences, “I have learned a lot about flying and engineering. I feel like it is a good program. I am really wanting to continue this program and learn as much as I can.”

The program is tough, and some of the students find learning so much new material complex but are eager to try new things. When asked what she’ll take away from her experience, Freshman Carly Crawford says, “I will remember how this has prepared me or at least exposed me to the tasks I will hopefully be performing in my future career.”

Theatre Program (Community Montessori)

“Montessori philosophy asks the adults to follow the child, wherever possible, and to nurture their independence,” says Hannegan Roseberry.

With that in mind and the knowledge that theatre exposure in children is, like many arts, key to unlocking intellectual curiosity in young people, Community Montessori’s theatre program does this a bit differently. Because of the nature of Montessori learning, this program is led by the students with guidance from Roseberry and Debi Cline both instructors at Community Montessori (4102 Saint Joseph Rd) in New Albany, Ind.

 “We have learners ages 12 – 18 involved with these productions, and we rehearse a fraction of the time that you would in a traditional program; they are asked to work as independently as possible until it’s time to pull the show together as opening night approaches. This is their theatre program, and they are expected to lead onstage and off,” says Roseberry.

Community Montessori students get experience in all the areas of theatre production.  This includes the marketing, set design, lighting and costuming. Students are given the opportunity control and decide how each performance should be presented. This offers them a unique opportunity to develop a good sense of their capabilities and maturity.

“The thing about theatre is that it is full of constant surprises. It’s always interesting for me to see how shows will play out because you never really know until it’s actually happening,” says Sophomore Lily Barnett, who has participated in the program for four years, acted in five productions and been part of the technical crew in two. She has spent her life at Community and hopes to take her experiences forward.

“Something I would take with me, after leaving, would be the friends I have made and the ability to go out into the world and inspire,” she says.

Manufacturing Technology Program (Doss High School)

Preparing young workers for future careers in manufacturing is at the core of a new partnership between Jefferson County Public Schools and Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT), with Doss High School (7601 Saint Andrews Church Road) as its home. The Manufacturing Technology program at Doss High School is part of a regional effort to cultivate individuals in nearby communities to fill a void in the more than 32,000 skilled technician positions that have been posted.

Students in this program learn valuable skills in machining and industrial technology. They are trained in a four-course major and provided hands-on learning experiences while working with local industries such as GE Appliances, Ford-Louisville Assembly Plant and Amatrol.

Students are also given the opportunity to earn two certifications, the National Career Readiness Certification (NCRC) and the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council – Certified Production Technician (MSSC-CPT) credential. The on-the-job training and certification help students get a leg up on entry-level manufacturing jobs.

The effort to train students at Doss High school in these types of careers is part of a regional effort to cultivate individuals in nearby communities to fill needed positions. The students are given highly desirable and employable skills that will help them as they go on to college and out into the workforce.

“At JCPS our core mission is to prepare students to graduate college and career ready,” said Dr. Donna Hargens, JCPS Superintendent, in a news release. “Combining national certifications with local, work-based learning experience and regional partnerships will prepare tomorrow’s workforce for the high-skilled, high-tech lucrative manufacturing careers of the 21st century.”

From the arts to sciences and everything in between, students across our area are experiencing education in new ways. Embracing technology and deep analytical processes, these students are sure to be well prepared to meet the future needs of Louisville and our country.




Erica is a professional freelance copywriter and technical editor. Her work has appeared in LEO Weekly, The Guide, Foxy Digitalis, Insider Louisville and Norton Healthcare's Get Healthy magazine. You can follow Erica on Twitter @ericarucker, but beware of honesty, activist outrage and nerdy live-tweeting.


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