The Olathe School District’s 21st Century Academies are pitched as incredible opportunities for students in high school that open doors and prepare you for college. Some would agree with the positive stigma around academies, while others say it’s unrealistic to pick a high school curriculum in 8th grade and stick with it all throughout high school.
North is home to the Geoscience, Distinguished Scholars, Sports Medicine, Animal Health, and Medical Professions academies. Are these academies essential to success, or is it better to drop academies when/if you lose interest? It depends on who you’re asking.
Sophomore Audry Palma dropped out of Medical Professions last semester, after completing freshman year and half of sophomore year. “My main motive for dropping out was that I would have mental breakdowns constantly, and I would cry and stress out all the time over the program.” Palma described how “it was really hard for me not to cry on test days, when I actually studied and still didn’t know what was going on.”
Palma continued detailing how Medical Professions just wasn’t for her, stating “Medical Professions didn’t make me lose interest in my dream career, but it did make me realize I need to work harder to succeed.” This is just one of many students’ accounts of being in Medical Professions, but not all are negative. Nipam Rival is a Medical Professions Academy student who enjoys being in the academy.
“Medical Professions has really helped me understand the microbiology that is hidden behind the macro! It has given me a new understanding of science and research. I think it really helped me discover what I was truly interested in,” Rival said.
Another student, who chose to be anonymous, dropped out of Distinguished Scholars. “The program was nothing like I expected it to be. It felt like a lot of work with no real reward. The program didn’t feel like it was helping me figure out what I wanted to be or help me to become what I may want to be, but more of just another set of classes to look good on my mediocre GPA later in life.” Ashley Honey is a current senior in Distinguished Scholars Language Arts, who transferred out of Medical Professions during her freshman year. “Medical Professions is a great academy, but it just wasn’t for me. I walked into DSLA and I knew it was for me, it wasn’t like that with Medical Professions,” Honey said.
Lydia Pierce is a former Animal Health student, having dropped out and transferred schools after freshman year. “I wasn’t entirely committed to staying in Animal Health all four years…even though at the end of the day my heart was still passionate about Animal Health.” Pierce went on to describe the high standards that must be met in Animal Health, and how it became stressful at times
“Being in Animal Health opens up a lot of opportunities, but isn’t for everyone. It requires a lot of persevering and pushing to stay in.” Pierce is now a sophomore at Spring Hill High, and is finding success in activities outside of 21st Century Academies.
An anonymous student who is in an academy they chose not to name adds, “It isn’t what I expected when I joined the academy. The only reason I’ve stuck with it is so that I can stay at North.” The student continued, “I don’t think it’s a teaching problem, but it’s a curriculum problem for sure. I am considering dropping out, since I’ve seen my friends drop out and they’re doing fine now.”
“I felt trapped in my old program but luckily I was able to transfer to a program that I now love,” Honey concludes.