Accelerated learning courses prep metro HS students for college and career success

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. -- More than 2,000 students returned to Blue Springs High School on Wednesday bringing an end to summer break.

“I just think this year is going to be one to remember. It’s going to be really fun,” senior Sophia Marmelston said.

Marmelston has already been accepted into Kansas State University and plans to study engineering. She said the opportunities she got while attending Blue Springs set her up for success in college.

“Shadowing opportunities in the city, and I also did a Burns and McDonnell summer camp this summer, which is a great opportunity, and I’ve worked with the Society of Women Engineers,” Marmelston said.

Now, students with an interest in other disciplines will have similar opportunities thanks to a new partnership with UMKC. The Blue Springs School District is now offering pre-law and pre-dental classes.

“It’s for dual-credit through UMKC, so it counts as an honor point towards the student's GPA, and it can be taken for college credit to fulfill a career exploration elective through UMKC,” said Adam Higgins, Blue Springs High's pre-law teacher.

The pre-law class is something that’s been in the works since last year, and there’s a lot of interest among students.

“Last year, we actually had a mock trial team and had a class that was similar to this last year, and our team was able to advance to [the state competition] last year so we’re just now starting to build that,” Higgins said.

Higgins said he plans to bring in lawyers from the community to speak with students throughout the year and even give students mock L-SAT tests to prepare them for college and law school.

“If they’re touring a law school, if they’re working hands on with lawyers, with the type of work that they would be doing when they’re older, they are going to be able to get a flavor of it they like it or if they don’t,” Higgins said.

These accelerated learning course options are expanding not only in Blue Springs but also in other districts across the metro.

The Lee’s Summit School District has an Innovation Track program where students can earn up to 30 college credit hours in high school. The district has partnered with Metropolitan Community College and the University of Central Missouri for the program.

Over on the Kansas side, the Olathe School District’s 21st Century Learning Academy gives students the opportunity to choose from 15 different hands-on learning programs and earn college credit while in high school.

The academy is a four-year program that students apply for in eighth grade. School administrators say approximately 22 percent of high school students in the Olathe School District take part in this program.

Back in Blue Springs, administrators and students say they’re looking forward to the new school year and new course offerings that will set students up for future success in their careers.

“We’re just really excited to get it started and we hope for a great year,” Higgins said.