Entering high school is more than a milestone. It’s a time when students start to seriously explore their career path and life goals. For Laurel Springs students, entering high school can also be a transformative experience when they decide to participate in the Minerva Baccalaureate program. This is a four-year curriculum available to Academy scholars who wish to elevate their high school education and benefit from an online, collaborative learning environment designed to drive real-world application of academic knowledge.
This year, 28 trailblazers entered the program during its debut year. These ninth graders will continue in this cohort for the next four years—the remainder of their high school career. We wanted to check in with these pioneering families to see how they’re progressing in the first month as part of the Minerva Baccalaureate program.
Deep in the heart of El Paso, Texas, Julia Payne and her family were researching different schooling options. “We were looking for rigorous online high schools, and Laurel Springs was already at the top of our list.” After reading reviews and learning about the diverse curriculum, they came across information about the Minerva program. It seemed to check all the boxes of the educational experience they were looking for. “I wanted something academically rewarding and challenging. I wanted one-on-one time with my teachers and the chance to know my classmates. Most of all, I want to understand every subject thrown at me to the fullest.”
Excelling Outside the Box
Compared to her time in a brick-and-mortar school, Julia couldn’t think of many similarities to her current situation. “In my former classrooms, I felt very isolated from my classmates. I sometimes felt attacked or solitary. In these classes, everyone is trying their hardest and reaching for their potential…the Minerva program is more interactive. Physical schools have more structure but this program has much more to offer. Though this is a rigorous course, I think that students enrolled here will [find] that education is much more than grades.”
Not only does the program differ in the way students are assessed by using Learning Outcomes, it also challenges them to think beyond the subject matter itself. “I am staying up late thinking about how semipermeable membranes are all around me and where they are used by humans. I stare into space thinking about how literary context applies to my own writing. These kinds of things excite me, they are invigorating. This is a challenge that I have been waiting for and I will not waste it.”
Personalization On, Pressure Off
Students enrolled in the Minerva Baccalaureate program still benefit from the flexibility and personalization any student at Laurel Springs receives. “For all eight years that I have been at school so far, I have never had personalized learning. It’s almost like having your own personal tutor…the flexibility allows me to make time with my family and for myself. I have many hobbies and enjoy catching up on all of them. My family is usually very busy but with this schedule, I can have fun with them and finish my work on time.”
In addition to being rigorous, interactive, and invigorating, Julia also classifies her Minerva experience as relieving. “I feel like an enormous social pressure has been lifted off my shoulders and I can focus on things that actually matter to me. I wanted to learn, but I felt like people were there to push against that. I am so excited to be in a place that does not have that feeling of agitation or malice. Excited does not even touch the feeling, actually.”
We’re more than excited to see how well Julia does throughout her time at Laurel Springs and how far the Minerva Baccalaureate program takes her in the future.