Frederick High graduating first biomedical class

Originally published in the Longmont Times Call >>


Frederick High senior Trinity Lyles counts standing on a table and dropping fake blood to imitate blood spatter during a mock death investigation as one of her most memorable academic experiences.

The experience as a freshman in Frederick’s Biomedical Science Academy also helped spark her interest in a possible career as a medical examiner. Her plan is to start at Front Range Community College in Longmont in the fall, then transfer to the University of Colorado Boulder.

But first, there’s high school graduation to celebrate.

“We made it,” said Lyles, one of 14 seniors in Frederick High’s first class graduating from the Biomedical Science Academy. “I’m so, so ready.”

Altogether, about 2,250 St. Vrain Valley seniors are graduating in the class of 2019, most on May 25, and many are starting college or careers a step ahead.

All of St. Vrain Valley’s comprehensive high schools offer a slate of honors classes, mainly Advanced Placement, that may qualify for college credit.

Then there are a slew of specialty classes and programs, from STEM programs to a leadership academy to vocational classes. The district also is in its third year of offering a P-TECH, or Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools, program at Longmont’s Skyline High, while Frederick will begin offering the P-TECH program in the fall.

For Frederick High’s biomedical program, teacher Mark Allen started with a freshman class four years ago after the assistant principal decided it would make a good focus program for the school.

“The seniors, they’re my babies,” Allen said. “They’ll always be my favorite class because they’re the first. I’m excited for what they’re accomplishing. I want to think this has helped them find their niche.”

Freshmen start with an introduction to biomedical foundations using a curriculum from Tufts University, then take a class each year with a different theme. Along with working with Tufts University, Allen works with the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and Colorado State University’s medical engineering program to provide college-level experiences for students.

“One of the biggest goals is for us to give the students a chance to really see all the different careers,” Allen said. “They can explore and try new things.”

For their culminating project, the seniors chose a medical topic, researched it and gave TED-Ed talks to the community. Topics included the effects of cell phones on the body, antidepressants, physician-assisted suicide and antibiotic resistance.

“I love this class,” said senior Kaiya Lindhardt, whose goal is to become an ER or flight nurse. “It was a fun way to learn the information and having this experience will help a ton in the future.”

Classmate Payton Wallace said she appreciated the opportunity to explore more career options while still in high school.

“It really did prepare us for college,” said Wallace, who is headed to Northeastern Junior College with plans to earn an associate’s degree and potentially become a dental hygienist

Another advantage, the seniors said, was that their biomedical classmates became like family.

“As a class, we got so connected,” Wallace said. “It’s going to be exciting to see where everybody goes after high school.”

They said the only downside is the biomedical classes are considered electives and opportunities to earn college credit are limited.

Allen said adding opportunities for students to earn college credit or even having the classes weighted similar to honors classes to boost students’ GPAs has been one of his biggest challenges. So far, the only opportunity is for seniors to earn bioengineering college credit from CSU.

Still, they said, the program was well worth their time.

“We’ve learned so many different things and about so many different jobs,” said Ashley Morgan, who is going into the Navy as a hospital corpsman, then planning to go to college to become a pediatric nurse. “It opens up so many opportunities.”