At the end of the 2015-16 school year the Department Chairs at Sandia Preparatory School, along with Dr. Cheryl McMillan, Assistant Head of School for Academics, began a discussion about incorporating more rigor into the existing curriculum. Sandia Prep always been known for it's very strong academics, however, we have never offered Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Philosophically, we have always resisted the traditional, prescribed nature of AP. So, throughout the rest of the spring and summer of that year, we set out to create a program that would provide an amount of depth and intensity equal to AP. The program was christened Odyssey Scholars. It is defined as: "... a special academic program designed to challenge and inspire our highest level students. The ideal Odyssey Scholar is one who is highly motivated, responsible, independent, innovative, and curious. Scholars will design a two year course of study for themselves that will include various forms of research, writing, observation, and hands-on activity, and will culminate in a major public presentation at the end of their senior year." You can see the full scope of the program here in the pages of this site.
In the fall of 2016 we began piloting the program with junior Madison Hochrein. We asked Madie to pilot the program for a variety of reasons, among which were her outstanding academic record and the personal characteristics that she embodied including responsibility, integrity, and independence. Madie also happens to be very interested in medicine as a possible career path but was also potentially interested in engineering research. So, as the school year began she formulated a thesis that became the driving force of her study--"How does engineering research inform medical practice?" Madie spent the year working with some engineers at Sandia National Laboratories who were working on cutting edge micro-needle technology to aid in battlefield diagnostics. She was able to interview and work alongside several professional engineers throughout the school year. We learned a great deal about the structuring and expectations of the program, and I think Madie learned a great deal about herself and her future.
By the end of the school year, through a fairly intensive application process, we had 4 bright new sophomores- Jake Blanchfield, Abby Crouch, Arianna Fernandez and Colin Miller-- who were ready to start their journeys. As we hoped, the passions that these kids bring to the table are varied and diverse. Entrepreneurial business, journalism that profiles those who find themselves on the fringe of mainstream society, how performing arts can be therapeutic for those on the Autism spectrum, and the psychology of adolescents who suffer from chronic pain or terminal illness. The kids are not only dreamers and idealists, but those who will make a difference in their world.