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My name is Avery Rowling, and I am a junior at Waukee High School. This year, I have had the pleasure of being a part of the Exploration of Exercise and Sports Science team with Andrew Briggs as my instructor. The first time I heard about APEX was when I was planning my schedule for junior year. My counselor gave me a course guide, and I found all of the different APEX class options. At the time, my heart was set on being a nurse, so when I saw the CNA class, I knew I wanted to take it. Once it got closer to the class’s start date, each person who signed up was given different forms to fill out in order to prepare for the class. A few of these forms required a doctor to approve you taking the course. Unfortunately, my doctor did not due to some extenuating circumstances. I still wanted to take an APEX class, so I emailed my counselor to see which other classes I could switch to. I got the choice between Exploration of Exercise and Sports Science and Business Startup. I was still interested in the health field, so my choice was obvious. I was now going to be enrolled in the Exercise and Sports Science course.

I wasn’t really sure exactly what the class would entail, but after the first day, I had a pretty good idea. We would be focusing on career exploration in a host of different professions. These include physical therapy, personal training, chiropractic, dietetics, and many more. This was exciting for me because I had never really thought about these different careers. That was not the only exciting part of APEX, though. The environment was something completely new to me. They focus a lot on professionalism which was a welcome change. Here, the students typically wear professional dress or they will dress according to their field. For example, our team switched between professional and workout attire. They also emphasize the importance of connection and equality. Many instructors choose to be called by their first name and they always make an effort to treat the students as equals.

This course has allowed me to narrow down my list of potential career interests. I got to shadow a few different professionals of my choice. This included shadowing with a health coach. Health coaches usually help aid in weight control, meal planning, and exercise regimens. This shadow helped me discover that this field is something that I want to pursue. I loved seeing the clients meet their goals and more importantly knowing I could help them. I would have never even heard of this as a career if it weren’t for the exposure I gained through APEX.

In this course, you also get assigned projects according to your area of interest. One of the projects I worked on was with a non-profit organization called CanPlay Sports. They are a youth sports league that offers opportunities for low-income families and kids with disabilities to get active. I worked with them to get their program flyers translated into the many languages used in our community. This involved communicating with the different schools both in-person and over the phone. This allowed me to gather information on the most common language barriers in each school. I eventually presented this information to the program directors. This project was really interesting because I got to interact with parts of my community that I usually would not. This helped me gain perspective on the different struggles language barriers can cause and how to help those struggling with them.

I also worked on another project with Train to Inspire. They throw many events each year for people with all levels of disabilities. They needed some help coming up with event ideas and accommodations. My partner and I worked with them for 3 months to help come up with detailed event plans that would be inclusive to everyone with every level of ability. We not only came up with an extensive list of ideas including accommodations for each event, but we also directly reached out to many facilities we were hoping to use during our events. This project required a lot of critical thinking in order to accommodate our ideas and be a fresh perspective. In the end, it was super rewarding to see an event be nearly ready to implement. Not only that, but my work on this project really improved my email and public speaking skills.

The APEX program opened my eyes to the professional world and all of the great opportunities that come with it. My experience in the program was immensely rewarding and helped in my transition to the adult world. The connections I have made during my time in APEX continue to bring new experiences my way. I am beyond grateful for the opportunities I have had while in the program and the skills I have acquired along the way.