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My name is Isabella Avilez, and I recently graduated from Waukee High School. This past spring I was enrolled in the Medical and Bioscience Research course with Dr. Holly Showalter. I had decided to take this APEX course due to my interest in science. When I elected to take this course I was considering going into medicine, but I also really wanted to see what other possible careers in science were available to me. APEX was an amazing experience, as well as one of the most valuable courses I took during my high school career.

APEX gave me the opportunity to participate in hands-on research. Some may not know that it is difficult to find hands-on research projects to participate in until you are 18; however, APEX gives you the chance to actively participate in research projects, regardless of age or previous experience. During my time in the APEX program, I was involved in the Tiny Earth project, which is a project that was created to discover alternative treatments for antibiotic-resistant bacteria. My group was the first official APEX group to participate in this project, thus we were paving the way for future groups. This gave us the true research experience, as we had little to no instructions, so we had to create our own effective procedure to grow and incubate soil bacteria. While this was frustrating at times, it really gave us an authentic research experience because we really had to create and experiment with our own methods. This proved to be a valuable experience in problem solving and critical thinking.

Another amazing thing about APEX is the opportunity to participate in cross-curricular projects. In the spring I was also participating in a composting project with the Animal and Veterinary Sciences team. For this project, we created our own compost bins with worms with the end goal of giving them to a local elementary school to educate them about composting. In this project, we researched how to create a compost bin, the required supplies, and the kinds of foods that were compostable. Once the supplies came in, we created the compost bins, added the worms, and took care of them to keep them healthy and encourage reproduction. We were given the responsibility to create a functioning compost bin, and it was up to us to do so.

APEX is a chance to take risks and to be independent. You find out quickly that it is okay to make mistakes because you always have the support and guidance of the instructors. To get better at anything sometimes you have to try things for yourself, and APEX gives student associates this opportunity. You are able to pave your own unique APEX experience in this program, rather than just following the textbook protocol. APEX is a wonderful experience that I would recommend to every high school student, as it gives you a chance to create your own aspiring professional experience!