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The start of the school year brings many new faces into the Waukee Innovation and Learning Center, but there are also a few familiar faces mixed in. Jacob Norrell, Ellie Casler, and Brady Turpen are all seniors at Waukee High School as well as returning APEX student associates this fall term. We wanted to take an opportunity to connect with them to see what made each of them elect to take another APEX course, and what their plans are for the future.

Jacob Norrell was enrolled in APEX’s Business Startup course last year. This year, he is currently enrolled in Architecture and Engineering as well as Exercise and Sport Science. When asked why he decided to take another APEX course, he responded “After my first term with APEX, I learned so much about the building, the staff, and the opportunities that are opened for me just by being a part of the program. This is what motivated me to come back and take more classes.” This semester, Jacob has chosen to be an online-only student, which, as he explains, has taken some getting used to mainly due to learning new technology. As far as his future plans are concerned, he shares “I am not entirely sure what I want to do in the future, but I am going to keep taking new classes to see if anything catches my eye and gives me the motivation to make it my career. I am looking forward to seeing what new doors are opened up to me through my experiences this term with APEX.”

The idea of taking APEX courses to explore possible career paths isn’t something that is unique to Jacob; in fact, many students choose to take one or more APEX courses with the hopes that they will be able to identify the right career path for them. Brady Turpen is amongst the group of returning APEX associates this term. Last year Brady chose to sign up for Designing Communication Solutions because he was interested in learning more about graphic design, communicating and collaborating with others, and working with clients on projects. He shared that, “I was pretty limited in these areas beforehand, and I had never worked with an actual client in the real world previously, so the fact that I was able to do this really opened up my eyes to what the future could hold for me outside of  high school.” Brady goes on to explain that he decided to take another APEX course so that he could continue to grow as a professional while also exploring potential careers in the business realm. These were the primary reasons why he elected to take APEX’s Business Startup course. As far as what he hopes to gain from his APEX experiences this term, Brady shares “I hope to get feedback on not only my current projects but also personal feedback that can help me improve as a business professional. I know that my work in the APEX program also helps better prepare me for college as well as a career.”

While some APEX student associates choose to explore very different career fields by enrolling in very different courses, some choose to take another course in the same sector. For example, Ellie Casler elected to take Exploration of Health Sciences and Medicine during her junior year because she has always been interested in patient care. Ellie shared that during her first APEX course she got to work with Heartland AEA and The Science Center of Iowa on two separate projects. Being a part of these experiences taught her valuable lessons about both the business and professional worlds. During her course, she had the opportunity to go to Mercy Hospital downtown once a week and work at the registration desk where she was responsible for escorting patients to their respective locations around the building. By doing this she was able to learn about the flow of the hospital and patient care. Ultimately, she elected to take another APEX course in the medical sector because she wanted to expand on the knowledge that she gained during her junior year. She explains, “I chose the Medical and Bioscience Research course specifically because I want to learn distinct skills used in the lab that I will need in college. Being in this course will also help me further expand my knowledge of medical careers. After APEX last year, I was left with a feeling of reassurance and excitement for my future after high school. I loved everything about APEX last year, and wanted to be able to experience more amazing opportunities.”

Since the APEX program started 6 years ago, 291 student associates have opted to take 2 APEX courses, 9 student associates have taken 3 courses, and 1 student has chosen to take 4 courses.  While it is always fun to get to know new student associates, it is also wonderful to welcome the returning student associates back to our program. We wish Jacob, Brady, Ellie, and all of our student associates a wonderful term with APEX!