Zoo School students smile on their first day of internships. Photo courtesy of Camryn Burcham

By Libby Mislan, 17′

According to a study by the University of Texas at Austin, students who feel like they don’t fit in are less likely to attend college. There are some students who feel like they don’t fit into the high school learning environment, but they continue in that setting because they feel that is their only option.

Those students who feel trapped in a traditional high school setting now have options to pursue different paths of education. Those options include Zoo School, The Police Academy and Columbus State, just to name a few.

Zoo School

Senior Camryn Burcham found a better fit with a non-traditional school option. Beginning her junior year, Burcham started attending a two-year program through the Delaware Area Career Center, also known as the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium School.

This program allows juniors and seniors to take classes in zoology, interact with the animals and learn from zookeepers as well as take other courses such as chemistry and statistics. Burcham spends her mornings at the zoo and her afternoons at the high school.     Going to school at the zoo offers a different type of learning environment for Burcham. She gets to have up-close experiences with exotic animals and learn first-hand what it’s like to be a zookeeper.

“I currently have an internship on Mondays, Wednesdays and every other Friday,” Burcham said.  “I’m in the Heart of Africa, so I’ll clean out the pools and prepare diets for the animals like storks or kudus or wildebeest.”

Through her time at the zoo, Burcham has had the chance to pet kudu, a crane and was even pecked by an ostrich.

“We had to bring the ostriches into a separate area because we wanted to work on the Savannah. I was driving one of the gators and the ostriches were following me because they’re naturally curious. I was just sitting there and the ostrich pecked my leg a few times,” Burcham said.

Burcham said that she would recommend this opportunity to anyone interested in a career related to zoos or animals.

“I’ve met so many new people and it’s such a great experience because I’m doing hands on stuff, and if I want to be a zookeeper or I want to work with animals this really helps me,” Burcham said.

Police Academy

Another unique option for a different type of education is taking courses at the Columbus Police Academy. Although students under the age of 21 can not officially begin training to become a police officer, they can participate in some courses offered by the academy during weeknights. Senior Issy Benammar started attending classes at the Police Academy this school year.                                                   

Students are instructed about situations like shootings, bomb threats and even learn how to arrest people. Instructors put students through life-like scenarios in order to test their skills and take them on ride-alongs to help them learn more about police work.

“We had to do a scenario where there was a gun in the car and people were drinking. It was our supervisors acting but it was still nerve wracking,” Bennemar said. “I was the first person to point out that there was a gun so that was pretty cool. I had to arrest my supervisor though and that was kind of awkward,”

Participating in a different type of learning environment has helped Benammar figure out what she would like to persue in a potential future career.

“I don’t want to necessarily be a police officer but I’m training to be either a private investigator, bounty hunter or a homicide detective. I definitely would recommend this program. It helps you narrow down what you want to do,” Benammar said.

College Credit Plus

Columbus State classes are another way to explore different education options. There is a program that allows students to take classes for half the day at Columbus State and half the day at Upper Arlington. This offers students the opportunity to earn college credit, save money, and learn in a different environment. Senior Ida Kegley is now taking classes full time at Columbus State.

“I never liked high school because it wasn’t my type of learning. I liked the teachers and my friends but Columbus State has really helped me realize what I want to do in life,” Kegley said.

Students in high school have to submit ACT scores or take the Compass test, a placement test for Columbus State classes, in order to qualify to participate in this program.

“Starting the second semester of junior year I did full time. I took 17 credit hours out of a possible 18. I was also doing my capstone through the high school so I would come in once a week to figure that out. It was hard but it was worth it,” Kegley said.

This program isn’t for everyone, but it may be a solution for people who feel trapped in the traditional high school environment.

“Some people are fit for high school. They have their friend groups and their learning styles and all that. Then there are people like me, who are not so good at school or they feel like they don’t exactly have a certain friend group and [for that student] it’s perfect,” Kegley said.

The traditional high school learning environment is not the best fit for everyone. Whether students think they want to become a cop, zookeeper, or aren’t sure quite yet, there are options out there that may be the best fit for them.