Mehlville MyPath customizes learning so students can design what to study

Pictured above: The Mehlville MyPath students who presented March 8 pose with administrators and representatives. Front row, from left to right: Rep. Bob Burns, D-Affton, Jasper Hong, Sarah Buck and Mehlville MyPath teacher Jennifer Sikich. Back Row, from left to right: Mehlville High School Assistant Principal Andrew Ross, Vincent Troskey, Edi Maumutovic, Kyle Flowers, Emma Davis and Superintendent Chris Gaines.

By Erin Achenbach
Staff Reporter
eachenbach@callnewspapers.com

Mehville High School students participating in the Mehlville School District’s MyPath personalized learning program praised its role in helping them make career and college choices while giving an overview of their work this semester.

The district hosted a MyPath showcase at Mehlville High School on May 7. Two students from each high school, Oakville and Mehlville, gave presentations about their projects. Other students in the program set up booths showcasing their work.

Earlier this spring, 16 MHS students presented their projects to an audience that included teachers, Mehlville administrators and state legislators. MyPath is the district’s program that gives students the opportunity to design their own curriculum and classes and even work with professionals in certain industries.

In the audience at the March 8 presentations were Superintendent Chris Gaines as well as state Rep. Bob Burns, D-Affton.

Jennifer Sikich, a MyPath teacher at Mehlville, said that the program gives students the opportunity to explore different career paths prior to graduating and spoke about how resilient students can be when “something doesn’t go how they thought it would or they change their mind on something, and luckily they change their minds now and not when they’re paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in college.”

Samantha McKeown was one such student that changed her mind as she went through the MyPath program. In fall 2018, McKeown was focusing her MyPath coursework on theatre and costume design, but realized that she preferred those things as a hobby rather than a career choice. The Mehville senior decided to pursue law this semester and has begun to intern with two attorneys who work with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

“I’m trying to figure out and work with different people and research different types of law. My whole goal is to try to find three to four different types of law that interest me the most,” said McKeown.

Jasper Hong’s MyPath studies have centered on the Sea-Phages project, a project based out of the University of Pittsburgh where bacteriophages, called phages, are collected to have their DNA studied. Phages are viruses that infect and replicate in bacteria and archaea and can be used to treat bacterial infections as opposed to antibiotics.

As part of his MyPath, Hong works in a lab at Webster University with Associate Professor Mary Preuss, the chair of the Biological Sciences Department.

Last year, Hong found a phage by taking a sample of soil from Mehlville High School grounds and separating the phage from other bacteria. Although phages are not living, they contain DNA, which can be separated from the phage through a cycle of machines. From there, the phage is sent to the University of Pittsburgh’s phage database.

“Before I went over to Webster I spent a lot of time researching colleges… My professor has been a big help in helping me choose what program I want to do,” said Hong. “I’m very thankful for her.”

Edi Mahmutovic and Vincent Troskey worked together last semester by participating in the Gateway Arch Design Challenge for high school and college-level students. Students were challenged to find a solution to the glare caused by the summer sunset in the Arch’s new visitor center.

Mahmutovic and Troskey came up with a solution that would deploy solar mesh sheets, similar to wind screens, to reduce the glare during sunset. While the pair’s design was not named a winner, the two said that the experience taught them a lot and they appreciated the opportunity.

This semester, Mahmutovic sat in on a circuit loop systems class at Washington University in St. Louis. The senior plans on studying environmental engineering at Washington University this fall and is also working on a T-shirt cannon as part of his MyPath project this semester.

“All of these students, like I said already, they are so involved in so much at school and this (MyPath) is just one more thing that we’re proud of,” said Sikich.