PPHS preparing rising senior class to take a big step in their education

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Four years ago, Colten Lewis was a fledgling freshman starting a new school – a school that, at that time, had no track record. It was Purdue University’s grand experiment. Purdue Polytechnic High School is a unique charter school experience intended to offer hands-on education focusing on the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) areas.

Today, Lewis is a senior, and come spring, he will be part of a first: Purdue Polytechnic High School’s inaugural graduating class.

For Lewis, it has worked out just as one would map out the formative high school years. He entered thinking he wanted to be an engineer. At the moment, he is looking toward business and entrepreneurship. He credits the school’s hands-on opportunities for guiding him. 

The school has embraced his interest for management and entrepreneurship, letting Lewis and a fellow student work through the logistics of starting a school merchandise store later this year.

“I appreciate the freedom of the PPHS; it’s allowed me to do a lot of things,” he said. “Because of the flexibility in the schedule we have, it’s given me time for self-research and exploring various opportunities for myself.”

Lewis is one of about 130 seniors among the estimated 540 students enrolled at the downtown site at the beginning of the school year.

Purdue Polytechnic High School opened its first Indianapolis charter school in 2017 and its second in Indianapolis’ Broad Ripple neighborhood in 2019. The upcoming Purdue Polytechnic High School in South Bend will replicate the innovative model that has been serving students successfully in the Indianapolis area.

The seniors represent Purdue’s investment in the next generation’s education through the high school’s evolving facilities for its students and its connection to Purdue University.

Thirty of Purdue Polytechnic High School’s rising seniors spent four weeks on the West Lafayette campus this summer taking college-credit classes and learning about the university experience, part of Purdue’s ongoing efforts and strategy to increase the opportunities and access for underrepresented students to prepare, enroll and succeed in higher education and at Purdue.

In addition to the 30 visiting Purdue for the four-week session, the charter school’s senior class was busy with 12 students completing either internships or College Prep Academy at the University of Indianapolis over the summer. Another student earned a certificate in IT Security.

Overall, 18% of the upcoming seniors completed dual-credit courses.

As a senior, Lewis was among those students getting the university experience on the West Lafayette campus this summer. He plans to attend Purdue next year.

He said his time at Purdue Polytechnic High School has been a great experience, differing in many ways from what he hears from his friends at other secondary schools.

“Going to Purdue Polytechnic High School has shaped me into a person I may not have been if I’d gone elsewhere,” he said. “It’s given me the opportunity to explore career options and subjects that I really enjoy.”

Lewis has worked through his career plans with support from his teachers, helping him determine business as his biggest interest.

The Purdue Polytechnic High School has a 15:1 student-teacher ratio and works with more than 18 industry partners. It has eight athletic teams and six after-school clubs. SuPURDUEper, Purdue Polytechnic High School’s FIRST Robotics team, qualified for the national championships in 2019 in just its first year of competition.

“We have a lot of pride in our first graduating class,” said Shatoya Ward, founding principal of the first Purdue Polytechnic High School. “They are a testament to the success of this school both now and in the years to come.”        

A new home

After three years and two different learning locations, the school’s original group of freshmen are beginning this year at a new home. An event was held in July unveiling the former PR Mallory Building as the school’s new permanent home on the east side of Indianapolis.

“It’s been three years, and I’m very excited to have a home to graduate from now,” Lewis said.

The STEM-focused schools provide students with experiences including internships, industry projects, dual-credit courses and technical certifications.

Purdue Polytechnic High School’s academic year began Aug. 3 with a week of virtual classes. In-person classes started Aug. 10. Administrators plan to follow a hybrid model for the remainder of the school year.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 5 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at purdue.edu.

Writer, Media contact: Brian Huchel, 765-494-2084, [email protected]

Source: Charli Renckly-DeWhitt, 317-506-3250, [email protected]

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