By Heather Collins
Instead of attending classes as usual, University High School students spent January delving into topics of interest through programs that included visits to Uganda, Hong Kong, France, Italy, Austria or elsewhere.
The UHS program, called January Term, gives students a three-week, in-depth, real-world look at topics such as genetics, “Dante’s Inferno” and sustainable living.
Brett Krieble, a Zionsville resident and assistant director of Learning Support Services at UHS, said the goal of the program is to expand the hearts and minds of UHS students.
UHS senior Becca Elliott said January Term is an amazing opportunity. During her freshmen year, she focused on making things by hand, such as cheese, soap and clothes, and visiting a local cheese factory and local independent stores. Her sophomore year, her January Term focused on the National Parks. She hiked the Smoky Mountains. During her junior year, she was certified as a wilderness first responder, which led her to a career path in recreational therapy.
This year, Elliott, Krieble, English teacher Wes Priest and nine other UHS students studied “The Effects of Media and NGOs on African Society: A Ugandan Service Trip.” During their adventure, they learned about the history of Uganda, the structure of nonprofit organizations, Ugandan conservation and wildlife and visited the Red Cross.
The last week of January, students traveled to Uganda, where they painted a preschool, peeled potatoes and fetched water alongside women from the Ugandan village of Laliya. They also cooked a traditional Acholi meal, met a man who was kidnapped and escaped the Lord’s Resistance Army, visited the Red Cross in Uganda and learned about the nonprofit organization Surface Uganda.
“J-Term really offers the experience of going deep into something that you are care about and really expanding your mind on something you really care about or maybe that you didn’t know you cared about until you take the class,” Elliott said.
Elliott turned 18 during the trip and had a birthday party on the Nile River surrounded by hippos, crocodiles and classmates.
Krieble, who proposed and led the trip, said the program helps students explore a topic they wouldn’t typically have time to explore in a traditional classroom setting.
“It impacted all of their lives,” Krieble said. “They all want to go back.”