The Future Looks Bright for Biotech

By the IEEE Life Sciences Staff

BTHS is the newest member of the Monmouth County Vocational School District's (MCVSD) Career Academy Division. MCVSD Academies are a collection of theme-based public schools that are open to all 8th grade students who want to apply in Monmouth County, NJ. The admission process is extremely competitive, with only 80-85 students accepted into the program each year out of the many that applied throughout Monmouth County. BTHS emphasizes scientific research, critical thinking, problem solving, technology and team work in the growing field of Life Sciences. 85% of the 2011 graduating class continued this path by selecting majors such as biological sciences, physical sciences, engineering and pharmacy in their respective colleges.

Dr. Eno, the principal of BTHS, has been at the helm of the school since its inception in 2005, which had an initial class of 60 students and 7 faculty members. They moved from a temporary location in Neptune to a newly constructed building in Freehold in January 2006. BTHS now has 320 students across 9-12th grades, and 27 faculty members. Dr. Eno is especially proud of her faculty team, whom in her opinion, is "world class" with several members bringing either industry or higher-learning to the classrooms. These faculty members are dedicated and hard-working, preparing these students, who are already high achievers, for life beyond high school with an environment that fosters learning without boundaries. As Dr. Eno noted "we consider goggles a fashion statement around here!"

When you walk around BTHS, you will immediately notice that the first floor is filled with laboratory classrooms, including two large 3000 sq. ft. classrooms for instructions and experiments, and a brand new tissue culture lab. Exposure to laboratory training gives these high school students a jump-start in the area of research should they choose to pursue that later on.

Besides Biology, Chemistry, and Physics classes, students have the usual mathematics, English, history, and world language requirements. Students are also required to take a Theory of Knowledge course and an Ethics course. BTHS believes in developing thoughtful and global thinkers, who has the ability to wrestle with controversial issues, which they are likely to encounter if they continue in the Life Science field.

BTHS is an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School. Courses are all taught at honors level in grade 9 and 10, and beginning in grade 11, students are IB Diploma Candidates. The IB curriculum requires students to take six IB courses, three higher level and three standard level, write a 4000 word senior thesis, and complete 150 creativity, action, and service (CAS) hours. In addition, students must achieve superior scores on externally assessed exams, projects, and essays, and complete a science-based senior internship. Earning an IB diploma is recognition that the student can handle the management and commitment of this intense program. IB learners are encouraged to be inquirers, thinkers, communicators, risk-takers, knowledgeable, principled, caring, open-minded, well-balanced, and reflective. Dr. Eno said for this year, the theme for BTHS is "balance". The goal is for students to find a balance. It's not just about grades and academic achievements, but having a physical, mental, and emotional balance for personal well-being.

To support that, BTHS students have an open 50-minute period each day. During that 50-minute, they can eat lunch, attend club activities, or just hang out. Students can explore their creative side through drama club, music club, and yearbook club. At the end of the school days, student athletes are bussed back to their home schools to participate in sports. For each of the past two years, a BTHS graduate was awarded a full athletic scholarship to a Division I school, a remarkable feat given the academic demands of BTHS. Dr. Eno stresses that this accelerated and focused program is not for everyone. Every 8th grade student looking to apply to the school must come to a mandatory 2-hour information session. It's critical for the prospective students to understand the focus of the curriculum, to hear from current students, and to reflect and ask themselves if this is the right program for them. There are aspects of a full high school experience that one will miss as a student of BTHS, but to these students, they are thriving and loving the world class educational experience at BTHS.

IEEE Life Sciences was fortunate enough to visit the Biotechnology High School, located in Freehold NJ. We want to thank Dr. Eno and her staff for providing a warm welcome, and for taking the time to give us a glimpse of the school.

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