Local Spotlight: Purdue Polytechnic High School’s Dream Big Academy

Imagine turning education from a tedious experience to an immersive passion-driven experience for your teen? Flip the switch from telling them what they should be learning to allowing them to identify their interests and engaging them in real-world experiences to further develop their knowledge and skills.  

Purdue Polytechnic High School (PPHS) is doing just that with their new Dream Big Academy, a summer intensive program for incoming 8th grade students. Dream Big aims to help students explore their passions with support of a local mentor, allowing them hands-on experience and a chance to develop professional connections. PPHS knows having supportive adults in their corner increases the likelihood students will ultimately succeed in school and graduate.  

If a participant is interested in photography, PPHS will match them with a local photographer to mentor and guide them in running their own studio. Or if the child is interested in technology and gaming, they might be paired with a local expert to create their own app. The possibilities are only limited by the students’ imagination.  

 Dream Big was the brainchild of Ronni Moore, principal of PPHS North. “She noticed how engaged and excited students were when they had voice and choice in their own projects and experiences,” says Charli Renckly-DeWhitt, director of communications, marketing & recruitment. “Ronni and her team at PPHS North have been really dedicated to procuring resources and partnerships to make [Dream Big] happen!”  

The Dream Big Academy isn’t a completely new idea for PPHS — they have been placing an emphasis on immersive project-based learning since their founding. As a public charter school, PPHS is focused on increasing the number of students from underrepresented backgrounds who will pursue STEM degrees from Purdue University. “Dream Big is our way of taking the project-based, authentic learning approach we know our students love and offer it to students outside PPHS,” Renckly-DeWhitt says.  

 PPHS hopes to eventually expand Dream Big to all three of their campuses (Englewood, North Indianapolis and South Bend) at a larger scale. “We know that giving students the opportunity to experience working with an industry expert can really impact their future in a positive and exciting way,” Renckly-DeWhitt says. “We’d love to be able to reach more students and empower them to follow their passions and see themselves as what they are: the next generation of innovators, problem-solvers and change-makers.”  

Applicants to Dream Big Academy are accepted on a first-come first serve basis, so interested families are encouraged to apply right away; applications close in early May.  Participation is free of charge. For Academy updates, visit pphs.purdue.edu or follow the PPHS Facebook page at facebook.com/PurduePolyHS.  

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