A group of ambitious Heritage High School students helped to start a STEM program that officially kicked off this school year.
STEM or Science Technology Engineering and Math is the buzz word in education in recent years and Heritage students didn't want to get left behind.
"I want to be a neurosurgeon," said Heritage Senior, CJ Williams. He is part of the group who helped to founded the STEM program.
"We saw that it could really help our futures. For what we're wanting to do we could gain a lot out of it. If we could get it established, it would at least help kids behind us," said Williams.
With the support of the faculty, the students helped to plan, get the word out, and gain approval of the Blount County School Board. That meant a lot of after school hours, "coffee shops and Saturday mornings and after school. Whatever we can do to meet the student need," said school counselor Brad Rasmussen.
While many of the founders are seniors this year and won't see all of the benefits of the program, they've made it their project to see it off the ground. Rasmussen said they will also receive a special STEM diploma for their efforts.
With a sucessful pilot year behind them, this school year the program is in full swing with two options for STEM students: Health Sciences and Engineering. They plan to add Agriculture Sciences.
The program allows students to learn outside of a text book with activities including artificially inseminating a cow, interning in a hospital, and coming up with their own scientific research project.
It's a change in approach that administrators believe will show a change in students.
"We think the scores are going to go up, the students morale, the whole environment is changing because of this," said Rasmussen.
The school has seen more interest than they anticipated. They currently have about 250 students participating in some form. Students have even transferred from other schools to take part.
"It makes you feel good to be at a school that's offering these kinds of things. Especially being a part of getting those things together. It's groundbreaking," said Kris Molinari, a senior.
Heritage High added two new positions dedicated to STEM studies as well as new equipment for labs.
About 25 faculty members take part in the program.