Students put skills on display at Lawrence High School’s Innovation Expo

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Students in the district’s various career and technical education pathways got to put their work on display at the first annual Innovation Exposition Wednesday at Lawrence High School.

The 19 career pathways Lawrence Public Schools offer allow students to gain real-world experience in their desired career field. The exposition — which business teacher Kimberly Hawks said has been in the works since last fall — showcased the students’ yearlong projects. 

“Our goal as the staff was to give students a way to show off the hands-on projects that they’ve created,” Hawks said. “We wanted to be able to show their parents, the community and administrators what these kids are doing.”

The exposition highlighted work from students at all levels. All pathway students begin in introductory courses before enrolling in the technical level; after that, they’re welcome to enroll in application courses, which offer college credit and real-world experiences with mentorships and jobs. 

The pathways are organized into eight Plans of Study: Animal, Plant and Environmental Systems; Arts and Media; Business, Finance, Marketing and Management; Design; Production and Repair; Engineering and Technology; Health Science and Biomedicine; Hospitality and Tourism; and Human and Public Services.

“We have a lot of potential to reach a lot of kids with this message that, you know, in Career and Tech Ed, you learn skills, you have fun and it’s hands-on,” Hawks said. 

While some students sat in the hallway working on paintings and drawings, others passed out handmade desserts and snacks. More still played short films and animations, and a few took attendees’ blood pressure and explained the readings to their “patients.”

Rick Liljestrom, a junior, presented his mockup of a hydraulic-powered brace for those affected with spina bifida.

The idea, Liljestrom said, was inspired by his cousin Sabrina, who was diagnosed right after her birth. 

Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Junior Rick Liljestrom came up with an idea for a hydraulic brace that would allow people with spina bifida to walk. Liljestrom’s cousin was born with spina bifida, and although many cases are treated before birth, Liljestrom isn’t content with the treatment options available for those diagnosed later in life. His cousin has a wheelchair, which helps her move around, “but she wants to be able to play soccer,” Liljestrom said.

Although Liljestrom doesn’t plan to pursue a career in the medical field, he says he hopes to someday see his concept brought to life.

“We solve a lot more problems with less knowledge and more love,” Liljestrom said. “It’s good to know what you’re talking about, but if you don’t love people, or love what you do, you’re not gonna get there. Love is the answer.”

Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Sophomore Adele Erickson puts the finishing touches on a self-portrait.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Anna Anderson explains the process behind creating the exposition’s promotional graphic. Anderson, a senior, is graphic designer for The Budget, Lawrence High School’s newspaper, and she plans to attend the Kansas City Art Institute after graduation.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times A sneak peek of 2023 yearbook photos from Budget photographers Emily Hurd, Maya Smith and Maeslyn Hamlin was on display.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Superintendent Anthony Lewis takes a photo of Katelyn Hurd next to her crayon drawing. Hurd, a senior, plans to study performing arts at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in the fall.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times The exposition highlighted work from students within the Career and Technical Education program, which offers 19 career pathways divided into eight plans of study.
All pathway students start in introductory courses before advancing to the technical level. Upon successful completion of technical skills, students can enroll in application courses.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Morganna Haaga (left), Katelyn Hurd (center) and Emily Hurd admire some of the illustrations created by graphic designers.

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Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Chase Mondi explains the difference between systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings to Lewis. Mondi, a senior and highly decorated gymnast, is on track to attend medical school.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times The Health Science and Biomedicine pathway allows students to take a hands-on approach to a variety of medical professions. “The way this program allows them to take ownership of everything is just amazing,” said pre-med teacher Anitha Subramanian. “I couldn’t be prouder.”
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Aspiring pediatric nurse Naomi Rice (right) takes Marc Havener’s blood pressure. Rice, a junior, was drawn to the health sciences pathway because of her fascination with the human body and her love for children.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Junior Jerwin Rapada works on a charcoal drawing.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Oliver Strong, left, hands a chick to Brandon Parnell, a junior and designer on The Budget’s staff. Strong is a junior in the Animal, Plant and Environmental Systems pathway.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times The goats and rabbits were the spotlight of the animal science exposition.
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Chloe Anderson (she/her) contributed to The Lawrence Times from August 2022 through May 2023. She is also published in Climbing magazine, Kansas Reflector and Sharp End Publishing. As a recent graduate of the University of Kansas, Chloe plans to continue her career in photography, rock climbing and writing somewhere out West.

You can view her portfolio, articles and commissioned work here. Check out more of her work for the Times here.

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