Indiana students discuss academics, college, and careers ahead of new school year

Central Indiana students are going back to school, which means they’re thinking about their expectations for this upcoming year. 

At the forefront of their minds are issues like their favorite and least-favorite classes, college and career preparation, and the quality of teaching they receive.

Several middle and high school students shared their thoughts with Chalkbeat about how excited they are by the prospect of returning to classes, and their hopes for the 2023-2024 year.  

The students Chalkbeat spoke to participated in and worked with programs at Horizons at St. Richard’s, a summer academic program devoted to education equity, and Summer Stock Stage, which organizes performances for young artists. They also worked with the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site’s annual Future Presidents of America camp.

In a Gallup and Walton Family Foundation report released in June, students nationwide in grades 5-12 gave their schools an average grade of C+ when it comes to exciting them about learning. The average overall grade they gave their schools, which included factors such as physical safety, inclusivity, and mental health support, was a B-. 

See what the students had to say below.

Camari Burr, Victory College Prep

As a rising seventh grader Burr thinks her charter school, Victory College Prep, is preparing her for the future. But she’s unsure how useful all of the lessons — such as the one in her math class about circumference — will be.

“We’re not going to use that in real life. It was like, unnecessary stuff. But I can see why they taught us that because just in case anything could happen,” Burr said. “We’re going to learn that at college, we’re going to learn that in high school, we’re going to learn that in middle school.”

Speaking of college, Burr said it’s not a matter of “if” but “when.”

“Of course I’m going to college,” she said. “I’m going to a HBCU. I’m going to be a lawyer when I grow up.”

As for this school year, she just hopes seventh grade is better than sixth grade. 

Tylan Hodgens, Paramount Brookside

Hodges wishes science classes at his charter school included more activities — like experiments — that might make him more interested in the subject.  

The Paramount Brookside seventh grader doesn’t feel especially well prepared academically for the next two years of middle school. But he’s confident in his future after high school. 

“I’m most definitely going to college,” Hodges said. “I don’t know what I want to do. I might play sports professionally. Or, I might be a lawyer.”

Camari Burr, left, and Tylan Hodgens. (Jade Thomas / Chalkbeat)

Zoey Kryder, North Central High School

Zoey Kryder is grateful she went to a relatively small middle school. But going into her freshman year at North Central in Washington Township, she’s excited for a larger, more diverse environment. She said she’s sure she’s chosen the right high school. 

Zoey Kryder. (Courtesy of Zoey Kryder)

“I’m pretty confident North Central will prepare me for the career that I want, just because of the different types of diplomas you can get there,” she said. “I want to get the IB, International Baccalaureate.”

Kryder said that graduating from Center for Inquiry School 70,  which is an International Baccalaureate school, has given her the skills she needs to succeed at North Central, including note-taking and frequent presentations. And she first became interested in biology because of the dissections she did at CFI 70. 

Right now, she hopes to be a dentist. Kryder said that goal changes often, however.

“I always go back and forth like, anesthesiologist, dentist, lawyer,” she said. “It’s usually those top three. Each month I kind of switch which ones I want to be. This month it’s dentist.”

Aleigha Bailey, Arsenal Technical High School

Bailey, a rising sophomore at the Indianapolis Public Schools high school, hopes she gets better at not just getting to know her teachers, but overcoming her reluctance to get support from them.

“That’s one of my biggest problems. I don’t like asking for help,” Bailey said.

Bailey said she feels confident in her school’s ability to prepare her for the future, especially with the amount of career programs offered, like nursing. She hopes to one day be a pediatric nurse.

She wants teachers to know that “not everybody learns the same, or at the same pace.”

Justice Harris, Ben Davis High School

Harris, who is about to start his junior year, said his school prepares students well for “typical jobs.” But Harris is interested in the performing arts, which doesn’t necessarily fall into that category.

“The career I want to go in isn’t what you consider to be typical,” he said. “Like with acting, and musical theater and everything, it’s more risky. My school really prepares for jobs that bring in the money and like, more logical jobs.”

The Wayne Township student’s ambitions deal with things outside the classroom. 

“I just want to pass my classes, honestly. I have goals for myself. I want to start driving soon. I do want to get a job. But mainly just passing classes and getting my credits.”

Aleigha Bailey, left, and Justice Harris. (Jade Thomas / Chalkbeat)

Nina Abel, Zionsville Community High School

Abel is heading into her senior year at Zionsville Community High School. The pandemic started during her eighth grade year, which meant that most of her freshman year was spent online. She thinks her high school has been preparing her well for the future, but she wishes the academic requirements weren’t so restrictive. 

“We have Core 40 and I’m obviously going to need simple math and stuff like that,” the 17-year-old said, referring to Indiana’s course and credit requirements. “But just having required classes and a required pathway to take, it’s like, I would rather be doing so much else with my time.”

Nina Abel. (Jade Thomas / Chalkbeat)

Abel wants to pursue theater, and fills her schedule with school, work, show choir and musicals. Going into the new school year, she just wants teachers in Zionsville Community Schools to be understanding. 

“I’m going to be going through, like college applications and college auditions for musical theater,” Abel said. “And so it’s just a lot to keep track of, and a lot to handle with additional schoolwork. I’m not saying like, let us off easy, but I’m saying like, understand when we can’t get something in at a specific time.”

Jade Thomas is a summer reporting intern covering education in the Indianapolis area. Contact Jade at