DANVERS — Danvers High is poised to launch new programs in the fall designed to prepare students for potential careers in health care, business, and high tech. 

The high school is one of 11 in the state, and the only one on the North Shore, picked by the Baker administration for the Innovation Pathways program. For students, it means more hands-on classes or real-life experiences that could steer them toward a specific career. 

In the fall, Danvers High will start offering pathways in business and finances, environmental and life sciences, health care and social assistance, information technology, and manufacturing. When fully enrolled, the programs can serve 480 students — a little more than half the student body. About 920 students are enrolled at Danvers High this year. 

In the pathways, students will take Advanced Placement classes and Project Lead the Way courses, the latter having an emphasis on hands-on learning in a technical field like engineering.

It's not a complete overhaul of the high school curriculum, said AP Physics teacher Will Black. Instead, the pathways will give students a way forward in an area of interest, which could result in certifications, advanced coursework, college-level or AP classes, plus hands-on work.

"We do have a population in the school that is already following their own informal paths," said Black. "So, we have students already doing that work. But, we just want to make that opportunity wider for everybody in the school to be able to follow a structured route in an area that is of interest to them, and then ultimately that can aid them after high school." 

Paul Vecchione, who teaches physics and engineering, said Project Lead the Way courses are popular. Principles of engineering, a class introduced last year, has attracted 75 students, including junior Max Rudin. 

"I love it," said Max, 16, who is building a mobile cart for his teacher after learning about simple pulleys and levers.

Vecchione said the pathways will allow kids who have an interest in an area like engineering better understand which courses they need to take.

Students will also be able to go on internships or undertake capstone projects for their senior year. 

The school is partnering with the MassHire Northshore Workforce Investment Board to provide students with labor market information, connect with businesses and help teens "build up to be ready for internships," said Mary Sarris, the Salem agency's executive director.

For the school, the Innovation Pathways designation means a $10,000 grant, which Principal Jason Colombino said will be used toward teacher stipends and planning.

'More about whole industries'

Business teacher and DECA club adviser Meghan Beaulieu said the pathways are less specific than those at technical schools, where students work directly in a trade.

"This is more about the whole industries, so they get to see all the different fields in the industry, all the different opportunities," Beaulieu said. 

While the new programs won't start until the fall, students are already getting a sampling. Sophomore Ana Navarro, 16, is enrolled in a biomedical course this year. 

"I love medicine and health care and in the future I would love to get into that area," Navarro said, adding that it's given her more insight into what she could do than the standard freshman biology course. 

So far, she's learned about becoming a phlebotomist, a hematologist or a crime scene investigator. 

"There is so many more topics that you can do other than (becoming) a doctor or a nurse," Navarro said. "There's so many cool opportunities. And, with the class, you are more hands on. It's not just taking notes. You do a lot of labs, and you do a lot of, more like, hands on, more tactical ... We are actually doing a dissection tomorrow with a sheep's heart."

Her teacher, Kristin Augulewicz, said this course will be the first step in the health care and social assistance pathway, which will be followed by human body systems focused on anatomy.

Incoming ninth-graders will get an overview of the pathways, so they can decide if they want to pursue one by the end of their freshman year. The pathways fit with the high school's liberal arts education, Colombino said, and won't affect graduation requirements.

"It's really taking three or four courses in a broad industry area like health care or manufacturing and having that advisory and college planning, and then also being able to take a couple of college-level classes, too," Colombino said.

Senior Shelby Johnson, 17, said she did not have the benefit of the business pathway, so she, by chance created her own.

In her freshman year, she joined DECA, which is focused on entrepreneurship and business competitions. DECA opened her eyes to an interest in business. It wasn't until her junior year that she took the business-focused courses DECA II, introduction to business and AP Statistics. Her senior year, she took AP Economics. 

"Even though we didn't have these pathways set in, DECA kind of put me on a track," she said.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.