The recently-announced turnaround plan for Salem High School will transform the school experience through Discovery Pathways, a focused sequence of courses in a variety of disciplines. The new Pathways are designed to equip students with strong content knowledge and the skills they need for post-high school success. A draft plan for Discovery Pathways is currently being finalized with input from a broad range of stakeholders including students, staff, parents and community partners.

Discovery Pathways allow students to identify their own interests, skills, and passions while learning in new ways and planning for their futures. Each Pathway offers a sequence of high school classes aligned with students’ career interests. For example, students can opt into Pathways in STEM, humanities and career technical education.

Beyond classroom activities, Discovery Pathways also include opportunities for community-based learning such as internships, college courses, career training and service learning. A capstone project allows students to integrate their learning into real-world scenarios and applications. The goal of the Discovery Pathways is to empower students to build their own futures while actively engaging in work that makes a difference in their community.

In grades 9 and 10, Discovery Pathways focus on developing the skills needed to succeed in high school, such as what it takes to be a scholar and daily habits that foster learning. Grades 11 and 12 shift to a focus on post-high school preparation, including career planning and college readiness. Pathways feature required learning experiences in the local community, as well as essential 21st century skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, effective oral and written communication, collaboration and teamwork, curiosity and imagination, initiative and goal-setting, and appreciation and celebration of diversity.

This past year, students took advantage of new learning experiences through Discovery Pathways, including Early College through Salem State University, Advanced Placement courses, a new science curriculum offering advanced courses in biomedical science and engineering design, a new Multicultural Club, and learning experiences in the local community. More than 75 students had internships at 30 local sites such as the YMCA, the Salem Police Department, the North Shore Medical Center and City Hall.

Londyn and Rachel are two Salem High School students who had internships this year. Londyn is a graduating senior who will move across the country to pursue her dream of traveling and practicing photography. She is currently interning with the Salem Planning Department, photographing historic and modern artwork throughout the city. Londyn posts the photos online and helped develop a digital walking map that will be available to the public. She has had a rewarding experience working independently and discovering the amazing art in our city. Londyn’s internship supervisor praises her work and her engagement with adults in the workplace.

Rachel is exploring a medical career and has completed two internships, first with the nurse at Carlton Innovation School and then at North Shore Medical Center. Rachel fell in love with the role and found out that she really enjoys working with children. She rotated between multiple departments at the medical center and experienced a wide range of nurse practitioner roles. Rachel’s internship supervisor described an inspiring experience: “I just brought Rachel to special care nursery for the first time here. There were several babies there with their moms. Seeing Rachel’s expressions and being in that moment, some would say was breathtaking, and it brought me joy.”

Internships offer opportunities for on-the-job learning in multiple ways, such as learning to negotiate the workplace, relationship development, and increasing confidence so students can thrive. Katherine Wilkins, internship and career readiness coordinator, reports that students have shown major gains in self-advocacy, trust building, managing complicated schedules and communication skills.

In 2019-2020, students will be able to participate in a variety of interesting and rewarding internships during the spring. An information session for community partners will be held in the fall of 2019. To learn more, email

The ultimate goal of the Discovery Pathways is for all students to be locally engaged, globally connected and fully prepared to thrive in a diverse and changing world. Salem High School looks forward to expanding the Discovery Pathways in the coming year and is excited about offering choice and student voice to the traditional program of studies.

This column was written by Barbara Crock, Salem High School redesign and leadership coach, and Emily Flores, Salem High School academic dean. This is one in a monthly series of columns from the Salem Partnership’s Community Advisory Board for the Salem Public Schools.

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