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SOAR Spotlight

Health Science and Biotechnology SOAR Pathway Students Partner with Mercy Hospital

Lift For Life Academy's SOAR Program, offered to high school juniors and seniors, revolves around authentic and project-based learning experiences for students. The program’s mission is to graduate students from Lift For Life Academy who have a clear, career-based trajectory and have already begun to pursue that trajectory through direct involvement with the professional businesses and institutions of St. Louis. 

Students in the Health Science and Biotechnology SOAR Pathway students are interested in pursuing a career in healthcare and medical professions. Students experience what it is really like to work in the medical field through our unique opportunity to shadow medical professionals. This semester, six high school seniors in the Health Sciences track recently started online training for their PCA (Personal Care Assistant) certification. Once they complete a certain amount of online learning, students will work onsite at Mercy to receive 100 hours of in-person training.

Click on the video below to learn more about the partnership LFLA is developing with Mercy Hospital!

LFLA SOAR Partners with Mercy Hospital

Igniting the Joy

of Reading!

Elementary Literacy Initiatives

As part of LFLA’s literacy initiative, elementary school teachers have invited staff and parents to schedule a visit to be a guest reader for a classroom. Guest readers are encouraged to bring their favorite book to read to the students. Ms. Danielle Price, 4th grade teacher, invited Shakita Johnson, LFLA Middle School Student Support Specialist, to her room. Ms. Johnson brought “Stephanie's Ponytail” by Robert Munsch; the students were so excited to hear Ms. Johnson’s favorite book! “I love this book because it touches on so many topics from expressing yourself, respect for yourself and others, as well as the harms of bullying,” said Ms. Johnson. As Ms Johnson read, she would stop and ask questions to help students build up their comprehension skills; the students eagerly raised their hands to answer.  

“Students love having guests in the class!” said Ms. Price. “It really does not matter who the guest is, but when the guest is somebody from their families, it builds a strong home-to-school connection.” Creating the home-to-school connection is important in building a strong community and a culture where parents, students and staff understand that every person in our students’ lives contributes to their success.  Guest readers also help teach students the meaning of gratitude. “We talk about how we are appreciative and grateful for this adult who took time out of their day just to read a story to us,” said Ms. Price.

In addition to guest readers, LFLA elementary teachers have also implemented a reading incentive program called “Get Caught Reading.”  Students are encouraged to utilize their free time between lessons to read, and if they are “caught” reading independently, they can earn a “Golden Learning Ticket.” Tickets can be redeemed on Fridays during lunch for an array of prizes such as candy, chips, earrings, and more.

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Let's Debate!

Middle School Mock Trial

The 7th grade Ancient World Civics class put on a Mock Trial based around Ancient Mesopotamia, debating whether or not Hammurabi's Code of Laws are fair. Students used the primary source document to make arguments utilizing textual evidence. The mock trial was entirely student-run, and we had a student judge, bailiff, attorney teams, and jurors. Students prepared their arguments and demonstrated a wealth of knowledge of court proceedings as well as Ancient Mesopotamian law.

LFLA's High School Book Club:

Making Reading Cool Again

Last year, returning teachers had the opportunity to create a "passion project" during professional development to respark their passion for teaching and create new energy at the school. Teachers were encouraged to work together across different disciplines to discover what would reinvigorate them outside of their regular curriculum.

A group of teachers across content teams – two math teachers, one science, and one English – decided they wanted more opportunities for students to read for joy. Sara Redel, high school English teacher, said, “It felt like we were seeing a decline in students reading for fun on their own. We decided last year to start a book club and begin building that culture again.” A small group of students joined the book club in September 2022, meeting after school every two weeks at a local coffee shop near LFLA to discuss the book they read. This year, the club has more than doubled in size, outgrowing the coffee shop, and making use of a larger classroom at LFLA.

Ms. Redel chose the first book this year, “When You Look Like Us” by Pamela N. Harris.  “I read it was a top seller, and it features characters our students could relate to,” said Redel. Students also wanted to mix it up from the previous book, which was more fun mystery than a drama, with themes students can connect with from their own lives.

When You Look Like Us is a 2022 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work nominee and a 2022 Edgar Award nominee, about a boy who must take up the search for his sister when she goes missing from a neighborhood where Black girls' disappearances are too often overlooked.

Students and teachers in the book club set expectations together. Typically meeting every two weeks, “we decide as a group how many pages to read, usually we count how many weeks we have until a big break like Winter Break and divide the number of pages by how many weeks we have until the end of the semester.” said Redel.

“We started late this year, in October, so we decided to read about 40 pages a week this year to meet our winter break deadline.”

At the first meeting for this year, most students had read the assigned chapters, while some hadn’t had a chance to start it yet due to schoolwork and after school commitments. Leading the meeting, Ms. Redel encouraged students to make predictions about what would happen, based on what they had already read. Students eagerly jumped in and debated their predictions. Kobie P (11th grade) hadn’t had a chance to read the assigned chapters, but she got so excited from hearing her peers debate and talk about the opening of the book, she said, “I have to call out of work today so I can catch up! This book sounds too good!”  

Alison Owens, high school and elementary math teacher, said, “Years ago, kids read more. It was cool to get caught reading and kids enjoyed it. Hopefully if we make a big deal out of it, more people will want to be involved.” Another student who was in the room but not in the book club perked up and asked if Ms. Redel had another copy of the book so he could read it.

Just within the last year and a half of existence, the book club flourished, proving that at LFLA, reading is becoming the cool thing again.

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Scott R. Dolan


Tami Fernandez

Vice President

Kate Hatfield 


Brian Liberman


Ernest K. (Ernie) Banks

Dennis Cope

Sheila Gurley, Ed.S.

Beau Herndon

Mary Jo Liberstein, Ph.D. 

Mark Schweiss

Debbie Champion Snyder

Steven M. Stone

Gina Wischmeyer

Paige Fowler, Class of 2024

Student Representative

Tatyana Jones, Class of 2024

Student Representative



Tami Fernandez


Todd Taylor

Vice President

Scott Dolan


Erich Thurmann


Marshall Cohen

Susan Goldberg

Marylen Mann

Dr. Katrice Noble

Carol Staenberg



Marshall Faulk

Carla Scissors-Cohen


In Memory of John Mann


Marshall Cohen


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