Traditional forms of classroom learning — textbooks, homework, studying core subjects — set the academic foundation upon which a student can mature intellectually. However, advancement to the next level, in which a youth determines and hones vocational interests, requires hands-on learning. Thanks to a Nellie Mae Education Foundation grant, Meriden high schools now offer individually tailored courses of study for students to explore real-world professions.Maloney and Platt high schools recently began Personalized Learning Experience programs. One teacher at each building spends time every day managing individual education plans for students. Youths present an idea about an area of interest, and then staff members write curriculum that holds participants to certain standards and expectations.In this way, students can explore different vocations, within the normal time frame and academic requirements of a class. Subjects studied have included nursing and special education instruction. Instructors have utilized ongoing construction outside of Maloney and Platt for PLE enrollees interested in trade-oriented professions. Craftsmen from the projects have begun a lunchtime lecture series. PLE has helped maximize student time and school resources. Another participant, through an online course based at Stanford University, is studying the Python programming language used to code applications on digital devices like smartphones. She has worked with a math teacher who has a background in computer science. “Teachers and students are very excited about it. From a teacher’s standpoint, they have the opportunity to work with students on something they know about, but might not teach during the regular day,” stated Platt PLE coordinator James Flynn earlier this year.To become excited about a particular subject is the goal PLE has for participants. Mental cultivation develops considerably when one is eagerly engrossed in a familiar, yet still challenging, area of interest. Once a student has gained experience and confidence in the basics of a profession, and has come to take satisfaction in the process of acquiring advanced skills, learning can take deeper and more-permanent root. A lifetime’s vocation may be discovered.Nearby schools should consider Meriden’s PLE. It is a program that might be worth implementing in any district. It allows students to attain real-world experience by providing training in what most appeals. This is an ideal way to teach youths the value of entrepreneurship, professional responsibility and pursuing objectives.To follow a personalized blueprint is to become the architect of one’s own career.