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In support of this year’s January Term classes, several Trailblazer alumni returned to campus to assist—covering everything from helping improve golf swings, to teaching the history of auto racing, and even giving a historical tour of Philadelphia!

UHS alumni Abby Bladen (‘22), Cam Nealy (‘16), and Kellyn Toombs (‘18) offered their time and expertise to a few of this year’s J-Term classes. 

January Term (J-Term) is a three-week period in between the fall and spring semesters where students take a break from their usual classes and dive into a single immersive course. The offerings for J-Term change each year, and some courses offer a travel experience. This year, students chose from 19 one-of-a-kind J-Term classes, as well as an option for seniors to do a three week-long internship. 

From The Science of Theme Parks and Roller Coasters and Southwest Native American History and Culture, to Dinosaur Evolution, Cake Decorating, and beyond– J-Term 2023 was packed with plenty of hands-on learning activities, guest speakers, field trips, and more!

Cam Nealy had the unique opportunity of co-teaching the World of Auto Racing J-Term class alongside his mom, Communications Coordinator Nila Nealy. While Nila was able to “go to school” with her daughter Alexa (‘18) while Alexa was a UHS student, the J-Term class was the first chance for her to do the same with Cam, who graduated just before she started her career at University. 

“This January Term allowed me to fill that gap and offer students a course that leverages the many racing resources in the Indianapolis area,” said Nila. “Cameron’s presence in our classroom provided students a deeper dive into IndyCar, IMSA, and the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Along with Mercedes (Muñiz-Peredo), planning the course, teaching the students, and coordinating our race experience with Cameron was a joy I will always treasure.

Cam assisted throughout the entirety of J-Term, including facilitating the class trip to Daytona, FL for the Rolex 24 race. As a life-long auto racing enthusiast, he had plenty of knowledge to share with students and presented on several topics, including the Indianapolis 500, IndyCar Championship, and the role technology has played in the accessibility of the sport, among others. Cam is currently in the final semester of research for his Masters degree in Geology at IUPUI.

The Philadelphia: Preserving the Past & Forming the Future J-Term class also had the benefit of an alumna with experience in the class subject matter with graduate Kellyn Toombs facilitating–both virtually and on the ground in Philadelphia! 

During the summer of 2022, Kellyn returned to campus for a visit. While catching up with her former French instructor, Christopher Hindsley, Kellyn agreed to share her experience living and pursuing her M.A. in Museum Studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia with his class. 

“Kellyn visited us virtually and shared about her educational experience and what is entailed in museum studies,” said Christopher. “She then presented her top ten favorite places in Philadelphia. She showed pictures and spoke in detail about each of the places she mentioned.”

For the final week of J-Term, the class traveled to Philadelphia to see all the places and sites they’d been studying up close. Kellyn accompanied the group as they visited the Reading Terminal Market, a large indoor market with numerous food and craft vendors representing diverse cultures and also uniquely Philadelphia cuisine, as well as on a trip to Germantown, a historic area of Philadelphia known for its role in the abolitionist movement, as well as being a site of a Revolutionary War battle.

“Kellyn’s connection to our course provided students with an opportunity to see what a former UHS student is doing in the world and how they are following their passions and interests,” said Christopher. “Kellyn’s involvement with our course also enhanced what we were learning about in the classroom and offered a deeper insight into life as a young adult in the city of Philadelphia.”

Less than one year from when she graduated, Abby Bladen was once again walking the halls of UHS. In the months since graduating, Abby spent several weeks traveling to countries in South America doing volunteer work. Upon her return to the U.S., Abby assisted with The Game of Golf J-Term where she presented lectures on the history of professional golf, provided golf instruction and demonstrations to students, and helped newer golfers various field trips to golf courses and during their trip to Florida.

During her time as a student, Abby was a varsity player on the girls golf team, so it was a no-brainer for J-Term co-teacher and UHS girls golf coach Taylor Newell to invite Abby to assist with the class. 

“We were so fortunate to have Abby’s help. Whether she was sharing her immense knowledge of golf in class, or using her expertise to teach and demonstrate during practice time, her absolute love of the game was always on full display,” said Taylor. “She helped with planning for daily lesson plans, as well our class trip [to Florida golf courses]. She was indispensable during the trip where she led groups on the golf course and helped navigate transportation logistics of 24 golf bags.”

In fall 2023, Abby will attend Ithaca College where she will play on the university’s golf team. 

 “We were lucky to have the help of such an awesome Trailblazer,” said Taylor.

Thank you to all the UHS alumni who helped make this year’s J-Term a success!