For TAGOS freshman Logan Levitski, school always felt more like a burden than an opportunity as he worked his way through elementary and middle school.

But his recent project at TAGOS Leadership Academy, the city charter school that utilizes project-based learning, has Levitski motivated to both focus on his schooling and pursue college after.

“I didn’t really care for school that much before,” Levitski said. “But then something with it just kind of clicked.”

Levitski was trying to decide on a topic for one of his projects this fall when a teacher asked him what he knew about the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado in April 1999, in which two students murdered 13 others.

As Levitski started to read about the incident, he hoped to understand how people could be driven to such violent actions.

“I don’t really know what about it caught my mind, but I just kind of wanted to look into what the main factors were, what went through their (the shooters) heads and things like the mental illnesses, if there were disabilities involved or any of the sort,” Levitski said.

Levitski has spent the last seven weeks on the project, studying mental health, police reports, journal entries of the shooters and books. He watched documentaries and interviewed the school’s current principal, Scott Christy.

“It’s one of my biggest projects,” Levitski said, “And I hope to gain more than just a grade out of it.”

Marianne McGuire, dean at the school, said Levitski’s transformation as a student has been impressive after he settled on his project.

“I firmly believe that every student has a dream or has an interest,” McGuire said. “Sometimes what happens is there’s obstacles that are placed in front of them, and they struggle with those obstacles. However, when they find an interest and a passion, those obstacles can be overcome. And those barriers no longer become barriers.”

In Levitski, that change is evident, McGuire said.

“What I’ve seen change in Logan is that he came from a mindset where it’s like, ‘School doesn’t do anything to me for me. But now, I’m learning about the human mind, I’m learning about people, and I’m applying it into what I understand about life’. And so he’s been intrigued by why would somebody do this? ... It’s kind of opened up a whole new interest for him in terms of mental health and mental illness,” McGuire said.

About 43 students are learning at TAGOS this year. Levitski said the school has likely changed his life, and he now hopes to someday work in a therapy or mental health profession.

“This school has really changed my outlook on a lot of things. It’s by far a lot better than a traditional school for me,” he said. “I do think that therapy would be a good profession for me, just based on this project. People just interest me, just the human mind and mental illnesses.”

McGuire hopes other students at the school can share a similar experience at TAGOS.

“I’ve seen a change in Logan’s attitude toward school in general,” she said. “He has a newfound interest in doing well not only for himself, now, but also for his future. To see someone who used to think of school as a nuisance and see that not be the case anymore, it’s empowering.”