"I knew when I got into upper school, I wanted to do something much bigger with the service I was already doing."

                                                                                       Ariza Nanji '19 (right)
                                                                      Certificate of Emphasis student
                                                       Co-Founder, "Learning Without Borders"

Certificate of Emphasis

The Certificate of Emphasis (COE) Program gives highly motivated Barstow upper school students the opportunity to conduct advanced, hands-on study in an area of special interest. The COE Program involves three main components: coursework, mentoring and networking with professionals in the field, and a capstone project of the student's design. The program emphasizes student initiative, passionate engagement and independent work.

COE Structure

Completion of the Certificate of Emphasis is designed to take two years, though each student's timeline varies. Students generally apply during ninth grade. Over the course of the program, each COE student will:

  • Complete three semesters of specialized coursework.
  • Conceive, plan and complete an independent capstone project that progresses through a series of milestones.
  • Enroll in two semesters of COE Lab, assessed at 0.5 Honors credits per semester, to provide structure, recognition and accountability for each student’s independent work. 


List of 4 items.

  • Milestone 1: Application & Coursework

    Students generally apply during ninth grade, though later applications are welcomed in exceptional cases. Before committing to join the program, prospective students should 
    consult with their parents, academic advisor and the COE Coordinator. 
  • Milestone 2: Confirm Mentor

    Each student in the COE Program will work with a mentor in their  chosen area of emphasis.
  • Milestone 3: COE Panel

    Before embarking on the actual project, each student, with guidance from his or her mentor, will produce a capstone proposal. 
  • Milestone 4: Capstone Presentation

    The culmination of each student’s Certificate of Emphasis is an independent capstone project conceived, planned, and completed by the student.

Capstone Project

Students will identify a capstone project as they journey through the Certificate of Emphasis program. This project allows students to identify an issue in the field they have selected and work towards creating a viable plan to solve the issue. The capstone projects vary significantly based upon a student’s selected strand and individual interests.


List of 4 frequently asked questions.

  • Q. What courses fulfill program requirements?

    A. All elective courses are eligible. In addition to coursework, students are expected to seek out online resources and conduct online research.
  • Q. What areas of emphasis can students pursue?

    A. The COE program consists of five strands: 
    • 21st Century Communications.
    • Engineering, Architecture and Environmental Sustainability.
    • Globalization, Social Justice and International Politics.
    • Mind, Body & Health.
    • Pursue your Passion — individual strands can be developed with the program coordinator and academic advisor.
  • Q. What is the cost of the program?

    A. There is no additional cost for the COE Program, including mentorship and advising, support for project completion, or administrative fees.
  • Q. Who is eligible?

    A. This program is designed for upper school students who have completed the COE enrollment agreement. Students may join the program during their freshman, sophomore, and in some cases, junior years.


Each student in the COE program works directly with a mentor in their chosen field. Mentors provide a first-hand perspective of working in the field. Mentors advise students as they select and complete their capstone project.

Mentors must pass a background check and agree to make contact with their student a minimum of twice a month. If you are interested in becoming a mentor, please email COE Coordinator Kay Hopkins.

COE Coordinator

List of 1 members.

  • Photo of Kay Hopkins

    Kay Hopkins 

    MS & US Librarian, Director of COE
    (816) 277-0308
    Emporia State University - M.L.S.
    University of Missouri, Columbia - B.S

The Barstow School

11511 State Line Road • Kansas City, MO 64114
P (816) 942-3255 • F (816) 942-3227