Senior Demonstration Project allows growth opportunity for Stonington High School students

Story by Jessica Weber, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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Every year, each graduating senior is tasked with designing a “Senior Project”– officially called a “Senior Demonstration Project” by the Connecticut State Department of Education–that consists of fieldwork time with a mentor, journal entries, a research paper, and a fifteen-minute presentation. The Senior Project at Stonington High School began after a state law in 2012 mandated that each local and regional board of education create a student success plan for secondary school students. Ultimately, the Senior Demonstration Project (also called a capstone experience, culminating project, or senior exhibition in other parts of the state) is the final part to that success plan, condensing students’ academic and career goals into something that will help them once they graduate.

For some students, the Senior Project is a way for them to get real-world experience within their prospective career field. Senior Halle Anderson, who has already been admitted to the Physical Therapy program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, worked with a local physical therapist in order to learn more about the field by observing and helping with patients’ sessions. Jason Kilcoyne’s project is similar to Anderson’s–he shadowed a physical therapist at Spectrum Physical Therapy.

“It was really cool to be able to see everything in a clinical setting,” Kilcoyne said.

Yet physical therapy isn’t the only career students have gained exposure to through their fieldwork hours this year; Sophia Anderson has generated a potential business plan for a sandwich shop that she would like to run one day by working with local business owner and entrepreneurial coach Stephen Clemente, who owns Sticky Situations in the Old Mystic Village.

Others such as Sarah Beverly, Erin Craig, and Lily Bockowski have taken their hobbies and passions, photography in these cases, to another level by working with professionals to hone their skills.

Many current seniors have already completed their project or took advantage of their free time by completing their required fifteen hours of fieldwork over summer vacation. For others, however, the fast approaching deadline for completed journal entries summarizing their completed hours is generating a newfound sense of anxiety. If seniors miss the deadlines for their project, their senior privileges are revoked until the supplementary materials are turned in.

Many have described the responsibilities of the Senior Project as burdensome, wishing that they could focus their time and attention on their college and scholarship applications and rigorous academic course load. One of the main goals of the Senior Demonstration Project, as listed on the Master-Based Learning Resource Center, is to increase the academic rigor of senior year. It is described that “a more academically and intellectually challenging senior year, filled with demanding but stimulating learning experiences such as senior demonstration project, the reasoning goes, can reduce senior year learning loss, keep students in school longer (or otherwise engaged in learning), and increase preparation for college and work.” Some argue that if they are continuing to challenge themselves senior year by taking difficult classes, they should not have to participate in the Senior Project program.

Yet regardless of students’ opinion, the Senior Project has become an important and pivotal part of the last year at Stonington High School. As seniors progress through their final months of comfort and routine, their Senior Projects will continue to push them to step outside their comfort zone and develop a passion and plan for life after SHS.

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Senior Demonstration Project allows growth opportunity for Stonington High School students