Graduation for Marshfield High School (MHS) may have been celebrated this past Saturday, however, the impact the class of 2022 left behind will not easily be forgotten. Now a tradition, the execution of a “Senior Project” is an expectation and right of passage for Craig Hurst, Rebecca Schweighauser and Nicki Thompson’s classrooms. The three educators challenge seniors in their classroom to a year-long service project. Students will choose one of the three categories: benefit to self, benefit to school or benefit to community.
“We introduce the project and really set it up, giving the kids a lot of time to brainstorm with each other, talk about initial ideas and give feedback,” explained Thompson, MHS English Teacher and Coordinator of Virtual Learning.
Once the student has chosen a category, they spend the entire school year working on various components, including numerous academic elements.
Thompson has seen it all, from hosting an internationally-recognized bluegrass concert, to a student earning their pilot’s license. Each year brings on new and creative ways for students to showcase their interests and hard work. Many students host large events with the purpose of raising funds for charity. Still, Thompson emphasizes that the scale of the project is not as important as the lessons and experiences the student will endure during the process. She believes students should measure their success based on their personal growth and development.
“A big message that I would like all students to know is the project doesn’t have to be a huge event to be successful,” said Thompson. “Those are the ones that are most visible and those are the ones that get the most attention from students and the community, but we have a lot of really impactful benefit to self projects .”
These benefit to self projects have paid off in big ways according to Thompson. One senior learned to save and budget their money and was able to purchase a car through the process. Another performed extensive research, participated in an internship and job shadowed throughout the school year to confirm they will select the right career path. Although these efforts are not as visible to the public, their senior project generally has a lasting impact on students, some for the rest of their lives.
“People may not see those (benefit to self projects) as much as some of the others, but those are really beneficial to the individual students,” commented Thompson.
For those students looking to work within their community or school, the concept of hosting a charitable event is a popular one. Many students chose organizations that impacted their lives directly, raising an astonishing $30,915 for charity in 2022. That figure sends a powerful message to students: they have the power to change the world.
The task, however, does not stop there. Students must also complete an extensive research paper and give numerous presentations, including in front of a panel of community judges. Their final presentation is titled “Senior Showcase” where friends, family and members of the community can enjoy learning directly from the seniors on their various projects.
“They learn about what they're capable of and feel proud of themselves. They push themselves to the limit, but they learn in a healthy way to work through those stressful moments because we tell them this isn't going to be a perfect process… This is a large-scale year-long project and there will be tough moments where things fail. They don't look like what you want them to, but the way that you persevere through that is what you can really take beyond these high school walls with you,” smiled Thompson. “One of the coolest parts of the entire process is watching student’s grow. They come into their own. They take pride in themselves and learn leadership skills. The students learn more about who they are and gain public speaking and academic skills, but I think the biggest takeaway is they learn about themselves.”
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