Every school year seniors at Riverbank High School are tasked with the very extensive, detailed assignment of completing their senior project and then presenting them to a group of judges for a final grade. This hurdle was cleared by the Senior Class of 2016 last week.
There are many steps in completing the senior project including selection of a career, research, essays, pictures, a Power Point presentation that is timed, and, new this year, job shadowing.
Riverbank High has been doing senior projects since 2002 and at that time it was a graduation requirement. Now the project is a huge part of their English grade.
“It started when we had a program on campus called Project Riverbank, a school to work program,” said Senior English Teacher and AVID District Director Nancy Garcia. “When the staff saw the effect this experience had on students they decided to go school wide with the project.
“Mr. George Brown (principal) and Susan Fenton (Senior English teacher) were the two people responsible for bringing it to our school.”
Job shadowing was added to the senior projects this year where students had to make contact with employers and job shadow for a total of 10 hours. This seemed to be quite problematic for some seniors as the field they were covering was confidential or the ‘shadowing’ just not allowed due to time or the workload.
According to RHS Principal Sean Richey, the senior English teachers, the site leadership and through the WASC accreditation process came to the conclusion to add this to the senior projects this year.
“This ties in better with the new college and career readiness standards required by the state,” added Garcia.
If the students were unable to job shadow with their particular career then staff assisted in alternative places so they could have the experience.
“I think the seniors did a great job this year with their projects,” stated Principal Richey. “It isn’t easy to get up and speak in front of adults, let alone total strangers in some cases.”
Students were able to dive into careers that they may continue pursuing due to the research and senior project while some have changed course after getting a glimpse into their potential career.
Senior Jose Rosas did his senior presentation on Forensic Science which he plans to continue to pursue.
Mitzi Manzo did her presentation on Business Administration and may look into a different career.
Psychology has always been an interest for Hector Calderon and after the project, he still plans to pursue it.
With the project being a huge part of their English grade, seniors start working on it at the beginning of their senior year.
“If students don’t do the project they could risk not passing their Senior English Class, a graduation requirement,” said Garcia.
“For that reason, the project is broken down into easily completed pieces throughout the year,” said Richey. “If a student misses a few elements, it will affect their grade, but it will not be catastrophic. However, if a student does not complete the majority of the senior project elements, it is very difficult for that student to pass.”
Richey compared the senior project to the equivalent of two major research papers that other high school seniors are required to complete for their English grade.
“The difference at RHS is that we add a public presentation and ask the students to focus their research on a potential career field so as to better prepare students for opportunities after they graduate high school,” added Richey.
Some senior students go above and beyond, creating pamphlets to hand out to the judges or bookmarks, candy, and thank you notes.
Senior Martin Sveen did his senior project on being a music teacher which would be right along the path of his passion for music, however, after job shadowing a music teacher in another district he may be looking into a different career.
“In researching, writing, and presenting their senior project, our students are required to practice and demonstrate a broad range of 21st century learning skills,” expressed Richey. “Students must be able to successfully research a career field of their choice. They must communicate in writing, over the phone, and in person with a broad range of adults in a professional manner.”
District administrators, community members, and others volunteer to sit in a classroom and witness each student’s hard work as it is presented. The panel of judges will then grade each student in certain categories like presentation, organization, timeliness, and attire. After the students finished their presentation, they responded to questions by the judges.
“For our students who are planning to go into higher education and/or the workforce, the senior project will stand as a salient experience that they will draw lessons from as they move on to their next challenges,” stated Richey. “I was impressed by the quality of the presentations and the professionalism of the students who presented.”