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How Senior Projects Can Cure Senioritis

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 11:00 AM

Hannah Sellers is a senior at Kenston High School.

A special guest-post from WKSU high school intern Hannah Sellers.

During last year’s final track practice, before outgoing seniors left to go on their senior project, we all enjoyed a welcomed easy run. In between the pounding of feet on pavement I found myself listening to the animated discussion of upperclassmen comparing their plans for their senior projects.

One girl was going to the Cleveland Clinic where she would spend the first week working in a lab and the next observing surgeries. Another girl was heading off to be a camp counselor for the middle school’s seventh grade camp. The runner on my right was going to be hanging around the law firm that her mother worked for, and two others chimed in that they were also looking forward to a relaxing couple of weeks, as their destination was a yoga studio.

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It didn’t occur to me till a year later, finding myself in the midst of my own senior project, just how broad an opportunity senior project entails. On paper these two weeks before graduation serve as a valuable learning opportunity, a privilege to be used for exploring career possibilities, gaining work place experience and discovering the demands of the “real world.” It’s a chance for self-discovery and analysis. But off-paper, the senior project doubles as a mechanism for high schools to rid themselves of a contagious virus: Senioritis. The infamous bug bites prospective high school graduates rendering them incapable of mustering the drive to focus on studies and leaving little in the way of motivation.

For many, the senior project means freedom, release from bondage. Personally, it’s been two weeks of welcomed independence, yes, but also an exploration, a potential answer.

Senior year is preparation for the impending college transition. It would seem college is also accompanied by a sudden need for purpose. Unlike when you were little and becoming a fairy was sufficient response for the “what will you be when grown up” question, everyone expects concrete answers for your post-high school plans. And I’m not prepared to give them. Certainly I have interests and ideas of planned pursuits, but I lack experience to formulate anything definite. I saw senior project as a chance to test out not only possibilities for college, but future careers.

It is in this quest for clarity that I now find myself shadowing staff at WKSU. I cannot imagine any other circumstances that would permit an 18-year-old to be a part of the work of a National Public Radio member station. Without hesitation I traded my weeks dictated by ringing bells, hallway passes and proctors for the invigorating, unpredictable fluctuations of reporting, hosting, producing and organizing broadcasts.

Already, I have risen at 3:30 a.m. to churn out headlines for Morning Edition, attended the producing and editing of The Regina Brett Show, provided input during a news staff meeting and currently been charged with the task of authoring this blog. I’m not just observing, I’m interacting. I’ve learned to write directly, to operate previously intimidating technology, to act independently and professionally and most importantly I’ve discovered how imperative communication is for an operation’s success.

However, while my experience has delivered gratifying results, this is hardly a guarantee. The senior project is simply an opportunity. It is not always taken advantage of or does not meet expectations. Some students choose to remain at high school. Others opt for senior projects spent copying or filing at a relative’s business. And then there are those senior projects that disappoint. One of my peers is spending her senior project at a photography studio digging ditches and moving rocks, instead of being able to participate directly in the artistic operations. Although an argument can be made that such frustrating results serve as a different type of learning experience, it does nothing to comfort.

Nevertheless the senior project is a taste of life--the good and the bad. Doing my senior project at WKSU has provided an environment that harnesses my strengths and expands upon my capabilities. For me, this sampling serves as motivation for upcoming college pursuits. I have something to strive toward. Thanks to these last two weeks I have gained an invaluable asset: purpose.

Hannah Sellers is a senior at Kenston High School. She spent the last two weeks shadowing staff at StateImpact Ohio partner WKSU as her senior project. Kenston High School, like many high schools in Ohio and nationwide, allows seniors to spend the end of their years working in the real world or on an independent outside project. We asked her to tell our readers about her senior project experience. 

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