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May 30, 2006
RHS and WHS seniors finish culmination projects
ROYAL CITY, Washington (STPNS) -- All the seniors in south Grant County are breathing a little easier this week after turning in their culmination projects.
The projects are a graduation requirement for both WHS and RHS, and they will be a state requirement by 2008. Teachers believe that although the state will have guidelines for the culmination project, they’ll leave the details of those projects up to school districts to set.
The idea of a culmination project is a new one for Wahluke students. Last year was the first year that a portfolio was required for graduation, and this year, seniors were required to do an oral presentation along with their portfolios.
WHS presentations require the students to talk about where they were born, when the student came to Mattawa, a copy of their best works, and discussion of their future plans. Most students reported that their parents moved from Mexico in order to make a better life from them, and some get downright creative with their oral presentations.
Sergio Hernandez prepared a power point presentation with photos of a trailer he had helped build in shop class. “I’ve been accepted to Big Bend Community College and want to go into welding. After I finish I want to work and make a lot of money,” he said.
The students were honest about their experiences in school, as Jose Luis Barajas said that since kindergarten he has had a hard time with staying focused in the classroom. “I am thankful for intercession which let me do credit recovery. Now I am on track to graduate.” He said.
Amapola Solas told the committee that her family was an inspiration to her and that she regretted not being involved in clubs and sports. “I wished I would have cared more in my early high school career,” she said, stating that she plans to attend Columbia Basin Community College and become a forensic science technician.
When WHS teacher Brock Anderson asked Solas what had influenced her in choosing her course of study, she explained that during intercession she had the opportunity to dissect a pig, identify organs, and take out the entire brain. “I was the first to do it,” she proudly stated. Intercession seemed to be a motivating time for these students as they learned about new opportunities that were available to them. Julian Sanchez was proud to be the first in his family to graduate. “I didn’t give my best effort, but I’m striving to graduate on time.” He said that he would like to go in to teaching and help those like himself who had a hard time getting motivated in class.
WHS Librarian Jessica Scott has been in the culmination presentations this year, and said that by next year they hope to have the students do a project along with their portfolios and presentation. “This really gives the students a chance to learn to speak in public and learn about themselves,” she said.
RHS is a bit further along in the culmination project model, since they have been requiring a senior project for nearly ten years. According to senior project committee members, Royal was one of the first schools in this particular part of the state to start requiring a senior project.
Right now, RHS seniors must complete a three-tiered project, including a resume packet, a portfolio, and a research project/presentation. Last year, the project sparked controversy when two seniors failed to complete part of the project and were notified that they weren’t going to graduate. The culmination committee decision was then later overturned by school administration, and the students were allowed to graduate.
Rules were changed after that incident, including deadlines for each of the three parts of the project, and parents of kids who didn’t complete a section were notified well in advance, according to Principal Jack Hill.
Even so, this year has offered its own challenges to the culmination committee. After the unexpected death of committee member Ron Vanderholm in December, the committee lost yet another member when English teacher Laurie Lafser took maternity leave in March. As committee chair Dave Rowley noted, that left the senior class with just three committee members to advise them.
“That’s one of the changes we’re hoping to make for next year,” he said. “Although the project requires work all the way through high school, for seniors it’s more complicated, and the kids need more help.”
Rowley said that another one of the challenges was a few members of the senior class this year believed they were going to get out of the project. “Unfortunately some of the kids thought that because there were some disagreements about what happened last year, the whole project was going to go away,” he said. “Also, we didn’t have an open house this year, and parents felt like they were out of the loop.”
As a result of these challenges, Rowley suggested there might be changes to the portfolio part of the project. “It can tend to turn people off because they view it as a scrapbook,” he said. “We’ll be looking at ways to streamline the portfolio in the future.”
The committee will be meeting to make decisions about changes to the project before school starts next fall, Rowley said. But he has warned students not to expect major changes. “We really haven’t made many changes the past couple of years,” he said.
Rowley said that the project was designed to give students the ability to talk about themselves in a prospective job interview or college interview, and also give them a taste of a prospective career. “We had a girl a couple of years ago who had decided she was going to go to college to be a video editor,” he said. “Then she did her senior project, and while she was job shadowing and completing her project, she realized it wasn’t what she wanted to do at all,” he said. “It saved her a lot of money on a college degree in something she didn’t like doing.”
Many community members volunteered to serve on committees during two nights of senior project review earlier this month, where seniors gave brief presentations on their job shadow/research project experiences. “That’s the most stressful thing for the kids,” Rowley said, “But they always get the highest grades on that part of the project. The community really wants the kids to succeed and do well on that part of the assignment.”
Rowley said the committee feels good about their time spent on the project, and the fact that a lot of schools use Royal as a model.
“We do this because we believe in the kids, and we want them to believe in themselves,” he said. “This project requires a lot of organizational skills, and those are probably the most important skills to have in study and in life to be successful,” he said.
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