Janesville72.2°

Evansville adds senior project to high school grad requirements

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GINA R. HEINE
August 17, 2011
— Kelsey Hoverson had planned to attend Iowa State to major in engineering after graduating from Evansville High School last spring.

She changed her plans after working with special education students in a pilot program for a senior graduation project. She'll start at UW-Eau Claire this fall to major in special education.


"It really helped me set my mind on doing special education as my future career," she said.


School administrators and board members hope Hoverson's experience is one of many in a new senior project requirement. The board gave unanimous approval this week to require incoming freshman—the class of 2015—to complete a senior project to graduate.


"The whole idea was we wanted to kind of create an opportunity for a capstone learning opportunity for students," Principal Scott Everson said.


The district took advice from Brodhead, where seniors are required to do 20 hours of community service to graduate.


Brodhead has "kind of a hidden treasure," Everson said, because students year after year produce projects for the community and provide services while receiving "priceless learning opportunities."


"We'd be remiss if we, in Evansville and other communities, didn't want to do that as well," he said.


Students will choose between two paths: community service or experiential learning, which is learning about something of which they have no prior knowledge. The project requires 30 hours of documented time outside of a normal school day.


Brodhead's program has provided a "tremendous amount" of support for the community—from planting flowers to leading organizations to fundraising, Brodhead Principal Leonard Lueck said.


Last year, seniors raised more than $10,000 through their projects for various needs, while the previous class raised $18,000, he said.


Each Evansville student will find a mentor and obtain signatures from teachers, parents and advisers and meet deadlines. Students will prepare portfolios and give presentations before a panel of community members and teachers.


The school will expand the pilot project this year to work out any kinks with voluntary students, Everson said.


School board members had concerns about costs, but Everson said he and his staff are confident they can do it with existing resources.


"Part of the philosophy behind the senior projects is we don't want this to involve extra expenses for students," he said.


If a student's project was to help remodel a day care center, for example, the contract would state that the business would provide supplies and the student would not be compensated financially.


"We want to groom our students to become productive citizens, and part of that process is teaching students the value of that service to the community," he said.


Having been through the pilot project, Hoverson said the experience was eye opening and will be the same for students who take the time to do the project right.


"I think that other students will gain a lot of knowledge about themselves and their community through this project," she said.



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