Three FHS academies unite for senior project

Faculty members at Fremont have designed a new format for senior projects with the goal of making more graduates ready for college and standardizing the experience across campus.

This year every senior is supposed to complete the senior project using the same theme, deadlines and research process. Students must pick an issue of inequity, research it and propose a solution. They will present their projects on the same day in May and will share the same judges and rubric.

“It wasn’t a disagreement (that led to the standardization), it was three different academies with three different projects,” said Johanna Paraiso, one of the teachers on the senior project committee that came up with the change. “They never before thought of making it all the same because we used to be three separate schools, not just three separate academies.”

Paraiso, a former teacher at the College Preparatory and Architecture Academy high school, now teaches seniors in two academies — Architecture and Media. She said there was a feeling from students that the projects were not the same level of rigor and intensity across campus.

Media Academy Director Lisa Shafer, who worked with Paraiso and members of all three academies this summer to standardize and strengthen the project, agrees.

“We have had seniors ask for two years to switch academies because they felt the senior project at Media was too difficult,” said Shafer, who is co-teaching the senior project with Paraiso. “Now, we can tell students that it is all the same.”

Although the intent was to have all the same deadlines, Mandela students are catching up in their research process because their senior project teacher needed to take time off this fall for personal reasons and to head up a school wide project to ensure everyone had state required textbooks.

“What I’m doing is showing seniors examples of good writing, as well as modeling research and how to go about kicking off the project,” said Mandela senior project teacher Nepomuceno. “I also have scaffolds to help students work through the body paragraphs.”

He is trying his very best to help out his students for his absence.

Some students say that they like that all academies are now the same, but they would prefer not to have a senior project at all.

Other students say it is fair to have all Fremont students working on a project with the same requirements.

“It is a good idea because it’s getting us ready for college in a way,” said Mandela Academy senior Diamond Ann. “Ten to 12 page essays, that’s college level.”

Mandela has shifted its requirement for community service so that the service matches the senior project. Before, students might volunteer at a homeless shelter but research about fixing cars for their senior project.

“Students are told to get an internship during their junior year so they can become inspired and get a good senior project and get hands-on experience,” said Nepomuceno.

One thing that the Media and Architecture academies now have, which Mandela has always had, is a separate class for the senior project. The class for Media and Architecture seniors project is called Creative Writing and students focus on senior project and college applications. Their English 4 class is a separate period.

Out of 20 surveys almost everyone agrees we should have a separate class from English and Senior project. Darion Brown thinks differently.

“To be honest, it really doesn’t matter because it doesn’t affect the way you think,” said Brown, a senior in Architecture Academy.

Seniors at all three academies must turn in the first draft of their senior research paper by Dec. 17. They will have until April 25 to revise it and then will present their work to a panel of judges on May 21.