Seniors Pursue Passions, Explore Industry and Experience Social Good with Senior Projects

Posted: May 30, 2017

For Lexi Pope, the senior projects program – a long standing school initiative that enables seniors to take on an internship-like project throughout May in place of classes – offered an opportunity to serve as a crew member on a “once in a lifetime” 12-day sailing trip from St. Thomas to Newport.

“I’ve grown up sailing my whole life and I was inspired to use my senior project to pursue something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Pope on her sailing journey. “The entire experience was absolutely amazing, from working as a crew member and learning how to navigate the seas to living on the boat for almost two weeks.”

Maxon Quas also thought his senior project offered a valuable opportunity to carry out an interest that he might not otherwise have time to pursue. He opted to work alongside John and Vivian Maxson, a couple he’s admired for their work with the Born to Be Wild Nature Center in Bradford, R.I. The nature center rehabilitates sick, injured and orphaned wild animals specializing in the care of birds of prey. Quas helped care for the birds and performed other general maintenance tasks for the center. “I really admire the Maxson’s for their work and I know that every bit of assistance I can provide during my project work will help the center with caring for the animals and returning them to the wild.”

For a majority of the seniors, the project helped refine a potential career interest in industries such as veterinary medicine, education, finance and law. While others learned about new fields - Colin Stergios explored the world of urban agriculture while working with the Southside Community Land Trust in Providence. The nonprofit manages 21 community gardens to provide fresh produce to low-income families in urban neighborhoods. Stergios says he learned a lot about plants and helped the farm by turning soil, sifting compost and transplanting the produce. Yet, he was most moved by the significant impact a community garden can have in an urban neighborhood.

“In many low-income areas in Providence, the residents’ cheapest and closest food sources are fast food chains, gas stations or convenient stores, which don’t offer many fresh or nutritious food options,” he said during his senior project presentation. “It’s important that these families have better access to healthy, locally-grown food and a city farm is one of the only ways to do that.”

By creating build-it-yourself STEAM projects for elementary students in Cumberland, R.I., Ben Cross also realized the social impact of his project work. “I helped design and create new STEAM projects that young students can do by using simple things around the classroom like cardboard, string and tape,” he said. “The kids were learning and really had fun with the exercise. If we can help kids, including more girls, get excited about science and math, I think we can improve the equal distribution of jobs in STEM that are today predominately led by the same types of professionals.”

By working with the STEAM shop, created by the Cumberland Mayor’s Office of Children, Youth and Learning, Cross was also able to attend the Annual Rhode Island STEM Center conference at Rhode Island College. The conference brings leaders from various economic sectors together with educational institutions to work towards establishing a STEAM infrastructure in the state.

On top of the plethora of valuable experiences, the senior projects are also critical in helping PCD students develop new skills. Sam Smiley credits the experience with teaching him how to “survive an internship” during his time with Home Loan Investment Bank in Warwick, R.I. while Sean Feeney learned the significance of mental toughness from studying the sport of fencing and says he is a “calmer, more confidence person” today.

Last Updated: May 30, 2017

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