Students produce promising senior experiences

Cameron Appel, Staff Writer

It’s that time of year again.  The sun stays out longer, chasing ice cream trucks becomes a daily habit, and seniors are finally relaxing as school begins to wind down.  They’ve been accepted to their colleges, and things are starting to look up.  Then comes the startling realization that they’re not quite done with Schreiber yet.  The pesky requirement of senior experience is now looming over the heads of the majority of seniors who haven’t completed their projects yet.

For all the non-seniors out there, senior experience is supposed to be your crowning achievement and your last project at Schreiber.  Each student is assigned a teacher to oversee his or her project.  The seniors involved in a senior experience course complete a project in agreement with the objectives of the course they’re in, while the seniors who opt out of those courses complete an independent study senior experience.  All students have time to do their projects during May and June, when AP classes no longer meet and Senior Experience courses only meet a few times a cycle.

These projects can encompass a wide spectrum.  Depending on how dedicated the senior is, their project can range from interning with a teacher within Schreiber to working at an animal shelter in Puerto Rico.  Each student approaches his or her project in a different way.

Rachel Johnson is among the students that already completed a project.  Rachel volunteered at Creative Readers, a program at the Port Washington Public Library, that helps elementary school children, many with special needs, find new ways to approach reading through books and artistic methods.

She was partnered with a boy who had both cerebral palsy and ADHD.

“While working with him over the year was a challenge, with each successive group meeting, the bond between us grew stronger… being able to see as he got more and more comfortable in that setting was really rewarding,” said  Johnson.

Rachel chose to do this project because it combined her love for reading and drawing, with her love for working with children.

Not everyone chooses the do-gooder route.  Some people just want to have fun.  Along with a few of her friends, senior Maddie Omeltchenko started a ukulele group.  Every Sunday the group meets and plays covers of popular songs, such as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Hawaiian Roller-coaster Ride.”

They even take field trips to Ralph’s and have plans to take a beach trip to record videos.

“Our goal is to spread happiness and good vibes through the uke,” said Omeltchenko.

Just because there is no apparent academic value to a senior experience project doesn’t mean that it won’t fly with the administration.  As long as the project is designed, proposed, and executed by students, most personal interests can be made into projects that receive credit.  There is room to experiment and have fun with these undertakings.

Some of the more adventurous seniors have opted out of staying within the district.  Emma Podolsky is pursuing a project at Threshold Farm in upstate New York.  She’ll be living and working on the farm and doing activities such as planting seeds, pruning trees, and cleaning  cow stalls.

The Threshold Farm is a biodynamic farm, whose agricultural approach is spiritual-ethical-ecological, that has been chemical-free since the late 1700s.

“Through my Senior Experience I hope to gain a little more knowledge on the practices of small-scale organic farming, and how the government plays a role in the farming operation as well,” said Podolsky.

Seniors Emily Karmel and Laura Eule participated in a Ronald McDonald walk-a-thon.  They both wanted to do something that they felt would benefit the most people.  From the start, they knew they wanted to do some kind of charity work because they both enjoy giving back to the community.

In the beginning, they tossed through a bunch of different charities trying to figure out which ones were a match for them and what they could do for them. After getting in contact with the Ronald McDonald house they went on a site visit to their Long Island location.

“We met kids with cancer and saw their families dealing with it and we knew we had to help,” said Karmel.  “Our sponser Mike taught us so much about community service. This senior experience brought us into the real world and introduced us to an amazing fundraiser we both had a passion for.”

Some other students helps organizations, such as Helping to Enrich the Arts (HEARTS), plan events. Senior Nisha Nanda, along with other students Alice Gottesman, Deirdra Labertino and Ryan Riviera, worked with HEARTS to put together the annual Portfest event.

Her responsibilites included participating in the meetings in preparation for the big day. She had to help coordinate between the different vendors and sponsors attending Portfest.  In addition, Nisha was in charge of managing other student volunteers for that day.

“I learned how rewarding it is to get community support and how fun it is once the people in the town get involved,” said Nanda, “It was inspiring to see how willing people were to help out their community and also all the little kids that came out and enjoyed themselves, not knowing they were helping their own education in the future.”

A large portion of the grade interns at different institutions.

Senior Derek Moss works at Bach to Rock on Port Blvd. He goes in every Thursday and Saturday.

“On Thursdays, I usually fill in as a bass guitarist for this band of 10 year olds whose bass player never shows up,” said Moss.

Derek’s internship consists of oberving lessons, office work, and running birthday parties on Saturdays.

“I make the goodie bags, pass out cake and pizza, and burn CD’s with the recorded song,” said Moss, “There is a lot of down time where I just hang out with the staff and talk about music.”

Surprisingly, there are some juniors who have started their projects already.  A master at planning ahead, junior Laynie Calderwood not only knows what she’ll be doing next year, but also has begun preparations for her project.  Laynie will be creating a group of Madrigal singers so that she can hold a Madrigal Feast during her senior year around Christmas time.

“It’s this really cool Renaissance production that I saw high school kids do in Virginia.  I remember going to them as a kid to see my siblings as Madrigals and I always wanted to be one.  Since Schreiber doesn’t have a Madrigal group, I decided to make one and incorporate it into my senior experience,” said Calderwood.

Clearly, there is a whole host of opportunities for kids to personalize their senior experience projects.  Whether you want to stay local or go far, work with kids or ukuleles, or start a group of singers dressed up in Renaissance garb, there’s a project available for you.  So seniors, go forth and create the most interesting project you can, and underclassmen, don’t sweat the project.  As shown by Maddie’s ukulele club, you can literally do anything.