Counterpoint: Should the Senior Experience project be mandatory for students?

August Zeidman, Managing Editor

In many ways, Schreiber High School is unique: we have relatively high autonomy, are allowed to order food, and enjoy off periods. However, one way in which Schreiber fits the mold of many other high schools is that it requires students to fulfill some sort of project outside of the classroom in order to graduate. In our case, this is the Senior Experience program, wherein seniors are given release time at the end of their final year to find an internship, do volunteer work, or complete 40 hours of work on some other project.

In its current form, this system is overly bureaucratic, unnecessarily nitpicky, and full of ridiculous regulations. Originally, the Senior Experience was an extra option for seniors who really wanted to go above and beyond with education outside of the classroom; for students with a real passion to find a way to do work to those ends and have it count for an additional and enriching experience before their graduation.

Yet, after a while, the project became a requirement for all seniors to fulfill, and this is where problems really began to reveal themselves. To begin with, many local businesses were dissatisfied with the change; they had previously provided a significant amount of money to the school to provide scholarships (subject awards) to exceptional students, but, when they heard that the school was turning hundreds of seniors out onto the streets of Port Washington, they were not happy and pulled a large amount of the funding.

What was once an opportunity for the most motivated students to broaden their horizons or begin learning some sort of skilled trade has become an opportunity for students to report low effort or imaginary hours of work to teachers, many of which who don’t have the time to care about more than passing these students. The repetitive paperwork and unnecessarily long-winded requirements create a system in which apathy reigns and students only take their release time as an opportunity for leisure, which is not something many complain about. Still, it would be ideal if the administration wouldn’t pretend it was for other purposes, as it clearly seems like one of the major reasons behind requiring this kind of senior experience is to avoid having seniors in the school at the end of the school year to keep order.

“I think forcing people to do something like this was antithetical to the original purpose of seniors going out and finding their own ways of helping the community. Now it’s just something where people try to find the easiest way to fulfill the time requirement,” said senior Jacob Keller.

What many other schools do is require a certain amount of community service hours to graduate, spread out over all four years of high school. Often, these hour requirements are higher than the 40 required by Senior Experience (often in the 100-150+ range), but again, these are spread out over four years rather than crammed into one. Therefore, students can actually take time to find projects they enjoy and care about, and be able to allocate their time and dedication to such a project in order to best fit their busy schedules during their high school careers.

“Senior Experience shouldn’t be mandatory because not everyone has the time to commit to it,” said senior Molly Schiff.  “People have jobs and prior commitments that Senior Experience interferes with.”

The aforementioned recommendation would greatly benefit students who may have to work full-time jobs one or all years after school to bring money home, or students with extensive commitments to certain activities, such as sports. If a student wanted to cram all their hours into one year, that would be their option, but for the majority who would likely take advantage of extra time, it would allow for a much more leisurely, relaxed, and overall enjoyable experience.

“I wish they brought it back to its roots and just assisted in providing ways for willing seniors to help and be productive in the community in their newly found free time instead,” said Keller.

By reorganizing Schreiber’s Senior Experience program into a more general community service requirement for graduation, not only would more get done to benefit the community, but students might be able to enjoy whatever work they choose to do.

          Until then, the Senior Experience will only degenerate into more and more of a joke than it already is. Then, maybe, once it has rotted away and all that remains are the termite tunnels of undermined authority, can we look back on the system and begin to implement something more useful and beneficial for all parties involved.