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Our Opinion: Keep those senior projects

May 22, 2002

Instead of taking away opportunities for high school seniors to do good things, we should be trying to add things to enrich their lives and futures.

That is why we are opposed to Brawley Union High School District Trustee Helen Noriega's proposal to rid the district of its requirement that high school seniors adequately complete a senior project in order to graduate. Noriega is expected to make that pitch tonight, although the board won't act on that idea just yet.

We have liked the senior project idea since Calexico High School first implemented it locally almost a decade ago and Brawley followed a year later. What it requires is that each high school senior do a project of some significance and then make a presentation regarding it to a panel of judges. If the judges approve the project the senior graduates.

Many seniors use the requirement as an avenue to further explore a field of interest. Others use the senior project as a way to help the community. Many, from what we have heard and seen, have fun with their senior projects and enjoy the process thoroughly. Almost all say the senior project is a wonderful learning experience. Many seniors have a fairly cushy schedule during the last semester senior year so a senior project provides a worthwhile experience in what otherwise might be a wasted last few months of high school.

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The problem is many seniors, for reasons of senior-itis, procrastination or plain arrogance — and maybe even occasionally circumstances beyond their control — don't get the projects done in time to participate in the graduation requirement. The thing is, that is the students' problem, not the problem with the concept of senior projects. We have heard much whining and moaning over the years from seniors, and their parents', who won't be able to "walk" in the ceremony because little Johnny or Suzie didn't finish his or her senior project. There actually is an appeals process students can go through if they don't complete the project and still want to participate in the graduation ceremony, but apparently that isn't enough for some students and parents.

Maybe too much is made of "walking with your class." A simple ceremony means little compared to what young people learn from three or four years of high school. A senior project can add depth, color and quality to that high school experience.

Instead of one district ridding itself of its senior project requirement, we'd like to see all local high schools get on the senior project bandwagon.

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