Parents debate senior projects

May 23, 2002|By DARREN SIMON

Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — Parents for and against the senior projects in the high school district here filled the school board chambers Wednesday to debate the need for the program.

In what turned into a three-hour discussion, focus leaned toward the positive effects the senior projects have on students but comments also dealt with a need to review the program to assure fairness to all students.

The project consists of writing an eight-page research paper on a topic selected by the student, giving an 8- to 10-minute presentation before a panel of judges and taking part in a hands-on project. Students have a year to work on their senior project and work with a mentor to develop it.


Students in all district programs — both in mainstream and alternative education — are required to complete a senior project.

No action was taken based on the discussion Wednesday, but board President Rodney Arterberry asked for the board and public to receive a report on the senior project process during the board's first meeting in June.

The item on senior projects was placed on the agenda by Trustee Helen Noriega, who told those gathered there needs to be balance to assure the senior project is fair for all students.

She voiced concern that some students will not take part in the graduation ceremony because they did not meet the requirements of the senior project.

The Brawley Union High School District is one of two districts in the Imperial Valley that require a senior project. The other is the Calexico Unified School District.

The senior project is a requirement students must meet to take part in the graduation ceremony. They still can graduate that year, but not until they have fulfilled all requirements, including the project.

In a graduating class of about 300 students, including those in all BUHS programs, four will not take part in the graduation because of the senior project — two students from the BUHS, one from Desert Valley High School, and one from district Learning Center.

The board listened as parents and students voiced their opinions of the program.

Senior Michael Lira was one of the first to address the board, stating he had just finished his senior project in which he wrote a book.

"I'm actually kind of sad they are considering throwing it out the window," Lira said as he told the board the senior project inspired him to write the book.

"It challenges us to go higher," he said.

Arthur Singh told those gathered that for his senior project he installed an engine in an airplane and as a result he has opted to join the Navy.

"It's something you need to go through," Singh said.

One Desert Valley student, tearful as he spoke, told the board he will not take part in the graduation ceremony because of problems with his senior project.

"You forget one paper, or you have mistakes in a paper, and you lose your dream," he told the board. "I don't think it's right. It's how I feel."

The student's grandfather told the board his grandson has to work and the district needs to take in consideration hardships families face.

Gerardo Reyes, a junior, told the board while he is not against the senior project, it should not be a requirement for graduating. He said with the advent of high school exit exams, the senior project places too many requirements on seniors.

"I'm terrified of doing the project, but if it still stays I will do it," he said.

Parents differed in their support of the program.

"If you think about it, we're asking our kids to step up," said parent Kelly Hannon, who added the senior project prepares students for what they will face when they leave high school.

Sue Giller Barniske told the board the senior projects should not be looked as a burden but from another perspective. She said it is rare that students have the opportunity to study a topic of their choice in a project that they select and choose the way in which they will proceed.

She said if the district does away with the senior project, "we would risk depriving them of the opportunity to realize their potential."

Eleazar Zamora, a member of the BUHS leadership and Measure T committees, told the board that nowhere on a college application or even a job application does it require a student to list whether the student did a senior project. He said it is an unnecessary burden on seniors.

"Not every senior has ‘senioritis,'" Zamora said after the meeting, pointing out that many seniors have heavy loads without the senior project.

Frances Molina told the board it needs to think that students are asked to pay expenses related to graduation only to find out at the end of the year, they may not participate because of the senior project.

She added the senior projects cause too much stress and can make students ill and at that age they do not need to experience that.

Brawley implemented its senior project program in 1994. While it is not a state requirement, school officials said there is a state report that points to senior projects as a positive addition to a curriculum.

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