St. Margaret’s Independent Senior Projects have taken a new look during the social-distancing measures in place in California—yet the program’s goal of creating a transition for seniors from the structure of high school to the independence of college and beyond remains, as students demonstrate the effectiveness of the school’s mission of pursuing lives of learning, leadership and service.
“One of the hallmarks of a St. Margaret’s education is a connection to the outside world,” Upper School Principal Jeneen Graham said. “Education is not pursued in a vacuum, as we strive to equip students with the habits of mind and the skills and knowledge to thrive. The Independent Senior Project is one of our many programs that provide this connection.”
This year, St. Margaret’s seniors were given more flexibility in their projects, understanding that many will need to be done at home with social-distancing guidelines in place. Recognizing the unique limitations, seniors were encouraged to pursue ISPs that align with one of four life realms:
- Heart: Service projects that assist those in need, heal others, build community.
- Mind: Additional academic pursuits or endeavors you want to follow with fervor.
- Innovation: Productive and meaningful projects that encourage group collaboration.
- Creativity: Already established or newfound artistic scratches you want to itch.
“In many ways the Class of 2020 has showed resourcefulness prior and during the ISP timeframe: continuing projects that could be completed remotely, or pivoting to more community-minded and supportive roles,” said Upper School teacher Peter Clark, who oversees the ISP program along with Jillian Gray. “For those who had an internship at a location that is currently closed, some chose to pursue online academic work in that field of interest. Most of all, I’ve seen compassion and understanding, not complacency, be the hallmark of this spring.”
Here are a look at some of the projects the Class of 2020 is pursuing this month:
Seniors Brayden Windes and Alexandra Pierce connected with a former Los Angeles Health Department epidemiologist back in February to construct a flyer educating people on the need-to-know facts of the rapidly spreading coronavirus in the United States.
Recognizing the progressing situation, the two started their ISP early and had produced a flyer ready for distribution when St. Margaret’s campus shifted to remote learning and the pandemic grew in the United States. The two still plan to update their flyer with more recent information and distribute on social media.
Natasha Yousefi, meanwhile, created 50 care baskets to be delivered to nurses and doctors at hospitals around Orange County, while Hannah Phillips devoted her ISP to creating masks for distribution.
Elsewhere, Juliet Ballard is doing a film and photography project with the guiding question “What does quarantine look like?” by recording and editing photography and video of people in isolation.
Several seniors have been able to pivot their planned internship to adhere to social-distancing guidelines. Amelia Parker is doing a virtual internship with U.S. Congressman Harley Rouda, reaching out to voters and doing other projects with college and high school students interning remotely for the Orange County representative.
Two students and aspiring filmmakers, Chloe Reder and Blake Jafari, are doing an apprenticeship with professional screenwriter Katrina O’Gilvie and director Kelly Park. They will write a screenplay, receive feedback from the professionals and complete a film which will be shown at the Spring Film Festival.
Other students are continuing internships remotely in fields ranging from capital management to private equity to chemical testing to personal fitness.
Several students are working with the Lower School to create content to help younger students. Leila Sapra and Alex Meyer are creating videos for the Lower School virtual recess program taking place during remote learning. Johnny Kurtz is making five videos that explain the logistics and “must-knows” behind 3D printing for younger students, while Serena Carson is making how-to videos for Lower School visual arts students.
Elsewhere, Shaudeh Farjami is filming content to be used during the St. Margaret’s cheerleading tryout process.
Several students are using their ISP as a chance to pursue a skill they have long wanted to master. Seniors have taken the first steps to learn how to play the piano or the guitar, to master a film-editing program, to take a culinary class, to complete an EMT course, to learn how to weld, and to learn how to invest in the stock market. Jack Manor and John Boranian are beginning their training toward a pilot’s license.
Many students are also devoting time to pursuing their health and wellness, including beginning half-marathon training, yoga, and mindfulness programs, and logging their progress in these pursuits.
Cameron Shirangi is using his ISP to create his own electric skateboard, with plans to use it as a form of transportation in college. Lauryn Wilson is also creating college transportation, building her own longboard and making it unique through her passion for visual arts.
Luca Carson is building a rocket that reaches a kilometer in height as an extension of his engineering class.
Chris Mullen, meanwhile, built a rock-climbing wall as a way to continue his passion while gyms are closed.
Several students are taking the ISP as an opportunity to express their creativity and skills learned during their time at St. Margaret’s. A few examples include:
- Valerie Ihara is writing and illustrating a children’s book to promote protecting the environment.
- Tatum Westendorf is making a sculpture inspired by the challenging times the world is currently facing, exploring how art influences mindset.
- Zoe Street is writing a musical.
- Kennedy Barlow is painting sweatshirts for friends and family, hoping to personalize them in a way that embodies the recipient’s true character.