September 2, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria students to test out the working world

Eligible seniors at Elyria High School are getting a new opportunity for hands-on experience in the world of work, thanks to the school’s first Senior Project Program.

Over the course of three weeks in May and June, participating seniors will spend 75 hours interning in a field of their choice.  Advised by a high school faculty member, each student will shadow a community sponsor who works in a particular field. The student will provide ongoing reflection on his or her experiences through weekly journal entries and a final presentation.

Any member of the community can volunteer to become a sponsor, provided they are not a family member of the student. The community sponsor acts as an onsite supervisor and mentor to the student over the course of the internship.

The goal is to allow students to try out a field of work in which they are interested right after graduating high school through practical application.

This year’s participants in the program will complete internships in a variety of local areas, including the EMH Elyria Medical Center, Elyria City Council and Elyria High School itself.

Senior LaQuann Dawson is interested in a career in graphic design, with which he already has a significant amount of experience.

He performs freelance work for Elyria High, including making fliers and T-shirts; does freelance work for outside sources recommended by the school, including creating the 30th anniversary logo for Ohio Career Information Systems; and submits his artwork in competitions.  However, he said he hopes that the senior project will let him apply his previous work experience to a professional, real-world setting.

For the project, LaQuann will be interning at Hyland Software in Westlake. He will be sponsored by a company representative and advised by Elyria High business and computer teacher Elizabeth Cleary.

“I’m hoping (the program) will be fun and different,” he said.  “I hoping it will let me get experience with graphic design in a professional setting and … where I’m collaborating with others.”

Elyria High School’s Senior Project Program was inspired by similar programs used in a few other high schools in Northeast Ohio, including Clearview, Avon Lake, Magnificat and St. Edward.

Elyria High Principal Thomas Jama was an administrator at Clearview High School in 2010 when it began its version of the program.  Participants in Clearview’s program reported “nothing but positive reviews,” said Jama, even when the student discovered that they did not enjoy the profession they were shadowing.

Last year, Jama consulted with the counseling staff of Elyria High School about implementing a Senior Project Program. He hopes that the program will provide another way to further expand the school’s academic rigor.

“We’re trying to raise that bar another level, to get the kids exposed to the world of work … opportunities that they wouldn’t normally have,” he said.

Information about the program was “well-advertised,” according to LaQuann, who became interested after learning about it during a school assembly in his junior year.

Seniors interested in the program must be in good academic and behavioral standing, and otherwise be on track to graduate in June 2013.  Senior participants in the program must write weekly reflective journal entries, and prepare a final write-up and presentation for a Senior Project committee.

The committee comprises the sponsor, faculty adviser and other faculty of Elyria High School, and will evaluate each final presentation on a pass/fail basis. Once accepted into the Senior Project Program, a senior must complete the program in its entirety in order to graduate.

Participating seniors are also exempt from taking final exams.

“We’re hoping to have at least 10 students who are interested this year,” said guidance counselor Laurie Doan, who is coordinating the program this year.

Doan said she hopes this program will help demonstrate the academic rigor of which Elyria High School’s students are capable.

“We don’t really get a bad rap,” she said, “but the school’s good points tend to get overlooked.”

Contact Hannah Varadi at 329-7243 or hvaradi@chroniclet.com.