The question asked of many children about what they want to be when they grow up finally comes to fruition with the graduation of high school seniors.
Nevada County students have the opportunity to explore potential careers through their senior projects, which Nevada Union students completed last week and Bear River students have presented this week.
“I gained so much more from my senior project than I ever thought I would. It gave me perspective on what I want to do in the future,” said Bear River student Becca Leaman, whose project covered speech pathology. “It definitely helped me make that decision.”
The idea of which career to choose comes from a variety of sources, whether from personal experiences or lifelong interests.
Leaman had scoliosis and realized she wanted to help students with disabilities or impediments and found speech pathology an appropriate career.
Another student, Cindy Solomon, became interested in physical therapy after she broke her leg sophomore year and realized she wanted to help people recover.
For Solomon’s project, she assisted a physical therapist and decided to pursue pre-physical therapy and kinesiology at San Diego State in the fall.
“I gained the ability to help someone I didn’t know,” Solomon said. “It was very educational.”
Students are put in groups and judged by a panel of community volunteers, some of whom are parents of former students who have seen first-hand the effects the projects have on students.
“It’s a great opportunity for kids to speak in front of others,” said Yvette Hotchkiss, parent of two Bear River alumni, one of whom realized they did not want to pursue criminal justice after the completion of their project. “Many students decide if they do or don’t want to pursue a career, based on what they find in their project.”
Shelby Angus, who wrote for the school paper throughout high school, decided she wanted to pursue psychology rather than journalism after the completion of her project.
Angus interned at The Union for two days and wrote stories about the school’s emergency lockdown procedure and student workers.
“It was extremely rewarding, and I found it exciting to have something on the front page,” Angus said, but said she found the profession to be too unstable in light of the economic times.
One of the Spanish teachers, Shawn Mason, who also teaches college classes, said that in his 15 years at Bear River, about three-fourths of the students realize they do not want to pursue the field involved in their project.
“For the first three years, all six students said they weren’t going to go into the field (their projects covered),” Mason said. “Many freshmen change their major three or four times. This really gives students the opportunity to figure out what they do or don’t want to do.”
The projects are a year-long process, during which seniors choose a topic in the beginning of the year, complete 20 hours of field work, present a poster in January as well as design a pamphlet, write a college essay, resume and cover letter and complete an interview by a community member in their field.
Students also complete a process journal and presentation at the end of the school year, said Jeff Carrow, senior project coordinator.
“This prepares them for choices and pathways they will have later on in life,” Carrow said. “You see incredible growth.”
By eliminating undesired careers, students are also able to save money and time wasted in college, Carrow said.
The projects also allow the community to be involved, as the judging panel consists of interested volunteers, 80 percent of whom have volunteered previously.
“A lot in the community really value education and being involved in this way is a gratifying experience,” Carrow said. “The school is an important part of the community and special to a lot of people.”
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.