Counselor outlines changes to PAHS graduation projects

PUNXSUTAWNEY — They may not know it, but today’s freshmen at PAHS are already working toward completion of their senior projects.

Punxsutawney Area High School students will still be required to complete senior projects in order to graduate, but starting with the Class of 2014 — this year’s freshmen — the projects will become more career and community service oriented.

Monday, guidance counselor Emily Cassidy told the Punxsutawney Area School Board that committees met once a month over the past year to revamp the graduation project program.

Suggestions to gear projects more toward career exploration also came through the district’s Middle States evaluation last year and from teachers and parents, she said.

The state still mandates that the senior project be completed in order to graduate.

Previously, a student had to write a project proposal, followed by the project itself, which could be something such as building a piece or clearing debris from a cemetery, for example. The Class of 2001 was the first class required to complete senior projects.

“It was really very, very open,” Cassidy said. Now, “The idea is to orient more toward career exploration and experience, but maintaining the community service element.”

Community service is defined as “something you do for someone else,” PAHS Principal David London said, noting that a student’s community service may inspire a good senior project.

The student will begin his or her project planning in ninth grade with completion of a career education course, which today’s freshmen are already taking. As a sophomore, the student will complete a career research paper, followed by successful completion of 10 hours of community service and attendance at a college fair, technology fair — both available at PAHS — career fair, college visit or job shadow experience as a junior.

A student may complete his or her 10 hours of community service as a sophomore or a junior, Cassidy said.

Finally, as a senior, the student must successfully complete a resume and a five- to 10-minute oral presentation summarizing documentation of coursework, the career research paper and community service; the technology component; and the resume.

“Most of everything is taken care of at school, other than the community service and attending events such as college fairs or job shadowing,” Cassidy said.

Senior projects may still consist of examples such as spaghetti dinners for Make-A-Wish or volunteering for the Mathog Wrestling Club, Cassidy said, with the focus intact: “Learning what a good feeling you get from benefitting the community.”

The culmination of the projects is the presentation, Cassidy said, which will be held during two nights in November and December, so as not to clash with an already-busy spring.

“At the end of the year, they just have so many other things going on in April and May,” such as prom, Variety Show and other events, she said.

Student board representative Kendall Neal asked what would happen if a student undertaking his or her project found that that particular career area wasn’t an option of interest anymore.

Cassidy said that’s part of the experience: “It’s just as important to find out what you don’t want to do as it is to find out what you do want to do.”

“The journey is just as important as the final destination,” Richard Galluzzi, director of federal programs and curriculum, said.

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• Successful completion of a career education course.

• Successful completion of a career research paper.

• Successful completion of 10 hours of community service.

• Attendance at a college fair, career fair, technology fair, college visit or job shadow experience.

• Successful completion of a resume.

• Successful completion of a five- to 10-minute oral project presentation summarizing documentation of coursework; documentation of a career research paper; review of the community service project; technology component in presentation; resume.

Time Lines:

• Ninth grade — Career education course.

• 10th grade — Career research paper; *community service.

• 11th grade — *Community service; job shadow; tech, career or college fair; or college visit.

• 12th grade — Project presentation; resume.