Learning real-world skills

Senior projects give students an opportunity to serve the community, explore careers

timestamp icon
category icon Life

The senior capstone project: Over the years, students in Camas and Washougal have come up with some fairly unique and interesting ideas. These have included everything from teaching leadership classes to young children to climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Completing a senior project has long been a graduation requirement at high schools in Washougal and Camas. The state stopped requiring it in June 2014, but both districts decided it was in the best interest of students to keep it in place.

Carol Boyden serves as associate principal of Washougal High School and principal of Excelsior High School, the district’s alternative school.

“The greatest benefit to having students do senior projects is the sense of accomplishment they feel upon their completion,” she said. “Many students have never undertaken a project of this nature and had the bulk of the responsibility for its success rest soundly on them.”

Susan Asher is associate principal at Camas High School. She noted that senior projects give students the opportunity to experience potential career fields in which they have an interest, whether through job shadowing, creating or constructing something or through volunteer service.

“These opportunities provide students a unique perspective as they work with an adult mentor who is not related to the student and they get an inside look at their area of interest before venturing out into the ‘real world.’ Secondly, they learn valuable communication and organizational skills in working with their mentors to complete their senior projects. These are all life skills that students will have no matter where their future path leads them.”

Boyden agreed.

“The projects are as different as the students themselves, but each allows a student to direct a project from beginning to end.” she said.

The Post-Record selected a sampling of senior projects to feature from all four local high schools. These range from cooking meals for the homeless to constructing new garden beds to benefit students and community members in need.

Hayes Freedom High School

o Name: Elaine Hunt

Age: 17

Project: Volunteering at the Winter Hospitality Overflow Shelter for homeless women and families, and collecting toiletry items for the shelter.

Why?: “At first I was going to job shadow a designer, but then I found out she volunteered there.”

What did you do?: “After I started volunteering at the shelter, I got the idea to start a collection of toiletry items and towels because there was hardly anything there. I collected for two weeks and received seven to nine carloads. I loved seeing the looks on the people’s face. They were so thankful.”

Mentor: Diane Coates

Total hours estimated to complete project: 30

Most important thing you have learned: “Not everyone has a place to stay. Be grateful for what you have.”

o Name: Daniela Garcia

Age: 18

Project: Volunteering with anti-human trafficking groups National Women’s Coalition Against Violence and Exploitation, Shared Hope International, as well as the Clark County Human Trafficking Task Force.

Why?: “I have always had a passion for victims of human trafficking.”

What did you do?: “I went with my mentor to many different events and a conference about violence and exploitation. I am also going on a ride along with a Portland police officer, and doing a presentation at Hayes and hopefully Skyridge Middle School.”

Mentor: Michelle Bart, president and co-founder of NWCAVE.

Total hours estimated to complete project: 30.

Most important thing you have learned: “You really never know who could be a victim of human trafficking. It could be your neighbor, your best friend or your family member. Awareness is very important.”

Camas High School

o Name: Claire Parker

Age: 17

Project: Job shadow a flight instructor and create a Power Point presentation for young pilots, along with passing her FAA written exam.

Why?: “My dad is an airline captain for Virgin America and flying has always fascinated me. I wanted to incorporate that into my project.”

What did you do?: “I took Ground School classes and studied all of the elements of aviation. I’m making a Power Point to help kids who want to be future pilots by using games to help solidify their knowledge of aviation. I plan to do this as a class and all proceeds will go toward aviation scholarships.”

Mentor: Theresa Nelson, director of flight maintenance at Pierson Field.

Total hours estimated to complete project: 45

Most important thing you have learned: With any career goal, it’s important to have a passion for it.

o Name: Donovan MacGowan

Age: 17

Project: Provide content for, design and print a yearbook for Papermaker Preschool, located on the grounds of Camas High School.

Why?: “My photography teacher mentioned it as a need that would suit my interests.”

What did you do?: “I researched the best place to print my yearbook, laid out a plan for what I would put in there, took photos of different events and talked to kids and parents.”

Mentor: Doug Huegli, CHS photography teacher.

Total hours estimated to complete project: 45

Most important thing you have learned: “How to work with kids and make sure I keep their attention, as well as working with their parents.”

Washougal High School

o Name: Ashleigh Kratzke

Age: 17

Project: Preparing and serving meals to the homeless in downtown Portland.

Why?: “I attended Hayes Freedom High School and it was a senior project there that I liked.”

What did you do?: “I spent 14 hours preparing 100 meals for the homeless and then walked around near Burnside Street and passed them out. It was phenomenal.”

Mentor: Michelle Clark, community member

Total hours estimated to complete project: 80

Most important thing you have learned: “Acceptance. I was able to get out there and do something for people, and show acceptance as well as receive it. That was a really cool thing.”

o Name: Mackenzie Kitchen

Age: 18

Project: Assembling weekend food bags for high school students in need.

Why?: “My friend did it last year and it sounded like a project that was simple to do, but awesome at the same time.”

What did you do?: “I put together 20 bags of food every Thursday after picking up donations from the Children’s Home Society.”

Mentor: Carol Boyden

Total hours estimated to complete project: 100

Most important thing you have learned: “Responsibility. I have to do it every week and it feels good to help out.”

Excelsior High School

o Name: Jordon Hysmith

Age: 19

Project: Rebuilding the raised garden beds at EHS.

Why?: “I noticed the beds were really small and thought it would be good to build new ones.”

What will you do?: “I am going to make them higher so it helps keep the soil moist, makes it look nicer and so we have more of a variety of fruits and vegetables that can be grown.”

Mentor: Carol Boyden

Total hours estimated to complete project: 25-35

Most important thing you have learned: “It is all important, from the type of wood I use to the soil. This will help feed students and the community.”