Last week, 112 senior high school students in Shoshone County gave their state-required senior project presentations. For many, these presentations could mean the difference between graduation and possibly having to take a summer-school course.
All three local school districts have variations to its project criteria, but the core concept is similar.
Each student is tasked with finding a topic or subject, job shadowing hours requirement, forming a thesis, and then writing a research paper supporting or arguing that thesis.
Once those aspects are complete, the students give a presentation to a group of judges and peers.
Scored on things like presentation content, attire, overall presentation ability and effort are part of what the judges look for, as well as fitting into a time limit.
From there, the schools begin to differ.
“The state of Idaho requires that every Idaho graduate completes a senior project,” said Tina Brackebusch, Wallace High School teacher and senior class coordinator. “Our project is delivered through our careers class which is a Wallace High School requirement for graduation. The paper goes into semester one; The 40-hour project, job shadow and presentation are graded in semester two. Students investigate a career in which they are interested in pursuing after graduation.”
At Mullan High School, the presentation is an effort to get students to begin thinking about their post high school lives.
“Students do a presentation on the career field they have chosen to pursue in life,” said MHS Principal Don Kotschevar. “This presentation is given to school board members, administration and parents. They explain why this career interests them, training needed, job statistics, salary and benefits. It’s not a huge grade but rather an expectation. Students take it very seriously because it’s their life and they want to make great decisions and are required to do it to earn a diploma.”
Seventy-two of the students were Kellogg High School seniors, and while counselor Elana Estill encourages the students to look into something they are interested, it doesn’t have to be career related necessarily.
“I encourage students to pick topics that they are either passionate about or incredibly interested in,” Estill said. “I always tell them that the project will not seem like work and it will actually be a fun experience if they choose their topic correctly. I can absolutely tell the ones that took this advice. They are usually amazingly invested, they learn a ton, and they enjoy the project as a whole.”
Estill spoke about student Shae Durham, who enjoyed her project so much that she still is involved with her subject.
“I feel she got a lot out of her project and she still continues to volunteer in the Spokane NICU to this day despite senior project hours being due at the beginning of April,” Estill said. “To me, that it is quite frankly the point of this project. Learning, experience and growth. Picking the correct topic is a crucial part to obtaining these things.”
With a pass or fail grade requirement and the impending possibility of not graduating, the day can be extra stressful for any senior student, but it is presentation day that Estill believes is her favorite part of the process.
“The project presentation day is without a doubt my favorite day of the school year. Students spend the whole year learning, growing and working hard, and it all comes together on this day,” Estill said. “It is amazing to see how far students have come and I am always proud to see all they’ve accomplished. I also love when students come up to me beaming with pride to tell me they’ve passed and as silly as it sounds, it makes it all worth it.”