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Casa Grande graduates tie Senior Projects to school and personal visions

Senior projects have long been a tradition at Casa Grande High School, but this year they took on a special meaning as students merged their community service with the school vision and mission.

“The Senior Project at Casa Grande High School is a pillar of the program and a watershed experience for our graduates,” said school Principal Dan Ostermann. “All seniors are required to complete a Senior Project, the heart of which is centered around community service.

“This year, our students and staff went above and beyond to not only make it happen, but the group has done a fantastic job of adapting the project to the ‘new normal,’ as well as further deepening the impact of our school-wide vision and Profile of a Graduate.”

The principal explained that the senior project is a key component of the school vision, which is for “All Casa Grande graduates to be broadly literate; civically engaged; highly employable and to have a personal vision for their future.”

With school confined to online, students were required to present their projects and be interviewed by a rotating panel of faculty members. They were required to explain how their project helped them better understand and fulfill the school vision and mission. The panel discussed and questioned each senior about his/her project and how it related to their education at Casa Grande and their own personal vision. In addition, seniors had to prepare a website about their project and their experience.

Because of the pandemic, the discussions were conducted via Zoom.

Assistant Principal Samantha Azofeifa said the students were thoughtful about the process.

“Every person I interviewed took the process seriously,” she said. “They showed up dressed like it was a job interview. They were very professional and well prepared. At first, they were pretty nervous, but then they began to lighten up and ask questions. They took ownership of their projects. It was a much more open dialogue.”

“The feedback was very positive,” said social studies teacher Brian Lochtan, who conducted a number of the interviews. “It gave the seniors a chance to share their personal experience with the interview teams on their level.”

“The students really exceeded our expectations,” Ostermann said. “They rose to the challenge. They took ownership of their project and the ideals of Casa Grande High School.”

Ostermann also noted that the Casa Grande staff stepped up to volunteer on the interview panels.

”Our staff was amazing,” he said. “Each staff member did 9 to 11 interviews. “We couldn’t have done this if everybody hadn’t helped out.”

A sampling of the projects:

– Belen Macias chose for her project to raise funds for a playground and garden on the ranch where she lived. She and her sister raised money for the project through bake sales and raffles and cleaned up the area for the playground. The play structure has been purchased and is waiting to be installed.

During the project she discovered how badly the children wanted the play area. She wrote on her website, “When I was doing cleanups outside, I noticed all of the little kids were actually coming out and helping with a rake or a broom cleaning up the dry grass and throwing it away which was a really big help because my sister and I could not have done it by ourselves and it really shows that the kids really want the play structure.”

– Emma Di Coto volunteered at the Goatlandia Animal Rescue Sanctuary, a nonprofit dedicated to rescuing animals from local and industry farms from being killed or neglected.

“I had a really enriching and enjoyable experience at Goatlandia Animal Sanctuary when I volunteered there for my Senior Project,” she said. “The founder, Deborah Blum, offers tours for those interested in learning about the harmful effects of the animal food industry on both the surviving animals and the environment. This experience really pushed me to be more conscious of my food choices as well as informing us about other options to non-vegan products.”

– Bener Besir volunteered with Study Buddies. He wrote on his website: “Through my experience volunteering, I gained skills which inspired me about my personal vision. For example, the graduate profile states that a person who has goals and dreams; a lifelong learner; maintains a healthy lifestyle then has a personal vision. In my personal vision, I see myself as a well educated and healthy person who obtains a passionate occupation that helps people. In the present, I am looking forward to technology and design. This is important to me because without a personal vision you can´t be successful and not only that but you can´t advise others to do the same.”

– Cameron Harding’s senior project involved returning to his former elementary school as a volunteer at Harvest Christian School.

He wrote on his website: “I am currently working as a babysitter and a tutor in Sonoma on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I get a lot of experience working with kids and that really lets me excel while volunteering at Harvest. I would say the best part of what I have been getting to do has been playing with the kids at recess, with masks on of course. Understanding how a kid thinks and what they find fun is something that has always come naturally to me, and with COVID-19 going on, making students’ experience at school as normal and enjoyable as possible has been super rewarding. Beyond that, I am also getting good experience with secretarial and grounds keeping duties as I am just being flexible and doing whatever the school needs me to do for the time I am there.”

– Kayla Vasquez was born and raised locally as the daughter of an immigrant. She chose to organize a food drive for COTS as her Senior Project.

She wrote on her website:

“While working to organize a food drive to help to support COTS and the under-privileged community in Petaluma, I used a variety of skills that show that I have a personal vision. According to the graduate profile, a student who has personal vision is one that has dreams about the future, and is a resilient lifelong learner. I chose to host a food drive because I am passionate about providing aid to the under-served in our community as directly as I can, especially in times of such dire need. Furthermore, being so actively involved in all the different aspects of this project helped me to grow the knowledge base I had already accumulated through previous volunteer experiences so that I can help people more effectively and thoroughly in the future. This shows that I have a personal vision that applies to my present and my future, by continuing to learn how I can help those around me who are in need.”

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