Last week, 190 seniors at Tewksbury Memorial High School gathered to display the results of more than six weeks of work at the school’s second annual Senior Project Expo. At least two-thirds of the senior class conceived of and participated in their own research projects spanning a wide range of topics. The Senior Project initiative was introduced in the 2017-2018 school year as a way for graduating students to gain meaningful experience during their last weeks of high school while receiving credit for their work. Students had the opportunity to participate in an “externship,” a research project, a community service project, or to write a research paper. Each student had their project approved by a faculty committee, and was overseen by staff and site supervisors. “We want students to be ambitious, because we want to approve big projects,” said assistant principal Sean O’Leary. O’Leary noted that several students have found summer employment or internships as a consequence of their projects.
This year’s projects were widespread and creative. One student interned in the Lowell courthouse clerk’s office, appearing in court and assisting in filing documents, in anticipation of a criminal justice career. Another student wrote a four-part A Capella arrangement of an original “town song.” Senior Jess Caredeo did a community service project at the Tewksbury Food Pantry, collecting 1,048 food items from local businesses and schools and sorting them at the pantry. “I learned social skills, and how to advocate for myself,” she said. “It was a positive experience. It felt good donating and putting time into the community.” A student looking toward a career as a veterinarian worked at a horse barn, and another student learned about small business ownership from interning at a tuxedo shop. Senior Jon Cabral was an English Language Learner tutor for a first grader and a ninth grader who speak Portuguese. A pair of students drove across eastern Massachusetts to twenty pizzerias, grading each pizza on a rubric they wrote. Two students went vegan for six weeks and wrote about their experiences. Others created a cooking show, wrote movie reviews, and painted murals depicting various aspects of the TMHS experience. A popular project was working in classrooms at the lower elementary schools. A student who recently transferred to the district was inspired by his experience of struggling to find his way at a new school to create a virtual tour of different schools in town for other new students to use, stitching together photos to make a Google Earth-esque model of important areas in Tewksbury schools.
“Every year I am totally amazed by what the seniors did and what experiences they’ve had,” remarked assistant principal Dr. Eileen Osborne. “In every presentation, I’ve learned something new. It gives students a way to use skills they have learned in Tewksbury Public Schools in a way that is authentic and meaningful.”