Bruna Paranhos plans to study civil engineering at Stanford University next year, while Princeton-bound Aoi Senju has stepped back from plans to pursue a career in music. Both students made important discoveries about their future goals as a result of a strong but growing program at Horace Greeley High School called Senior Experience.
Paranhos and Senju were among 27 Greeley students who took part in the new program, which offers seniors a five-week internship experience while allowing them to return to school for sports, musical performances, social events and meetings with advisors. A final presentation about their experience concludes the program.
Embedded in the program’s concept was to have something to offer students in the waning weeks of high school when all college plans and tests are done. But it is much more than that.
“It’s an opportunity for students to identify goals and follow their passions,” said English teacher Andrew Corsilia, one of the faculty advisors on the project. “And for them to learn more about themselves.”
This spring Paranhos worked at a transportation engineering firm in Briarcliff Manor. “I selected engineering because I really liked math and science in school and I wanted to learn more about their practical applications,” she said. As a result of her experience, Paranhos said she plans to study civil engineering.
It is for that kind of clarity that Senior Explorations was partly designed. But Corsilia explains that the Greeley program, which started last year with 18 students, is about more than identifying goals. “It’s also about self-discovery.”
For Senju, a talented musician, self-discovery meant that he won’t be pursuing a career in music. Senju opted for independent study to find out more about himself as a musician. In his Senior Explorations project he devoted four-to-six hours a day to practicing the piano.
“The big questions for me were: Would I have the ability to continue music at the professional level and survive this unstable career? And more importantly, could I see myself dedicating the rest of my life to music?”
After his five-week experience, Senju concluded that the answer was ‘no’. “I couldn't bring my music up to the quality that I wanted. I don't think I can dedicate my life to music,” he said. He said he hopes to major in Chemical Engineering.
While it helped give him direction, Senju feels the independent study made him better prepared for college in another way. “The complete independence I had over my day has ultimately helped prepare me for the freedom of college life,” he said.
Paranhos also learned an unexpected lesson from her internship: a newfound respect for free time. “Getting home at 5 p.m. made me appreciate my time at night more,” she said. “I certainly didn't waste the time between getting home from work and going to bed because I didn't have much of it compared to when I was going to school.”
Jack Holloman and Victoria Blumenfeld opted for their internships for other reasons. “I wanted to be outside using my hands,” said Victoria. Although neither is destined for a life on the land, they chose to intern at Rainbow Ridge Farm in Bedford Hills, a small farm that makes award-winning goat cheese. “I’d never been on a farm in my life,” said Holloman.
He valued the experience of getting closer to nature and marveled at eating peas off the vine. Among his farm chores was harvesting garlic. “It’s so cool to see garlic right out of the ground,” he said. The experience has made him more conscious of what he’s eating. “I really respect where food comes from now.”
While Corsilia is happy to have the program grow slowly “so that we can give the students all the support they need,” Blumenfeld anticipates that more and more students will opt for Senior Explorations. “Lots of my friends told me how much they wished they had done it,” she said.
To that end, Paranhos has some advice for future high school seniors. “Not many seniors remember their last couple of weeks of classes as something memorable. Whatever you do for your Senior Experience, I can guarantee you'll remember it, so pick something that you think you will enjoy and try it out! If you like it, you will be pleasantly surprised at how much you can learn in five weeks. And if you don't, you still learned something about yourself, right?”