Preparing Ellis Seniors for College and Beyond

In their senior year at Ellis, students expect to gain privileges, apply to college, and graduate ready for the next phase of their life. Beyond these rites of passage, students are also prepared to launch through several formative senior year activities: the Senior Project, Senior Thesis, and Senior Seminar. It is because of their engagement with these intellectual ventures that our students walk across the commencement stage well equipped to tackle their collegiate careers.
The Senior Project is the culmination of our Integrated Studies curriculum. Using skills and content learned in grades 9–11, students design an independent research project that allows them to delve deeply into a content area of their choosing. The wide-ranging interests of this year’s senior class are reflected in their senior projects, which include working with Global Wordsmith translating services to learn about and participate in different types of translation, creating a mural inside the Jewish Community Center in collaboration with the youth who attend the center, and writing a mini-course play about girls’ experiences going to school in other countries. Through their work on these projects, students are prepared for college-level independent learning and research. Most importantly, the completion of this work is an experience that challenges and energizes each student.

The interdisciplinary Senior Thesis is the capstone of English education at Ellis. This independently-driven project arises out of individual student interest in a pressing subject that can be explored via literary studies. Prior to their senior thesis, seniors write analytical or argumentative compositions about the literature in the grade 12 curriculum with emphasis on the continued development of research skills. Beginning in the second trimester, students apply these research skills to a 15–20 page senior thesis on a topic and texts of their choosing. Much like the Senior Project, the writing of the Senior Thesis prepares students for the intensive level of scholarly engagement that will be required of them as they pursue higher education.

Senior Seminar at Ellis is the practical, hands-on way in which our students prepare for their collegiate career. Beginning the year with the act of applying to college, then moving on to learning valuable life skills such as healthy eating and navigating college campuses and resources, and finally completing a course in financial literacy, our students are exposed to life beyond high school.

At many points throughout the year, I am struck by how much our senior students have grown since I first greeted them as grade 9 students. I see them taking on larger leadership roles, serving as role models to our younger students, and tackling ever more rigorous coursework. It is in these moments that I am confident in their preparedness for whatever lies beyond their time at Ellis.