The senior project is the capstone of an Ellis student’s experience, exemplifying the ways in which students turn their passions into projects for their communities. Once students pick a project, they must find a partner in the community—a person or an organization—that they can work with to carry it out. They make contact, follow up, work hard, and ultimately complete a project that enhances their own understanding of the topic while also benefiting the organization, and often the greater community.
The Class of 2023’s projects illustrate the diversity of interests and perspectives among its members. A full list is below.
Providing Evolutionary Biology Research Experiences in High Schools with EvolvingSTEM
Sarah worked with the University of Pittsburgh Medical School in the Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Lab, where she assisted Dr. Abigail Matela, the EvolvingSTEM Director of Educational Outreach and Research. The EvolvingSTEM program
implements evolutionary microbiology experimentation in high school biology labs in Pittsburgh. Sarah conducted experiments such as a DNA extraction, counted bacterial colonies, poured agar plates, and cleaned lab equipment, among other tasks in Dr. Matela’s lab.
Increasing Participation in Girls’ Sports Through Exposure to Women’s Sports Via Social Media
Katie partnered with Kacie Van Stiphout, Social Media Manager for the Portland Thorns (women) and Timbers (men) soccer teams and with Ellis’ Athletic Department to examine how social media and in-person connections grow and affect the audiences of women’s sports.
Exploring and Expanding Sex Education with Planned Parenthood
Ilona worked with Dr. Martha Terry of the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health to research period poverty around the world and in the Pittsburgh area. She volunteered with the Diaper Repository in Braddock, which supplies period products for free. She also created a system at Ellis to keep the Upper School bathrooms stocked with menstrual products.
Trash Talk: Advocating for A Plastic-Free Lifestyle
Grace embarked on an advocacy project to raise awareness about pollution. She attempted to lead a zero-waste lifestyle during the month of February and recorded her experiences, which culminated in a short podcast.
Supporting Adoption and Conscious Care of Unhomed Cats in Allegheny County
Nora explored the benefits of pet adoption and worked to spread awareness about the euthanization of shelter animals. She worked with Rescue and Relax Cat Lounge
in Pittsburgh to plan fundraisers and other events.
CommuniTEA: How Tea Can Facilitate Connection Through Education and Art
Collaborating first with Dobrá Tea Pittsburgh
, Adah then worked with Ellis Middle School Teachers Jaclynn Dame and Karen Compton to design a Tiger Institute course about the cultural significance of tea in communities around the world. She also distributed tea to Upper School students and created an art piece in the form of a tree from which students could hang their tea bags.
The Health of Our Rivers: Engaging the Next Generation in Understanding and Appreciating Our Rivers
To educate more people about the rivers and the impact they have on Pittsburgh, Cassidy worked with Lower School STEM Teacher Kim Mechling to create a presentation for Ellis fourth graders for their unit focused on the Earth’s water.
Creating Teaching Resources for a New Generation of Classic Students
Rowan partnered with Dr. Ellen Lee, a Classics Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, to conduct research on Sulpicia, a female poet and a teenager at the time of her writing. She created a Latin poetry reader geared towards intermediate high school Latin students in Pittsburgh based on The Experrecta Series: Woman Latin Authors.
Exploring Food Insecurity Organizations in Squirrel Hill
Katriel explored food insecurity in Pittsburgh by volunteering with Our Giving Kitchen
and Chabad of Squirrel Hill
. She hosted a group of Ellis student volunteers at Our Giving Kitchen, where the students spent an afternoon preparing food, labeling containers, and packaging food. She separately raised more than $700 for the organization through bake sales.
Increasing Young Female Involvement in Male-Dominated Sports
Mia interned with the Pittsburgh Flag Football League
Office, working with League Commissioner and Ellis parent Chris Curd toward the goal of increasing girls’ participation in the sport. She worked with girls ages 7–9 at the Montour Sports Complex for the winter season and also interned in the League office.
Providing Resources for Conscious Consumerism and Upcycling for Pittsburgh Youth
Lucy’s project provided resources and instruction on upcycling. Working with her mentor, Phipps Conservatory Science Education Coordinator Jennifer Torrance, she held instructional, free workshops at Phipps Conservatory’s CSL Classroom and also hosted the Phipps Youth Climate Advocacy Committee Showcase in April. She wrote essays about conscious consumerism and fast fashion for her WordPress website and hosted a mini-course on the topic for Ellis Upper School students in May.
March for Babies: The Fight for Healthier Moms and Babies
Abby worked throughout the year to raise money for March of Dimes
in support of the organization’s goal to end preventable maternal health risks and deaths, end preventable preterm birth and infant death, and close the health equity gap in maternal and infant care. Her project culminated in a spring fundraising event in Mellon Park, a march she organized that included Ellis Lower School students.
Investing in Fox Chapel’s Conservancy Programs and Their Future
Ellie interviewed Fox Chapel borough and community members on the ways in which its preservation programs have shaped the borough’s actions toward maintaining its parks. She then brought her skills and knowledge to an Upper School-wide clean-up activity in Mellon Park during mini-courses.
Coding an Educational Video Game
Vi created an educational video game aimed at a younger audience to help teach them basic coding principles and techniques. The project was inspired by her summer internship with GameShovel. She did extensive testing with Middle and Upper School students at Ellis and plans to release the game on itch.io for free download.
Reuse, Recycle, Repeat: The Art of Preserving the Environment
Esty partnered with The Refillery
, a Pittsburgh-based business that focuses on reuse of plastic and glass containers. Esty created a window display for their store from donated and reused items, designed a special logo for the organization to use on tote bags, and volunteered by cleaning jars, filling gift bags, and making tags for store items.
The Game of Life: Facing Obstacles Within Transportation and Exploring the Application of Sensors at HERL
Grayson worked with the Human Engineering Research Laboratories
(HERL), shadowing their process to create devices to assist people with disabilities. She then created an online board game to educate youth about the obstacles people who use wheelchairs face within transportation.
Supporting Under-Resourced Schools Through the Story Collection Project
Abby studied nonprofit marketing by gathering stories from teachers who have been helped by The Education Partnership
(TEP), a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit resource center that distributes classroom supplies to schools in need at no cost. Working with TEP Advancement Director Kiki Reis, Abby hopes the stories can be used to attract TEP donors and raise awareness about the organization.
Free Catching Clinic for Young Athletes
Athena organized a charity fundraiser in support of Pitch In for Baseball and Softball
, an organization that provides baseball and softball equipment to schools and programs around the world to help increase athletics opportunities for children. She also hosted a free clinic at Ellis for aspiring young softball players.
The Miraculous Journey of Stage Managing the Grades 6 and 7 Play
Corinne embarked on a behind-the-scenes study of theater by assisting with the production of Ellis’ sixth and seventh grade play, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. She helped manage after-school rehearsals and made costumes. She also conducted dramaturgy research by interviewing local theater artists about their experiences with directing and stage management.
Uniting Different Religions in the Pittsburgh Community One Photograph at a Time
Sabrina worked with the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom
to create a gallery that explores different religious spaces and practices in the Pittsburgh area. Her goal was to photograph the similarities between the religions to bridge them together as a stronger and more supportive community. She displayed the photos at Ellis at the end of May.
Shadowing Child Psychologists at Carnegie Mellon University’s Children's School and Implementing Positive Teaching Strategies into Choreographing the Lower School Play
Kaelin studied how psychology influences dance and assisted with choreography for Ellis’ annual Lower School Musical, Seussical: The Musical.
Unleashing Your Inner Fighter: Lessons from the Mats (Documentary)
Sofia shadowed the advertising team at Ronin Advertising Group in Zelienople, PA, learning how to use cameras, editing software, and various marketing techniques. She used these skills to make a documentary about female martial arts fighters, highlighting their journeys in a historically male-dominated field.
Advocating for the Environment Through Art: A Zine
Sophia created a zine, The Tree Hugger’s Museum, that displayed a collection of art made by Pittsburgh’s high schoolers. The overarching theme was advocacy for climate action and protection of the local environment.
Raising Awareness of Endangered Floral Species in Pennsylvania by Selling Jewelry
Inspired by her volunteer experience with Phipps Conservatory
last summer, Hannah created flower necklaces replicating endangered plants. She then designed digital pamphlets with information about each flower that accompanied the necklaces sold during an event at the Phipps Garden Center in May.
Addressing Concerns of Mental Health in Women of Color
Through interviews with Pittsburgh area mental health professionals and her own research, Sreethi has explored the intersectionality between mental health and other aspects of identity. She presented her findings and suggestions to the Upper School faculty in May, providing resources and points of reflection for their work moving forward.
Recital to Benefit the Restoration of America’s First Black Opera House
Amelia held a recital in May to benefit the restoration of the National Opera House
in Pittsburgh's Homewood neighborhood. The National Opera House was the home of the National Negro Opera Company (NNOC), founded by Madame Mary Cardwell Dawson in 1941 and in operation until her death in 1962. Amelia used her passion for classical singing to bring awareness to the National Opera House and NNOC.
Providing Free Health Screenings to Underserved Communities
After spending her past two summers working with a mentor in the Women’s Cancer Research Center at the Hillman Cancer Center Academy
, Enysah took her study a step further by working with community organizations to host health screenings in underserved communities. She worked with Steven Ware, a Community Engagement Manager at CVS.
Improving the Environment in the Burn Unit at UPMC Presby
Serena volunteered with Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery (SOAR), an organization affiliated with UPMC that provides volunteer training to burn survivors or their family members to help those who have been impacted by a burn injury. She also shadowed employees in the burn unit at UPMC Mercy Hospital, presenting designs for the reimagining of patient community spaces.
Characterizing Pittsburgh’s Elusive Fashion Scene: A Zine
Working with organizations including Brown Mamas
, When She Thrives
, the Black business marketplace, and Zuri Beads
, Trinity created a digital zine that includes interviews, videos, and the history of clothing stores and boutiques in Pittsburgh.
All hung: A Gallery at You Are Here: A Place for Art in Jeannette
Working with the gallerists of You Are Here
: A Place for Art in Jeannette, Ray organized and helped install All hung, a show for a range of artists in the area, from students to recognized professionals. Ray learned skills of curation, installation, and exhibition planning.
Creating A Teen Tour at the Mattress Factory
Ella interned at the Mattress Factory
museum, creating a guide for their teaching artists about how to lead a tour that will resonate with teenagers. She also created a zine for a self-guided tour that is also geared toward teens.
Polyglot Pittsburgh: Building Bridges to Multilingualism
Lucia worked alongside Lower School Spanish Teacher Brenda Martinez to explore early childhood language acquisition and learning behaviors. She planned and gave a lesson to the pre-kindergarten Spanish students in May. In addition, Lucia prepared for this project by shadowing at Duolingo
A Helping Hand: Raising Money for the Humane Wildlife Organization of Pittsburgh
Mackenzi’s senior project supported the Humane Animal Rescue
Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. She collected items needed for the wildlife baby season and collaborated with the Humane Education Department to construct a new "free library" for the Wildlife Center Campus on Verona Road.
Bringing Awareness to the Experiences of People That Have Been/Are Displaced in Allegheny County
Asani worked to increase awareness and empathy for the homeless community by encouraging people within and outside of Ellis to look for similarities between their experiences and the experiences of those who are homeless. She conducted research with Dr. Jim Withers of the Street Medicine Institute
and volunteered at Jubilee Soup Kitchen.
Heat Islands and Health Disparities in Cities: Internship with the Smart Surfaces Coalition
Elinor interned with the Smart Surfaces Coalition
, writing reports on specific cities to assist the company’s investigations into racial and socioeconomic inequalities between neighborhoods. Her reports considered how average temperatures are consistently higher in minority neighborhoods.
Harm Reduction Education for Teens
EJ made a video about harm reduction, a holistic form of addiction treatment, to educate the public about the topic and encourage support of people with this addiction. He volunteered with Prevention Point Pittsburgh
and interviewed a nurse from the RIvER (Rethinking Incarceration and Empowering Recovery) Clinic at Allegheny Health Network to gain insight into the subject matter. He also consulted a producer and others at WQED for advice on video production.
Power of Piano: A Key to Human Emotions and Memory
In addition to her senior recital, Parisha planned and performed two piano recitals based on the power of music on human memory and emotions. She designed her recital programs with pieces in different genres that can align with the emotions or memories that those genres emote. Some of the pieces included were “Opening Night Jazz,” “Mia & Sebastian’s Theme from La La Land,” “Solfeggieto,” and “View From a Window.”
The Importance of Female Officials in Flag Football
Zoe interned with Pittsburgh Flag Football League (PFFL), during which time she shadowed employees in the League’s offices, refereed flag football games, and learned about how a club sports league is run and grown. Her goal is to increase visibility of female officials in flag football by continuing to referee for PFFL games.