January 26, 2021

Dear Families of Seniors,

As our Class of 2021 navigates the second half of its senior year, we want to explain in more detail a couple of graduation requirements that come due in late spring: Service Hours and the Senior Project.

Service Hours
Some of you have been asking about the school's position on modifying the off-campus service requirement for the Class of 2021. While we recognize that COVID has made things more complicated, the school continues to support the 45-hour off-campus requirement as it stands. Your senior still needs to complete his/her 45* off-campus and 5 on-campus service hours (*for those who joined CA after grade 9, please see the Service Board at https://sites.google.com/columbusacademy.org/serviceboard/faqs?authuser=0 for modifications).

However, these three new modifications were communicated with seniors before winter break:

All service hours are due Friday, May 21, or concurrent with the completion of the senior project. In the past, the completion of the 45-hour off-campus service requirement was the first week of April.

In the past, those who did not complete their off-campus work by the April due date forfeited their choice of senior project and were assigned additional service work (50 service hours + 60 Senior Project hours for a total of 110 service hours). Students in the Class of 2021 may work on completing service hours while completing their Senior Project.

3. VIRTUAL WORK WILL BE AN OPTION so long as the work and its method of supervision meet with the approval of the Service Board.

Here is the change that was made this summer and has been communicated often to the senior class.

For those who had started their service work:
If your site has or is still closed, please feel free to find another site to complete the balance of your service work. Seniors will need a new proposal. https://sites.google.com/columbusacademy.org/serviceboard/forms?authuser=0

Note: It is strongly encouraged that a student complete his/her hours with one organization or at one site at a time. Maintaining good COVID practices is easier when the pool of volunteers is regular and familiar. Sites are relying on trained, more experienced volunteers to meet the needs of those they serve. Constantly training new folks is costly and drains resources.

Not sure how many hours a senior has served? At Thanksgiving, Ms. Bening contacted nearly every service site where seniors (with incomplete proposals) were or are serving to learn about their service work standing. She has shared that info with most seniors. The Service Board database has been updated with her findings and students' paperwork submissions. 

Suggested plan for completion:
The many upcoming school holidays will offer students opportunities to serve; scheduling that work now (some sites can do this) allows a student to plan ahead and to understand how his/her service might be accomplished.
  • Presidents Day weekend (4-day weekend from Feb. 12-15)
  • March parent-teacher conference days (school ends at noon on the 4th, no classes on the 5th)
  • Spring Break (March 20 - April 4)
  • AND any of the faculty collaboration days (Feb. 24, April TBD)
  • Many schools will NOT have school at some of these times so the competition for hours may be less
  • Many smaller food pantries are looking for help; the elder population that often provides lots of staffing is still hesitant to venture out so opportunities may be greater
  • Demand at food pantries has increased exponentially due to the negative effects COVID has had on some industries particularly the hotel/entertainment sector

Suggested sites for completion (and links):

Below are TWO specific site requests Ms. Bening received in December and has shared with students; each has remote options.

Senior Projects
The Senior Project is a long-standing tradition and something our seniors complete during the weeks between their last day of CA classes and Commencement. Due to COVID, some aspects have had to be modified slightly, but overall it remains an opportunity for seniors to explore in greater depth a topic of interest or to accomplish something meaningful to them. We ask that students submit a preliminary idea via Google Form by Friday, February 12. This is merely a first step to get them thinking and will be followed by multiple revision phases.

Currently, there are four ways in which seniors can begin to frame their project.

1. Learn Something New
Find an online course that interests you. It can be a free course or a course that charges a fee, which you will be responsible for. It should account for at least half of the 60-hour minimum. The remainder of the time should be spent on homework, projects or practice learning or improving new skills. A certificate of completion and verification of hours will be required on or before May 27.
Examples: graphic design, Adobe Illustrator, fashion design
2. Investigate Something
Find a topic of interest or a question you would like answered. Plan how you will do your research. Find a mentor to help guide you. Plan on spending at least 60 hours on research, writing and preparation of your final product, which may be a formally written
research paper, a short documentary film or some other appropriate form. You will need to present your work before a faculty panel.
Examples: climate change, COVID, politics, economics, racial inequality, social justice, family history/genealogy
3. Create Something
Think of these two and a half weeks as a gift of time. Find a mentor to help guide you. Write a short story, a novella or a play. Create works of art. Build a robot. Develop an app. You should plan on spending at least 60 hours on your creation. You will need to present your work before a faculty panel.
Examples: build a musical instrument, write a poetry anthology, make a stop-motion film, update grandmother’s cookbook, write a collection of poems in Spanish, throw, glaze and fire a collection of ceramic bowls
4. Serve Others
Consider doing additional community service/service learning with an approved nonprofit organization. You may choose an existing service opportunity or create your own (pending approval). You may wish to address a particular issue, such as hunger or social justice, and work with a group of agencies focusing on this issue. You will need to provide verification of at least 60 hours of service along with an evaluation from the nonprofit agency or agencies.

Examples: see Service Hours (above)

We will meet with seniors on Wednesday, January 27, to discuss Senior Projects in greater detail. We’ll have an in-person meeting for students on campus, and we’ll host a Zoom meeting for those who are online. Students were made aware of the meeting today during our morning assembly.

Between now and Spring Break, there will be many more opportunities for students to speak with Dr. Bundy, Mr. Russell or me regarding the ins and outs of this requirement and to help develop an idea. Additionally, we will host a Senior Parent Coffee in the next two weeks to acquaint families with the project and help answer questions. Watch for an email with the exact date/time.

Finally, here’s a sweet look at the Senior-Kindergarten Buddy banners for the Class of 2021 that hang in the hallways of the Upper School… enjoy!
Buddy Banner 1of3
Buddy Banner 2of3
Buddy Banner 3of3
Be well,

Head of Upper School