Projects with a purpose take seniors to diplomaSenior projects are more than a graduation requirement at Superior High School.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Senior projects are more than a graduation requirement at Superior High School. For some participants, they are a chance to lend a helping hand.
Others take the opportunity to research a career. Seniors can choose to learn something new, like a language or a musical instrument, or raise money for a worthy cause. And for the adults who evaluate the presentations, senior projects offer a fresh view.
“You can really see the quality of the students coming through, the kind of education they’re getting here in Superior,” said Charlie Glazman, associate dean of continuing education at the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College of Superior. “It’s really pretty impressive.”
Dave Minor, president of the Chamber of Commerce for Superior-Douglas County, has been evaluating senior projects since they began.
“What I really enjoy is how much time and effort kids have put into this process,” he said.
The majority of students choose to research a career, according to Senior Project Coordinator Mike Matejka. That includes job shadowing, interviewing people with knowledge of the career and research into average pay, working conditions, entry requirements and job availability.
“Many students learn they do not like the career after research, which is also very valuable,” he said.
Both Glazman and Minor remember a presentation by a student who wanted to be a veterinarian. When she realized she would have to euthanize animals, she decided it wasn’t the career for her.
The process could even net teens a job. Minor recalled one senior who gave a presentation on how he turned a 10-speed bicycle into a motorcycle. Following the talk one of the evaluators, a local shop owner, offered to hire him.
Teens give back
The community also gets a boost from the projects. Erick Tunell’s senior project took aim at helping youth recently. The teen ran a two-day basketball camp for grades 4-12. They worked on drills, conditioning, and individual and team skills.
“The campers really seemed like they enjoyed it and hopefully they took away some ideas to help them improve their basketball game,” Tunell said.
All the money that dribbled in from the camp — $475 — was passed on to the Superior Branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Northland.
“I’ve been there a few times,” Tunell said. During a cross-country camp at the club, he noticed the equipment “wasn’t so great.” He approached Branch Director Tim Stratioti about donating money to the club.
“It was the easiest question I had to answer that day, for sure,” Stratioti said.
Half of the money raised will go toward new equipment — basketballs, soccer balls, tennis rackets, etc. The other half will go toward scholarships to pay the $10 per year membership fee for kids in need.
About 350 children per year visit the club, which is open 3-8 p.m. weekdays in the Virginia Deetz Center, 710 Catlin Ave. Any child age 6-18 is welcome to attend.
Stratioti said he was impressed with how grounded Tunell was.
“It was uplifting for me to work with such a kid,” he said.
Seniors Brandon Gustafson, Kelsey Reder, Ben Erickson and Peter Krause are teaming up to hold a “Tailgate to Recovery” senior project in October. They will air a Wisconsin Badgers game live on a big screen near WITC on Oct. 13. No admission will be charged, but free will donations will be accepted.
All proceeds from the event, which will include food vendors and three local bands, Vintage Revival, Showtime and the Dark Side, will be earmarked for long-term flood relief fund for Superior and Douglas County residents maintained by the United Way. The teens are looking for help to make their event, and project, a success. To donate money, auction items or volunteer time, contact Gustafson at (715) 817-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Superior Police Officer Brad Esler has teamed up with Len Steltz of Len’s Body Shop and Will Farrow of Big Lake Cycle Emporium in South Superior to offer a new senior project.
“We are taking applications now from Superior Senior High School Seniors to buy, tear down and rebuild a custom motorcycle to complete their senior project requirements,” Esler said. “We already have two participants and need one or two more students to complete the team.
The project would be similar to the Orange County Choppers show, Farrow said. Students will build a café racer from a Suzuki Savage 650 using a Ryca custom motorcycle kit.
“The students will tear the bike down, refurbish, redesign and rebuild it with the work occurring at my shop and at Big Lake Cycle,” Steltz said.
The work will include mechanics, mechanical design, auto body and painting skills. Plus, the students will get to learn from local masters of the trade.
All the mentors are volunteers. Along with two more students, they are seeking corporate and private supporters to provide start-up donations. Teresa and Ed Flood of the Kitchen restaurant in Superior’s North End recently donated $250 to the project, bringing the balance up to $1,325. About $4,000 in seed money is needed to run the project for the first year, Esler said.
“Once the first bike is built it will be sold at auction to fund the next year’s project, making the program self-sustaining,” he said. Checks made out and mailed to Superior High School with “Spartan Bike Build” in the memo line will be added to the project account at the school.
Volunteers also are needed to be adult evaluators of all ages. They are a big component of the senior projects.
“It makes it more ‘real world’ for the student,” he said. “They get feedback from other adults beside teachers about what is acceptable. Having community members come in also shows the student that they are valued in our community.”
It’s a great way to be involved in the school district, Minor said, and “it’s just a fun thing.” No special skills are necessary, and a short training session is provided.
Senior projects will be evaluated 4-7 p.m. Oct. 18, Dec. 12, Jan. 10, Feb. 13, March 6 and April 10, 16 and 24.
To volunteer as an evaluator, contact Matejka at email@example.com or (715) 394-8720, ext. 204 or Minor at firstname.lastname@example.org or (715) 394-7716. Adults can also stop by and watch any of the sessions without serving as an evaluator.