Superior High School students are poised to pour roughly 11,500 hours of service learning into the community this school year through the Superior School District’s redesigned senior project.

Although a capstone project will still be due their senior year, students will work on components of the program throughout high school, starting as freshmen.

The changes, the result of two years of work with focus groups, were unveiled last week at SHS. The framework includes lessons, resume building and a community service learning requirement each year — five hours for freshmen and sophomores, 10 hours for juniors and 15 hours for seniors. Students will propose their own service learning plan. They can choose where they want to focus efforts, working for a different supervisor each year.

“It’s bridging us to the community,” said Rob Scott, senior project coordinator for the district. “The more we can get our kids involved in the community, the benefits are tremendous.”

Students can pick up community contacts to use as references, find connections that pique their interests and gain service learning experiences to put on their resume.

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“Every component is working their way toward a final resume. We want every student to leave here with a final draft resume of all their high school experiences — whether that’s in the building or out of the building, school-related or not — where they can use it to apply for higher education or to enter the job market,” Scott said. “That’s where it becomes really practical.”

Community service has also been shown to aid against depression and help student mental health, he said.

The new senior project, now in its 16th year, pulls in state-mandated academic and career planning pieces that were previously addressed in other ways and wraps them together. The process should give students a leg up when they graduate, Scott said.

“We want our parents and students and community to hopefully embrace this when they see its value,” he said. “On the surface it’s one more thing, one more stress, but when it’s dug into, the benefits are tremendous.”

The new senior project format was approved prior to the pandemic, but the service learning can be done 100% virtually, Scott said. If the student’s plan involves other people, it will be tweaked for safety.

Underclassmen will reflect in writing on the work they’ve done. Seniors will add in career research, interviews with professionals in the field and a final presentation for community evaluators. Due to the pandemic, this year's evaluations will be done virtually — another learning opportunity for students.

"That’s the way people are interviewing for jobs now, so it’s a skill that will transfer," Scott said.

Students are encouraged to start planning early and to seek opportunities that reflect their interests. Service learning proposals must be approved by Jan. 29, 2021; the work must be completed by March 28; and seniors have until April 29 to finish their presentations.

"I think the rewards are great," Scott said. "It’s pass-fail, but what students put into it they are going to get out.”

Community members are needed to serve as evaluators this year. The presentations will be done virtually in two-hour blocks; evaluators can sign up for one session or many. Scott is also compiling a database of service learning opportunities for SHS students in the area. Call 715-394-8720, ext. 41178 or email robert.scott@superior.k12.wi.us to sign up or provide information on opportunities.