SSP Committee Preps Proposals for Spring

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Darius Sinha, Staff Writer

Since 1965, Senior Spring Project (SSP) has offered the graduating classes “a wonderful chance to explore what they want to do,” SSP Project Coordinator Amani Abu Shakra said.

To guide the seniors in their eight-week independent studies and decide whether to approve their proposals, a committee of 14 faculty and staff members from different areas of the school met on February 9. Each committee member met with small groups of seniors throughout the year before the February 9 meeting.

“We try to have the committee representative of the whole school,” Ms. Abu Shakra said. “That’s very helpful because everybody comes with their own experience and has a lens to look through in designing SSP.”

At the February 9 meeting, the committee went through each senior’s proposal to ensure completeness. If the project is not fully accepted, there are a few different routes for the student, Ms. Abu Shakra said.

“If there’s tiny little things, the small group leader will contact the students to fix the small errors. There’s also a major ‘unaccept’ for which students will come and work with me,” Ms. Abu Shakra said.

Major revisions would include not fulfilling a pillar, not having enough hours to meet the 40-50 hours per week requirement, and missing necessary forms or signatures. Most seniors only need minor revisions, US English Teacher and Committee Member Beth McNamara said.

Each SSP project must fulfill the four pillars: external community engagement, intellectual engagement, wellness, and the new challenge pillar.

The new challenge pillar encourages students outside their comfort zones to engage in an activity they’ve never done before, Ms. McNamara said.

“It’s an issue of truly pushing themselves and looking into their heart to find what is going to push them,” she said. “One of my favorite new challenges was a kid who was a very experienced swimmer whose best friend was terrified of the water. The two of them worked together as a shared new challenge: the swimmer taught the terrified kid how to swim, and the inexperienced swimmer gained a new skill.”

The pillars are in place to ensure the seniors are getting the most out of their final weeks in high school, Chief Learning Officer and Committee Member Jed Lippard said.

“The goal of the pillars is to try to thread the needle between autonomy and accountability,” he said. Almy Library Co-Director and Committee Member Laura Duncan emphasized the importance of being thoughtful in your design.

“You need to ask yourself, ‘What am I going to do with my time each and every day for the months of April and May?’” she said. “You also have to be really thoughtful about all the opportunities available to you and to think outside of the box to create a project that is interesting and meaningful to you.”

Seniors will begin their SSPs onMarch 28.