Submitted by Emma Sampson
Since I was a sophomore in high school I have held down a job which has required me to learn how to balance a busy school, sports, and work schedule. For the past two years, I have found myself working 25 hours a week, mostly at nights and on the weekends. When I found out about the senior project and the hours to complete the graduation requirement I quickly realized that maintaining my job and successfully completing the project would be a struggle since the hours I spend would not count towards my project hours.
During the month of May, each senior participates in the senior project which aims to get students out into the world and give them an opportunity to pursue a possible career path of interest. Before May rolls around, students are tasked with setting up and collecting signatures from their internships, community service, and other activities. For the focus internship students are required to spend at least 16 hours per week there. Next, comes the challenge of nailing down an extra 11 hours in order to complete the projects 27 hours requirement. Sports and musical practices count for a maximum of only 7 hours even as most students spend an average of 10-13 hours a week participating in these activities. Most students end up with having to come up with an additional activity for 4 hours while also completing 12 hours of community service.
Students with pre-existing jobs quickly find that trying to maintain a working schedule can be near impossible with the requirements brought by senior project. Most of the aspects of the senior project allow students to maintain their daily activities (ex. Sports, musical practices hours); so why not jobs? Having a job can help students learn just as much as to say, yoga classes? I know that I have learned more about time management through balancing a working schdeuel then I ever could have learned in the classroom. So why not allow jobs to count towards hours?
Senior project committee supervisor Tom Fones explains that the senior project guidelines have never allowed students to count jobs towards their hours.
“Jobs don’t count towards project hours because the project is in place of going to school. When you go to school and work at the same time you don’t get to count that towards your academics. So, why would they now count during the project? We really want seniors to reach out and get a new experience and if you are continuing a job you are really not learning anything,” said Fones.
Senior and member of Senior Class Leadership Council (SCLC) Jazz Ward stands on one of the eight project reviewal boards and explains that she is confused as to why the comittee doesn’t allow jobs to count.
“During the reviewal of senior project proposals, I saw someone who had created a waiver for their job. I understand not having students get paid for their main internship but I don’t understand why they are unable to count hours that they are working toward the 27. If other students don’t have a problem with it why do teachers?” said Ward.
Senior Kaia Larsen, who filled out a waiver for her job but was denied, explains that the process is a huge point of privilege.
“This is unfair to me and others who have part-time jobs and spend a decent amount of time each week at these jobs. I work at least 15 hours a week at Panera Bread, which is something I have to do to cover my personal expenses and gap year costs. I do not have the option to stop working to just do another ‘activity’. Not counting part-time jobs as an activity favors wealthier students,” said Larsen.
Similarly, Senior Gabby Harmoning, who works three jobs, is upset.
“Not only have I had to completely modify my schedule, but am taking a huge hit in how much money I could have been saving up for college next year. We aren’t thinking of everyone, especially the kids who rely on their jobs to pay for other things,” said Harmoning.
While students with jobs feel especially charged towards their inability to not count their jobs for project hours, seniors without jobs still agree that it is the wrong call. Senior Ben Carlsson, while without a job, agrees that the project is very unaccommodating.
“I think that jobs should count because students are putting as much effort into their jobs as they do into school. And, it can be absolutely necessary for some students,” said Carlsson.
Students are not allowed to count work hours for senior project because senior project is focused on getting students out of their comfort zone. However, many students are fulfilling their hours by playing sports or doing theater, often not a new activity to them. This is a contradiction to the “new experiences” requirement, but bringing up that point does not seem to make the shift students are looking for. Instead of counting hours that students work, Fones said that the senior project would “just not count musical and sports hours.”
The senior project is a wonderful time for seniors to grow and does provide a lot of unique opportunities but has remained unchecked. Jobs for some students are not a choice and necessary in providing for themselves and should count toward hours. And, not only are jobs necessary, but technically, they are proof of students getting out of classrooms and getting real world experience, which is the point of project, right?
In order to support the senior students and not disrupt their lives outside of school project, committees should re-review this rule.