Senior Projects give students worldly perspective

Changes in senior project advisers allow change in an ageless SPA tradition

Since before the 1970’s at St. Paul Academy and Summit School, senior projects have annually been a time for seniors to try something new with the skills they’ve built up through their years of high school. Senior projects were first created many years ago, when SPA was still an all boys school. During the month of May, their schoolwork shifted. Professors from different universities nearby would come to the school to teach a one month class in something specific.

“At some point after that, it changed, so students had to come up with their own projects, with help from the parent community, with help from the alumni community, to find projects that they could work on during the month of may,” Upper School Mathematics teacher Anne Marie Shimkus said.

Shimkus has been working on the senior projects since the first year she started working at SPA, about 33 years ago. She helped with the evaluation of of projects at first and 20 years ago, in 1996 it became a part of her job.

This is the first year that senior projects haven’t been run by Shimkus since she’s been at SPA. Upper School Science teacher Steve Heilig and Upper School History, Social Studies and English teacher Tom Fones took on the job. They plan to follow the setup that Shimkus has worked with for the past few years but enhance some of its goals.

That’s sort of my goal, to have people excited about it, so that’s where I want to take it, to find ways to get people excited enough to really think up some fun things.”

— Steve Heilig

“We’ve got some ideas for tinkering it a little bit in the future, but mostly it’s a question of finding something that fits you [the student].That’s sort of my goal, to have people excited about it, so that’s where I want to take it, to find ways to get people excited enough to really think up some fun things.” Heilig said.

“It’s a good preparation for what you’re going to be doing later on in your life, meeting new people plus community service is required, people that do things that really help the community and get them into organizations that can be useful,” Fones said.

Heilig hopes to expand the projects and make sure that all students can do something that they want to do. Students should really think about what they’d want to consider doing as a career or what might be fun to pursue. In the end, whatever students choose to do will be beneficial and they’ll be able to gain mentorship from.

“The senior project can be pretty much anything you want it to be, it’s really wonderful that you take the time to say ‘what would be really cool?’, almost always we can find a way to make those people find a way to make it happen,” Heilig said.