Seniors Prepare to Head Off on Capstone Project


Ryan Peele, Reporter

As the school year winds down to a close and seniors savor their last days at Briar Woods, many are signing up for the Senior Capstone Project, a program designed to give invaluable professional experiences to graduating students about to enter the real world. The capstone project requires students to reach out to an organization they can intern or volunteer at for 30 hours over the course of two weeks in May, during which they would be excused from school. Many seniors are jumping at the chance to both leave school a month early, as well as engage in opportunities to build up their resume. 

“I’m volunteering with a local botanical garden that’s locally acclaimed for its ambience and year round botanical life…I have visited it multiple times as a guest, and I thought it would be a worthwhile experience to see what the garden is like from the maintenance and customer service side,” said an anonymous Briar Woods high school senior.

“I very much do see the value in getting out in the community and picking up real world skills, but of course, everyone secretly likes the idea of getting away from school work early. Senioritis is extreme enough where I much prefer the idea of doing physical labor than answering tedious questions on boring worksheets. Interacting with all different types of people [that come to the garden] and other volunteers can only give me even more fresh perspectives that I wouldn’t gain from two more weeks in a classroom,” said the senior.

The teachers in charge of the program, while not encouraging students to abuse the project to abandon their studies, praised the benefits of capstone. “Capstone projects afford seniors an opportunity to take advantage of experiential learning. Students who listen, observe and ask thoughtful and engaging questions takeaway tremendous value and insight from the capstone project experience. Seniors that wish to learn more about the specific career choices they are considering gain valuable workplace experience,” said Patricia Blackwell, science teacher and organizer of the project, The benefit to the community and to the student is the expanded knowledge of what it means to be a citizen and how the levers of public service are managed.”

Besides teachers and students, community sponsors themselves are excited to share their experiences. “The most valuable lesson is understanding the role that local government has in the county and distinguishing it from state and federal roles. Daily work offers a practical, hands-on opportunity to learn how local government functions and the enormous impact it has on our lives,” said Rachael Mai, Staff Aide to Ashburn District Supervisor Mike Turner, and capstone project sponsor, “Learning to prioritize multiple [work-related] simultaneously is a key aspect of the job and a valuable, lifelong skill. In a typical day 75 to 100 emails will come into the office that will need to be answered, in addition to following up on projects previously assigned. My job offers an opportunity to help people and businesses… my goal is to find ways to improve the quality of life for those that live and work in the Ashburn District.”

With our seniors only months away from ending their twelve years in grade school, experiences in the professional world will not only indulge them with a few weeks away from class, but also give them a leg up on the competition, whether in college or in the workforce. As Blackwell said, “These projects often provide one of the many building blocks students will need to navigate their careers in the future.”