Just before the winter holiday I got to see some excellent “performances” by students who probably don’t think of themselves as performers. I had the privilege of serving as one of the judges for Northwood’s Graduation Project. It was a very successful night on many fronts. First and foremost, the student presentations I saw were thoughtful, interesting, insightful, and extremely well-planned. Students have clearly taken on this relatively new graduation requirement with serious, disciplined attitudes. They have chosen unique topics and created thoughtful products. In the process, each of the judges in our session learned something new. Across the board, for every student that I have spoken with about this controversial requirement, all have dreaded it and all have said after the fact that it was a valuable experience. And compared to the pilot project 2 years ago, both the displays and the public presentations were more polished and well-crafted. Our group learned about post traumatic stress syndrome, a Habitat for Humanity project, therapeutic massage, and creating braille children’s books!
One of the other benefits I had not anticipated was the unique opportunity it provided for the school to highlight students’ work to the community. Graduation coordinator Leslie Burwell and Principal Chris Blice welcomed more than 50 community members who came to serve as judges. The school’s culinary class provided a delicious meal. Faculty members served as moderators in each classroom. Student work from the winter art show decorated the lobby. The superintendent also came to serve as one of the judges. For people who had never been to Northwood before, it was a great introduction.