Senior Legacy Project
The Senior Project Program at Newton Country Day has been a tradition since 1972. The off-campus internship aims to assist the senior class in gaining experience outside of the classroom for their final month of senior year. With the transition to distance learning and stay at home orders implemented in March 2020, it was no longer an option for the Class of 2020 to have an in-person experience. Faculty members brainstormed ways to reimagine the Senior Project Program so that it would still be meaningful. How could the senior class wrap up their remaining weeks as high school students while at home? The answer was the Senior Legacy Project.
The goals of the Senior Legacy Project were to have the students:
Work on a project that felt satisfying and worthwhile;
Give a sense of closure as senior year concluded;
Enable them to connect socially, share with their peers and the rest of the NCDS community;
Encourage them to reflect on their NCDS career, with a particular emphasis on the Five Sacred Heart Goals;
Give them a chance to document their feelings and thoughts about the historical moment in their lives;
Afford them the opportunity to explore a passion—new or old;
Allow them freedom in choosing the ways in which they could express themselves;
Have a finished project that will truly be a legacy to NCDS—something that can remain in our archives forever, and something they will look back on decades from now with pride
Using Book Creator, an online tool used to make ebooks, seniors were tasked with creating their own digital “book” that celebrated their experiences and growth throughout their time at Newton. Book Creator allowed students to express themselves using a variety of media: text, photography, art, video, and audio clips. While the majority of the book focused on the students’ past experiences as they related to the five Sacred Heart Goals, they were also charged with responding to the current historical moment, to pursue a new passion, and look to their future. Similar to the Senior Project Program, students were supervised by a faculty advisor and were able to share and receive feedback from peers during breakout group meetings on Zoom.
Before starting their projects, seniors spent time reflecting on their experiences and growth over their years at Newton. Girls wrote in journals and paid particular attention to the prompted questions that elicited the strongest memories and inspired them the most.
Creativity was greatly encouraged among the girls when laying out their personal books. Each chapter reflecting on the five goals were meant to tell a different story about the students’ experiences. In her book “One Step Further,” Eliza Durbin ’20 wrote a poem to go along with her stories that reflected on the five goals. In Martina Albin’s ’20 book “A Journey Through Music,” she embedded a music video for a song that mirrored her feelings for each of her eight chapters, with commentary about each of the songs.
“I do not recall a time in my life when music wasn’t a part of my soul,” wrote Albin. “Anything that I am doing I am listening to music. Truth is, I could not imagine my life without music. Music is my life.”
Hanna Matthews ’20 chose video as the primary medium in creating her ebook. In her introduction video Matthews said, “I love the idea of leaving a piece of me behind at a place that means so much to me. Newton Country Day is really important to me, and I would not be the person I am today without it. I am excited to be leaving this with the school and showcasing who I am today because of Newton.”
In keeping with the importance of Goal V, the faculty advisors hoped students would use the state of the world as an opportunity to grow or learn something new. The assigned “passion project” could be something classically academic, but it did not need to be. Suggestions included taking an online class, researching an important issue, or learning a new language or instrument. The goal was not to master at a new endeavor, but for their task to be a work in progress. Members of the senior class composed songs, honed their photography skills, rode bikes for hundreds of miles, made memory quilts, built treehouses, and painted for the first time.
Upon learning that Sister Rogers had journals (written in French) from a student at a Sacred Heart School that documented the response of her community during the devastating influenza pandemic of 1918, Emma Wakakuwa ’20 asked if she could translate some of the journal entries to English for her passion project. This task also allowed Wakakuwa to reflect on this moment in history.
“When I first saw the handwriting, I thought it was illegible,” Wakakuwa wrote. “But, as I worked through the entries, word by word, I actually got the hang of it. I was struck by the similarities from 1918 and 2020. Back then, they used the words 'quarantine’ and ‘mitigate,’ which we are all too familiar with. The writer also casually journaled on November 11, 1918 that ‘les propositions faites par les Alliés à l'ennemi ont été acceptées.' (World War I is over). Even though this girl lived 100 years ago, during the first world war and a pandemic, I could still draw parallels to life today in America.”
In their final chapter, girls reflected on who they would be in the future. What do they imagine their roles will be in our rapidly changing world? What contributions do they hope to make? St. Madeleine Sophie hoped Sacred Heart graduates would feel challenged to transform the world; how will they?
“The future me would like to accomplish more than she’d ever imagined,” wrote Ambika Nair ’20. “The Sacred Heart Network, and NCDS specifically, have given me so much confidence and strength in my abilities and capabilities to help change the world for the better. In the future, I see myself carrying on the NCDS spirit of community giving and social work.
Kelly Cloonan ’20 included a playlist of songs with her reflection for the future. “The songs are mostly inspirational,” she wrote. “When I listen to them, I think about what my life might one day be like.”
Upon completion, the ebooks were archived at NCDS as a constant reminder of the Class of 2020’s exemplary contributions to the life of our school.