Seniors involved in Parish Episcopal School's Leadership Institute and its Academy of Global Studies (AGS) presented their final projects during an expo on Wednesday, April 18. The event showcased their leadership skills, dedication, determination and service to others. The passion and purpose of each student was clearly evident as each presented their ideas on how to effect change and improve the world around them. (Hear from Leadership Institute and AGS students as they talk about their projects with Dave Monaco, Allen Meyer Head of School, on his podcast From My Angle.) (List of AGS & Leadership Graduates)
The LEAD projects and AGS topics were wide ranging. One senior published a book while another collected lanterns to help people in Chinchoti, India. Others focused on helping animals, local charities and launching businesses.
The Leadership Institute, a program of ParishLeads that allows Upper students to take a deeper dive into the study of leadership. Students begin planning their LEAD projects during junior year and present their work during the expo at the end of senior year. The projects focus on social or business entrepreneurship ideas based on needs in the community.
"The LEAD project is where their passions and skill sets align," said Vanessa Fuquay, Director of Community Service & Leadership Institute. "They find a need within a non-profit in our community or they start their own business or expand on an entrepreneurial idea. This is where they present what they've done and discuss the impact they've made through their LEAD projects."
Matthew Bowman '18 decided to put his love of animals at the center of his Leadership project which benefitted the animal shelter Take Me Home.
"It's one of my passions," added Bowman. "My family has been fostering pets there for about two years, so I hosted an adoption event for cats."
The event was successful. He was able to secure loving homes for five cats and signed up new foster families so the shelter could take in more animals. Additionally, he helped implement a new volunteer page for the shelter.
"The new system as a whole got an average rating of 4.2 and the old one got a 2.8, so it's going very well," remarked Bowman. "It's helping them keep track of all of their hours and what their volunteers are doing on a day-to-day basis."
AGS is a four year signature program at Parish for 9th-12th grade. Students who are accepted during freshman year go on to research and write a 20-page paper on a major global issue that is of concern to them. Their work is published in the annual Capstone book sold in the PAWS store. This year, eight seniors presented the second part of their project which highlighted their website design and featured their topic. The capstone paper takes three years of research, writing, edits and perseverance. Despite the challenging task, it hasn't been hard to get students to commit to the work since the program started eight years ago.
"The key is to allow them to self-select their topic," noted Frederick Hotz, Ph.D., Director of Academy of Global Studies. "You find that these kids really are passionate about some particular aspect or idea in global issues. They come up with some fabulous topics."
AGS student, Avery Lackner '18, titled her Capstone project: The Causes and Effects of High Maternal Mortality Rates in Sub-Saharan Africa. Not only did she learn more about her topic and educate others, she also discovered something new about herself.
"No problem is too big. You can break everything down into smaller, more manageable parts; that way, even when it feels like it's too big to be solved, it really never is. There's always an answer."
Through their passion projects, students in Leadership Institute and AGS learn about commitment and service to others; they build character and a strong work ethic; they develop fundamental life skills needed to be successful after they graduate from Parish.
"They don't know how it's going to turn out; they're not really sure what the answer is going to be or if they can find a solution," noted Hotz. "They learn to be persistent. They're going to take with them some very formal research, writing, thinking and analytic skills."
"I hope the experience stays with them," added Fuquay. "They're aware of the impact they've made already. I hope that when they move on to college or whatever the next step is past Parish that they hold on to knowing who they are and knowing how they can make an impact in our society."
The class of 2018 is the fourth graduating class to take part in the AGS Capstone project. The program has 61 students this year, 25 of which are freshmen. Former AGS students report back that the program gives them an advantage when it comes to writing papers, essays and applying for advanced degrees. Similarly, Leadership students report they know how to conduct themselves in a professional manner and interact with adults in an interview setting; advocate for themselves and others. They also develop a better understanding of the different roles of leaders and how to be a more effective leader. There are more than 70 students in 9th-12th grade in the Leadership Institute, 19 of which are seniors. This is the third cohort for the Leadership Institute.
Juniors are already working on their final presentations for the 2019 AGS and Leadership Institute Expo. AGS students continue to research and rewrite their capstone projects. There are a variety of topics: Poverty, Illness and Illiteracy in Niger; Women's Rights in Middle Eastern Countries; Europe's Banking and Debt Crisis. The Leadership Institute projects are varied as well. For example, Hunter Wartell '19 has already launched Wartell Liquidation Enterprises, an electronic recycling business that helps companies and individuals get rid of old equipment in an environmentally friendly way. A portion of the proceeds generated by the business will go to a local charity. Aidan Jacoby '19 is planning and executing a convention for more than 3,000 Jewish teens from more than 40 countries through BBYO, a Jewish organization. He'll be coordinating the convention which will be held in Denver next year. (Learn more about their projects – Tech Liquidation & BBYO Convention)
Congratulations to the AGS and Leadership Institute graduates. Your hard work, passion and dedication are examples of the "Parish Way" and our School's tenets of Wisdom, Honor and Service.