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Introducing the Senior Project

This school year in the spring of 2013, Uni will be trying something new: the “Senior Project.”

The Senior Project will allow Uni students in the second semester of their senior year to pursue an interest or passion in greater detail; in it, students “will work with University of Illinois faculty, Uni High faculty, and/or members of the Champaign-Urbana business, cultural, or activist/charity communities to develop and pursue an original self-directed project of their own design,” according to a document of the Senior Project Committee.

This year counselor Karl Radnitzer selected students for the 2012-2013 Project based on the amount of free time they had in their schedules. Ideally, students will be out of the building working with their mentor on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and will be working on their project in the building on Tuesday and Thursday; this setup allows students working on a project to take advantage of the free time of Uni Period.

Radnitzer also proposed a Senior Project class to the Curriculum Committee in which students would work on their project at school and give Radnitzer updates on their progress. The class, which has been approved, will become a reality in the Spring of 2014.

After Radnitzer approached some students about the project, it spread by word-of-mouth.

Senior Wyatt Bensken was approached by Radnitzer about doing a Senior Project. Bensken has been active with the Champaign Urbana Public Health District, doing various projects with them, including research, and helping them with their accreditation process. If he were to do a project it would likely be with the Public Health District.

Bensken believes the project could be very useful to him.

"I think that second semester seniors are ready to move on and do something else, and do something bigger than high school," he said, "and that's where I think with me being able to spend some more time [at the Public Health District], that would just kind of help me career-wise because I want to go into public health and I've spent some time there, so why not use time that I might be wasting to go over there?"

Students who were not selected by Radnitzer and want to do project this year will typically have to drop classes to have enough free time. Students who want to do the 2013-2014 Project will have to begin planning in the spring of their junior year, and will plan their senior year schedule with the project (and enough free time) in mind, Radnitzer said.

It will take at least two years for the Senior Project to be executed as it was envisioned, and so the project in the first two years will be different than the project in the following years.

Radnitzer has been interested in the idea of a senior project at Uni since his son Isaac Radnitzer ('08) attended Uni; Radnitzer made the project a focus of his when he was interviewing for the position of Director in 2009.

And when he was later hired as a counselor at Uni, the Senior Project was still important to him as ever.

“I came in saying ‘I’m not gonna drop it,’” he said.

He explained that he thinks many students wish that by the time they are second semester seniors, they can do something “more” than what is currently offered.

“What I would love us to be thinking is how can we do something second semester where kids are really doing something that they’re really passionate about, and it counts for credit, they’re given time to do it, and they have a mentor,” he said.

Much of Radnitzer’s inspiration for the Senior Project comes from New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois. Since 1992, New Trier has allowed second semester seniors to work on a senior project from mid-May to early June after their AP exams are completed. The project culminates in a final presentation, the “Senior Project Exhibition,” at the end of the year.