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Seniors share conflicting thoughts regarding Career Cohorts

During their second Career Cohort meeting in December, seniors presented their cohort project to their mentor for approval and further advice. Photo by Maddie Meilinger

Senior Projects — a combination of words that may make some upperclassmen cringe in mock pain. However, to abide by COVID-19 restrictions, the addition of Career Cohorts was made this year, leaving seniors with mixed opinions regarding this change.

Senior Project Coordinator, Sara Noah, explained what Senior Projects are.

The Senior Project is a district-wide, year-long project for seniors to get them ready for life beyond high school,” she said. “It includes exploring a student’s personality type and career interests, and builds on such skills as resume writing, interviewing, and presentations.  Each student explores a specific career field. The final presentation in May includes all that the student learned throughout the year.”

However, due to COVID restrictions, traditional internships and job shadowing that students would have typically taken on as their senior project have been replaced with Career Cohorts. These cohorts are groups of students from district schools with similar career interests that are assigned a career mentor, a person who has experience within the field. 

“[As a result] of COVID-19, we have to be very careful about health protocols and it would just be too hard to monitor all the seniors at a million different businesses … It was just too much liability,” stated Internship Coordinator Christina Levinson. “So the answer was this virtual model where we pair groups or cohorts of seniors with adults in industries that they’re interested in.”

Mrs. Noah elaborated on their decision to organize these Career Cohorts. 

“In the past, students were left to their own devices to find a job shadowing or internship opportunity. We felt that this is not equitable for all students, as some have more resources and support than others,” she said. “We also wanted to make this a truly community project, utilizing members of the community as mentors for our students … Students will still choose and complete their project on their own, but with the help and assistance of a mentor, Mrs. Levinson, and myself.”

Senior Maddie Meilinger voiced her displeasure of completing this project during distance learning.

Over the summer I was looking forward to the fact that I thought we wouldn’t have to do Senior Projects this year because at that time we didn’t think we would really be going back to school,” she said. “ … Once I found out we had to do Senior Projects, I was kind of upset because we are still being held [responsible for our] Senior Projects even though our school year is completely messed up, and last year’s class didn’t have to finish out their projects even though they got three-quarters of a normal school year.”

So far, I personally believe the Career Cohorts have been a success, however they still have room for improvement as Senior Olivia Lyman agreed. 

“My first cohort meeting went well. It didn’t meet my expectations in that there weren’t many ideas for projects,” she said. “ … My expectation of this cohort was that there would be more interaction of students and teachers on following up on projects. It is very independent.”

Other seniors have found the cohorts to be less intimidating than they expected. 

“My expectations regarding the cohorts were that they would be big and intimidating. I was expecting a lot more work,” said Senior Josie Booth. “ … My first cohort meeting somewhat met my expectations. There weren’t as many kids as I thought there would be and it was a lot more loose than I expected.”

My personal experience in the cohorts was very similar to Booth’s and Lyman’s. Although I was not given a handful of potential ideas relevant to my career, which would have been useful when deciding what I wanted to do for my project, the atmosphere was overall pretty laid back allowing for discussion and questions.

Meilinger acknowledged the benefits of these cohorts, however she also pointed out the difficulty of abiding by COVID restrictions when deciding how her project would be approached. 

“One thing I’m looking forward to with my project is learning more about physical therapy, but I’m not looking forward to having to put in 15 hours of project time,” she said. “I would want … to shadow a physical therapist for my project, but I don’t know if I will be able to due to the pandemic.” 

While some seniors were disappointed that the Senior Projects were still required for their graduation, both Mrs. Noah and Mrs. Levinson emphasized the importance of this project as a stepping stone towards adulthood.]

“The goal is career/college/life readiness with an emphasis on a particular career that interests the student,” said Mrs. Noah. “Our charge is to build students into productive, prepared citizens, and we feel this project is imperative for all students in the Nevada Joint Union High School District.”

“The COVID-19 virus has posed a lot of challenges to educators,” said Mrs. Levinson. “ … As we are moving along though, I do think that it is a valuable experience and it’s certainly better than nothing. And I am thankful to our mentors in the community, the people who are volunteering their time and not getting paid to meet with students. It’s pretty cool seeing those connections being made.”

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Seniors share conflicting thoughts regarding Career Cohorts