Senior projects mix passions, creativity

Whether he is holding a brochure, giving a 10-minute spiel, or speaking on the morning announcements, John Blix, CTE Teacher and Senior Project Coordinator, creates an engaging atmosphere that he uses to promote Senior Projects, an annual interdisciplinary program that provides students with “a healthy dose of independence.”

Senior projects are an opportunity for second-semester seniors to finish their final year at South with a career-preparatory learning experience, including an internship, creative or academic exploration, or a service project, Blix explained. With help from South instructors, the focus of these projects depends on how much the students are willing to dedicate themselves to exploring their passions, Blix said.

“[The projects are] an extension of your learning, and are [supposed] to be driven by the students,” Blix said.”I don’t have ready-made internships to offer up. [Senior Projects] are pursued by the students.”

Using her internship at Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village, senior Katrina Hoker works with patients in the emergency room, allowing her to prepare for nursing school in the fall. Despite the rigor of the hospital environment, Hoker added that support for the projects encourages the dedication of her and her peers.

“It’s not like we’re all competing for something,” Hoker said. “Being able to be inspired by something that you do really makes you want to continue doing it.”

The Senior Project application was available from Dec. 1 to March 1, Blix said. In the application process, students are required to articulate their ideas and goals that are required for the work of their choice—either choosing between the two or four-week option depending on their personal time frame, Blix said.

“The students have a couple of months to talk to me, think about it, and work with their networks,” Blix said. “I ask them to write thoughtfully [in the application] about either something they’ve done in and out of school, and will be doing post [high school].”

However, the work put into a senior project is a matter of devotion rather than the acquisition of skills, senior Quinn Mondlock, who aspires to earn a certificate in nursing assistance, said.

“[By] applying your interests to your project, you will [make better use of] already known skills,” Mondlock said. “This [is] to make up for a lot of hours spent a day to go out of your lane.”

After the program was canceled for two years due to the pandemic, Blix is ecstatic to facilitate its return for the class of 2022, as he believes it provides an irreplaceable experience for all involved. 

“Learning doesn’t have to come from a classroom or a teacher,” Blix said. “It can also come in a way that students design, an experience that they create. I hope they gain an appreciation for that and realize that they should take chances in their early life and experience things.”