Head to Head: Senior Month From the Junior Perspective
October 30, 2020
On left, Nsaia Pettis on why Senior Month should happen, and on right, Emma Manley on why it shouldn’t. Vote at the bottom!
Head to Head: Senior Month From the Junior Perspective — Don’t Pass Up Your Winning Lottery Ticket
May Month is a concept that will provide students the opportunity, during senior year, to discover their passion and potential future majors in college. I support the idea of May Month because as a student, it is difficult to know exactly what you want to do as a career or what subject to major in without first being a college student, and/or experiencing that industry in real-time and space. The ability to discover who you are or what you want to become in life, while in high school, and without exposure, isn’t easy. For example, how many times have you wanted something, only to learn later that it wasn’t to your liking? Having the ability to explore career or educational options during high school is an opportunity one should embrace. However, many students believe that they can accomplish the same goals after graduating high school. Procrastination is the arrogant belief that you have time to do anything later as if your life and or circumstances cannot change. There is not one example of when procrastination works; it fails every time. So, the real question is, why push your chance of exploring your passion and future career path to college, when you can get the opportunity to optimize your college time better? As a young person, I’m aware that there’s a refusal of discipline. Going to college will require you to make an arduous effort that a lot of people are not willing to take.
May Month is not going to combat senioritis, nor is that the intention of Senior Month. This is an opportunity in time to explore internships, career work experiences, and/or passion projects; to learn your real interest and gain direction and focus for college. For instance, you go to college and you pay for a college course that you think has your best interest at heart, now you’re halfway through this course and you find out you don’t like it. May Month gives students that opportunity to circumvent this situation.
Career day can be within May Month and can be utilized to gain knowledge about more fields, to network, and to find more meaningful internships. Why put off for later what we can do now?
It is not uncommon for students to be told to either get a job out of high school or major in something that will make a lot of money. In this mindset, one can become conditioned to chase money and not their personal interest. This approach isn’t recommended because these very students are often first-generation college students who are shy to admit that they do not know what to expect when these decisions need to be made. Adopting May Month will allow students the opportunity to invest in their own future. May Month will also be inclusive to those who have to manage home life, work life, clubs, and etc., and it may help reduce the stress of what major they want to go into by allowing students to explore and get a head start in a passion. Passion projects have the benefit of allowing students to express themselves or to try something new. For example, if a student always wanted to start a business but never had the time to learn how, May Month would be a perfect opportunity to build up that business and connect with people with similar interests. All of these qualities match what Francis Parker stands for: “Cultivating individuals to the highest degree of knowledge, skill, power and service.”
May Month will provide for all students. The majority of students (80% of college students) in our age range are unsure of what field in which they want to major. It is not wise to waste time and money on future college courses when you can use free resources now. Some students do not have the privilege to do it over the summer, to do it in their free time, or to even do it as an independent student. Students tend to be self-absorbed, instead of considering the overall message Senior Month is trying to bestow.
There are concerns about not being able to spend time with friends, but on the contrary you can make plans to hang out with friends, schedule a sleepover, facetime your friends, and it is only a month. Senior Month is not going to hinder students from enjoying their high school moments.
Most Upper Schoolers do not know what they want to do as a career and May Month could be life changing for students. The Student Body at Parker is not the type to waste time, no student’s family would allow them to waste time, nor do we as students want to waste time. May Month should not be perceived as a chore, we have the privilege and resources to create anything during that time.
Additional benefits include the experience of networking. Networking is extremely vital and beneficial, especially for young people. Networking can help leverage students in getting their name out in the professional world and it has the ability to put students in a better position to get a job in their field of interest. There have been a lot of concerns pertaining to getting an internship during COVID-19. I can say, from personal experience, that it is not difficult to find an internship during a pandemic. Businesses are actually looking for people because there are fewer applications for open positions.
As an example, over this past summer, I completed a six-week internship in the Corporate level, (C-suite) of Human Resources (HR) at a non-for-profit organization called Always Giving Back Foundation. During my internship, I shadowed the Chief Human Resource Officer and learned the importance of an HR team within an organization. I also participated in the process of recruiting employees, labor relation disputes, and benefit implementation. Not all internships are during the summer, and I do strongly believe that Parker wouldn’t set students up for failure by not providing options for internships that do happen before summer starts. There are so many businesses and corporations that need interns throughout the whole year.
There are numerous internships dedicated to high school students. Some people worry about being a gofer instead of actually doing work that will provide that internship experience. I do not believe that Parker would allow that and would definitely accommodate if that ever occurs. On the other hand, this is a misconception about internships. Most internships actually care for young students and provide that professional work experience most people want, I can assure you that it is rare for you to run unnecessary errands.
By not implementing May Month, students may be at a disadvantage because they will not have had the exposure or opportunity to try their interest before committing to a lifelong decision.
If implemented, May Month will not only support the dreams and passions of the great minds at Parker, but it will also combat the abuse of power in the workplace dominated by white-skinned males who refuse to be progressive.
Head to Head: Senior Month From the Junior Perspective — Senior Month Isn’t The Way To Cure Senioritis
When Senior Month first was pitched in Student Government, I was intrigued. It seemed like an interesting opportunity to bring back an old Parker tradition and a way to cure the notorious “senioritis.” But, as the hypothetical Senior Month has gotten more real and Plenary debates have gotten more heated, I’ve started to side with the anti-Senior Month perspective.
Senior Month has been framed as a way to combat senioritis by getting students out into the real world. But Senior Month isn’t going to fix senioritis. If seniors are losing motivation to do homework and show up to class, they aren’t going to magically regain this motivation during an internship. If a student is going to goof off at school, it’s not good for them to be goofing off during their internship or passion project, especially since they are representing Parker.
I have noticed that during Plenary, a lot of students share the sentiment that they will just avoid doing any meaningful work. Senior Month isn’t seen as an opportunity, it’s just seen as one of the many barriers that come before the finish line of graduating. Meaningfulness can’t be quantified and I don’t think that Parker would block a student from graduating just because they didn’t do enough during Senior Month.
Senior Month will also take away from the Class of 2021’s last moments with their Upper School friends. During quarantine, I’ve realized that hanging out with people at school between classes is one of the things that refuels my energy and keeps me going. Sure, I may not be best friends with the same people for the rest of my life, but I wouldn’t want to lose those moments. I’ve looked forward to being able to play foosball on the fourth floor and hang out with my friends during our senior year. It feels like the reward at the end of four long years of constant productivity. I don’t want to lose that.
One of the options for Senior Month is to do a passion project with a small group. Sure, that would fix the friends issue but not entirely. My friends are passionate about extremely different things. I don’t want to spend a month doing a science project when I would rather do a writing project.
If Senior Month were to come around, however, I know exactly what I would do. The thing is, I don’t need a month set aside to do a passion project, and Senior Month wouldn’t be the best way to do this. I could just as easily do this project in my free time, over the summer, or as part of an independent study.
Most Senior Month passion projects or internships could be done outside of an independent study. Besides the fact that many internships are only open to college students and graduates, those internships would usually happen during the summer and aren’t limited to a month.
I agree with the idea that Senior Month is a good way to create opportunities for students with less connections. It’s not the most equitable way, though. Parker says it will work with the alumni office to connect students to internships and mentors. Though an internship or mentor is beneficial, it’s better to have a greater network of connections than just one. Many Upper Schoolers don’t know what they want to do as a career. Though Senior Month could be life changing for one student, it may be a waste for another because they decide that they want to do something else.
A plan that involves networking and gaining experience is important, but Senior Month is not the way to do it. Last year, a career day was being planned. That is the event that needs to be the focus, not senior month. We need a career day that connects us to many people, so that we can gain more knowledge about more fields. The opportunity to find mentors and possibly work with them later for a longer more meaningful internship is more important. I want a program that puts me in contact with more people, so that I can figure out what I want to do.
With connections to more alumni, there would be more opportunities to discover new careers and get this needed experience in the job world before we go to college. With mentorship, we as students could shadow someone for a day, which I believe is more beneficial than buying someone coffee and changing the ink in a printer day after day. Many jobs would have more requirements and necessary qualifications that we cannot meet as high school students.
Many internships aren’t for high school students. In my own search for internships, I kept seeing “must be a graduate student” or “must be a sophomore in college or above.” I don’t want to be stuck with an internship or passion project I don’t enjoy because of the age barrier.
Another sentiment I’ve heard in student government is that the idea of Senior Month has been derailed by the word “internship.” But even the passion project idea seems lacking. The requirement of Senior Month is 20-25 hours of work for four weeks. That adds up to about 80 hours. I have no idea what passion project would possibly last that long. It’s hard to find something I’m passionate about as a 16-year-old, and I doubt I’ll figure it out in less than two years. What happens if we get burned out from doing the same thing for 80 hours? Is this really fixing senioritis?
There’s also the logistical issue of classes that are multi-grade. I was in an elective last year where it was all seniors and me, a sophomore. Last year, when the last week of classes got cancelled for seniors, those classes were cancelled for me as well. Are these classes going to be cancelled an entire month early? It’s unrealistic for them to continue, especially if performances and finals are done, because there will be little reason for the non-senior students to put in effort. Will this not cause senioritis for everyone else?
What about clubs like “The Weekly?” “The Weekly” needs to continue to be producing issues, but that can’t happen when a large portion of the editorial board and staff are not in school. Integral parts of the Parker community like The Weekly, MX Committee, SIRB, Model UN, and many others are run by seniors and still continue to happen in May. The final issue of the Weekly, the last MXes of the year, and the teachers SIRB hires are the legacies that seniors leave at Parker.
What about Cookies? Is Cookies not an opportunity to explore things we as students are passionate about? Since it’s at the end of April and the start of May, it means that seniors have less than a week between Cookies and Senior Month. Cookies will become obsolete for seniors.
The concept of Senior Month is a good one: get students out of the classroom and into the world to gain experience and do something they enjoy. The issue I’m having with Senior Month is that so much of the plan is flawed. There are too many risks and too many issues that haven’t been addressed. Student input must be addressed by the administration before this is put in place because there are so many holes to this plan.
I’ve noticed in student government that each person has a problem with Senior Month and many of the problems aren’t the same. Some students play sports, some want to take electives, some have jobs, and some are in physics or US History their senior year. There are too many individual issues with Senior Month. Each student cannot have Senior Month tailored exactly to them, but if it isn’t, Senior Month will be a waste.
Ultimately, I don’t know what’s going to happen next year. In Plenary, a resolution passed by 92% to postpone Senior Month until next year. Hopefully, that will give the administration some time to work out these kinks. I think that Senior Month is possible and could be so good for us as Parker students if it’s planned right, but so far it doesn’t seem like the execution will be great. These large issues need to be fixed, and until then, I say no to Senior Month.
Emma Manley is a junior in her third year on the staff of “The Weekly.” Currently, she is the News Editor. She previously served as as Brief Writer...