SCVi’s Graduating Class Concludes Year with Senior Defense Presentations
By Michael Niehoff
Education Content Coordinator, iLEAD Schools
From yearbook signings to year-end celebrations to graduation, high school seniors participate in many activities as they conclude their high school years. At SCVi Charter School, there’s one more culminating event: the senior defense.
Now in its fourth year, SCVi’s senior defense is an opportunity for every soon-to-be graduate to reflect upon their learning in one capstone experience, according to SCVi Senior Advisor Cheryl Sena.
Prior to implementing the senior defense, SCVi staff felt their seniors needed one final milestone, according to Sena. They wanted to implement something that highlighted a senior’s SCVi learning experience and connected it to their next steps.
“We wanted our seniors to have an opportunity to deeply reflect and acknowledge the growth an SCVi Upper School learner goes through in our program,” Sena said. “What we didn’t realize was the seniors appreciated taking the time to do this reflection because it helped them realize they were ready for their next steps in life.”
This final reflection aligns well with iLEAD’s mission, as well as the tenets of project-based learning, which focus on reflection, deeper learning, public presentation, communication and a growth mind-set, according to Sena. But going further, Sena believes this final project is also deeply personal. Each senior chooses their best project from their SCVi experience to use as an artifact that they dissect, and then they explain how it showcases that they are ready for their own next steps in life. It’s the articulation of this process that demonstrates what every senior is capable of as they are leaving high school, according to Sena.
“Every defense is different, but each is impactful for a myriad of reasons. Maybe a senior who has struggled throughout their school experience is able to articulate their growth and take us through their process and what they’ve learned,” Sena said. “Or maybe a successful learner articulates their process and learning in a unique and beautiful way. Each year, we see the seniors step up as they would in a job interview. This is rich and relevant work.”
Kevin Becker, an SCVi Upper School facilitator, said he volunteers every year because the seniors inspire him with their reflections and connections to their futures. “This project is important because it represents a mind-set shift as learners articulate their own growth and personal journey,” Becker said. “This might be the first time these kids have been encouraged and able to see their value not only to the school but to the world they are going into. It fills my entire heart and soul as an educator.”
Seniors also report that they find this experience useful and powerful. Nicholas D’Alessandro said, “I’m proud of how I articulated my thoughts throughout my presentation. I understood the purpose and planned accordingly. I was ready.”
Senior Miles Burks thought it was a great way to end the year and his high school career. “Honestly, I am happy that I did well,” Burks said. “The feedback and response made me feel happy the whole rest of the day.”
Sena said she plans to continue working with learners on their senior defenses for years to come. “As an educator, you often don’t see the finish line. Sure, you may see your learners rise to their next grade level, but you don’t always get to see the ‘aha’ moments — those final realizations of significant growth,” she said. “But the senior defense offers those moments.”