Seniors Tackle Social Justice at Chaminade Julienne
By Susie Bergman
Small groups are making a big difference at Chaminade Julienne High School (CJHS) in Dayton. The Catholic high school, founded on the Marianists and Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur orders, has cultivated an atmosphere of faith in action (with a hint of good-natured competitiveness) through the implementation of Senior Capstone.
According to the school’s website and coordinator, Molly Bardine, the Senior Capstone is a cross cultural, inquiry-based research project first introduced as part of a pilot program during the 2012-13 school year. Approximately 40 different projects are covered with topics ranging from sanctity of life and homelessness to self-image, fair trade, environmentalism, poverty and more.
Bardine, who teaches English in the morning and serves as the Senior Capstone Coordinator in the afternoon, said, “It’s been amazing watching the students grow through this process. They often feel overwhelmed by a social issue – that there is little they can do to make a difference, change hearts and minds – but by the end of the year they feel empowered and know they are capable of making a significant difference.”
Seniors work with a mentor in groups of two, three or four for an entire year to complete the four phases of the curriculum. During phase one, they develop a formal proposal detailing the inquiry of their social justice issue and how it supports Catholic social teaching. Phase two is research and discovery, which often involves off-site visits at entities directly related to their topic and student body surveys to gauge current awareness of the social issue. In phase three, the groups design and implement their project, then present their findings at the annual Stang Symposium. The event honors Julienne graduate and martyr Sister Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN, Class of ‘49, who had a passion for the poor and began serving in Brazil in 1966. The final phase of Senior Capstone is reflection with a written essay. Students must successfully complete all phases to meet graduation requirements.
The Stang Symposium has become the highlight of the year, not only for the school and students, but also for parents and the community. “Seniors often get competitive in recruiting underclassman to continue on their Capstone projects,” she said, “It’s fun watching their excitement and desire to see their project live on.”
Projects often do carry on from year to year. One example of that is the “Got Veggies?” project that began with members of the Class of 2016 and continued with members of the Class of 2018. The project’s mission was to bring fresh produce to those in need in the Miami Valley. It won the Sister Dorothy Stang Award from the archdiocese, which is quite an accomplishment. Last year, the distinguished award also went to “Rock With the Green and Roll With the Blue,” the 2018-19 recycling Senior Capstone project.
The Capstone groups use social media to reach audiences both inside and beyond the school walls to increase awareness of their chosen social justice issue. They create videos, podcasts and websites to gather feedback and share their findings.
“One of the groups recently used their technological skills to build a website for a nonprofit,” stated Bardine, “The nonprofit’s Board was so impressed with their work that they decided to invest in a better website platform so the group could continue to make improvements. That was a really exciting moment for the students and the school.”
Chaminade Julienne High School has a webpage dedicated to Senior Capstone that highlights the curriculum and past projects. There you will find projects related to community awareness, child poverty and literacy, and self-awareness and bullying. The social issues are vast and the outcomes are impressive, with many students staying involved in their issue long past graduation day. To learn more about the positive impact CJHS students are making to the local and global community, visit www.cjeagles.org/senior-capstone.