Seniors, administrators look for “socially distant” graduation projects

Mr. Andren speaks about the future of graduation projects – Lleyton Winslow ’20

As the school community switches to a virtual landscape because of the coronavirus pandemic, many key events of senior year remain in limbo. Graduation projects are one of those cases, and students and administrators alike search for a way to continue.

     Every student is required to design and organize a project of their interest in May of their Sixth Form year, allowing students time to follow their passions as they complete their Haverford journey. The projects do have restrictions: no paid internships, none completed under the supervision of a close family member or family friend, no group projects, and no extensive travel or significant costs. Projects follow these guidelines and embody the “Essential Qualities of A Haverford School Graduate” may proceed. To ensure that projects follow these guidelines and go according to plan, a committee of faculty advisors oversees the entire process. 

     “For many years now, graduation projects have been approved by a committee,” says Mr. Lengel, this year’s head of the graduation project committee. “At a certain point in the spring, this committee has gathered to read through and approve, reject, or request changes to the proposals you all turn in. Every proposal is read at least twice, and the committee comes to a consensus on the most divisive ideas.”

     Now that we all have been ordered to stay home and the school has begun virtual operations, the project process needs to be changed to fit a virtual model. A majority of projects could not maintain social distancing protocols, and therefore the students need to find new project ideas. Campus is closed, so all projects that were supposed to take place there are effectively postponed as well. Several students had set up internships with outside organizations and community service groups, but those have fallen through.

     “I’ve spent the past few years watching the seniors [before me] paint murals to go on the wall outside the field house,”Sixth Former Andrew Tornetta said, “and I couldn’t wait to take part in it myself.” 

     But his project, like many others, has been cancelled. “As a painter, I occasionally get the pleasure of seeing my work hung on the walls alongside the work of my peers. But a mural  would have really felt especially amazing.” 

Students from Class of 2016 work on mural outside the fieldhouse – Mr. Chris Fox

     Many students share the same feelings of disappointment.

     The administration understands how discouraged students are to not be able to take part in this long standing Haverford tradition, and the school trying to make the best of the ordeal,  

“I know that there are some schools that have just said, ‘We can’t do that, we’re going to cancel them.’ I don’t want to be one of those schools.” – Head of Upper School Mr. Patrick Andren

     “We want to do everything to give you that senior-project experience,” Mr. Andrén said. “I know that there are some schools that have just said, ‘We can’t do that, we’re going to cancel them.’ I don’t want to be one of those schools.” 

     While many Sixth Former scramble to find new project ideas, a few fortunate ones had proposed projects that weren’t all too affected by the changes brought by the outbreak. Will Springer ’20, an avid woodworker, can continue his project from home. 

‘Corner table’ and ‘Nightstand’ – photo by Will Springer ’20

     “I’ve been working on three tables since quarantine started,” Springer said. “I was lucky enough to have Mr. Ressler lend me some tools from the shop at school, so that has made it a lot easier to complete the work at home.” 

     Students like Springer  are only the lucky few, however.

     Students are growing more impatient as they wait for a message from the committee, which has met a few times virtually to come up with a plan of action. Mr. Lengel tells students to keep their eyes peeled: “You should expect an announcement from the upper school office soon. I know it’s hard to wait and see, but there are a lot of moving parts on this one.”

Author: Lleyton Winslow '20

Lleyton Winslow '20 is a student in the journalism seminar and a writer and editor for the school's literary magazine Pegasus. Winslow is also a member of the Black Student Union, the Diversity Alliance, and the track team.