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Capstone teaches networking skills in RPS 205

David Sidney (at left) leads a discussion at the Capstone Kickoff at the Discovery Center Museum.

David Sidney (at left) leads a discussion at the Capstone Kickoff at the Discovery Center Museum.

There is an antidote to senioritis for students of the Rockford Public Schools.

It’s called Capstone, and the kickoff event was held Wednesday morning at the Discovery Center Museum.

The Capstone is a class for RPS 205 high school seniors. The goal is a finished project—the Capstone–that combines research and problem-solving to demonstrate a high level of readiness for college and careers.  It goes hand in hand with the principle of college and career academies in district high schools.

Wednesday’s event featured speakers as well as small discussion groups in which students interacted with professionals in the community.

David Sidney, project director for Transform Rockford, spent most of the time coaxing students at his table into interacting with one another. He told them observing and listening would be critical in figuring out their Capstone projects and, more importantly, what they want to do with the rest of their lives. By the end of the breakout session, the students were peppering each other with questions.

“You really didn’t need me here,” Sidney told them. “The power of networking is key.”

At least one student already knew that lesson. Keegan Strand of Guilford High School has been talking with people from the Rockford Park District, West Rock Wake Park and Fleet Feet about his Capstone idea: holding a race at Levings Lake to benefit Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity. Keegan was one of 12 Guilford students who built a two-story, four-bedroom, two-bath Habitat home last year on the city’s southeast side. They built the home from the ground up, but what was really foundational was the bond that developed between the students and the family.  Families who live in Habitat homes must spend 300 hours helping build the home.  “I’ve never seen a family so happy,” Keegan said.

RPS 205 Superintendent Ehren Jarrett told the Capstone students that a personal connection would be critical to a successful Capstone. “When you do the work, don’t waste your time on something you are not passionate about,” Jarrett said.

He used the example of Auburn High School graduate Kate Foster, who is using her Capstone experience as a springboard.  A survivor of leukemia, she wants to sponsor a bone marrow drive that lands in the Guinness Book of World Records.

While other students don’t have to set the bar that high, Jarrett said, “I don’t want you to sell yourself short because you are a senior in high school.”

Mary Kaull is strategic communications coordinator for the Rockford Public Schools. Click here to subscribe to this blog. Also, please like RPS 205 on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

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