Senior projects instill life lessons
by Donald Conkey
June 05, 2013 09:10 PM | 850 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Anyone on Highway 92 going west on graduation Friday quickly realized something was happening in Cherokee County.

It was graduation night for Cherokee seniors with exercises being held in Woodstock’s First Baptist Church. Traffic was stop and go from the Fulton County line to Reece Road with flashing blue lights everywhere.

Joan and I have attended many local graduation exercises during recent years, for both family and friends. Our granddaughter, Amanda Karski, has been among those who walked across that stage after completing the requirements for graduation.

Amanda has since graduated from Georgia Medical College, married, and travels often to Peru in South America as a visiting nurse. Amanda learned early on that an education would open the world to her, and it has, as a servant, not as her master.

What an exciting time for the graduate and his/her family. In our Eagle Watch subdivision yard signs were posted by proud parents naming their graduating child, proud that their child had reached this special milestone and is now “commencing” onto the next phase of their young lives.

For many students graduation is a mixed blessing. They feel that surging feeling of new ‘independent’ but yet fear the unknown that lies beyond those graduation doors; a cold impartial competitive world where they will have to compete with other graduates for jobs where skill requirements are ever changing.

The graduate learns quickly that learning is an on-going requirement to compete in an ever-changing job market. The wise student, as was granddaughter Amanda, rapidly learns to use education as their servant, not their master.

Most know I do not support Common Core, or any other top-down federal educational program, or of the federal bribes (grants) used to entice local school boards into the federal educational spider’s web; but few know how big a fan I am of Cherokee County’s VisionQuest program.

VQ is a program each graduating student must participate in during their senior year in order to graduate. It requires each senior to come up with a “project,” of their own choosing, organize it and complete it during the school year.

Another requirement of the VQ program requires each student to reach out into the local community to find a “mentor,” someone who has been successful in the area of their project, and provide guidance to the student during the year. The real learning learned from VQ is that it introduces the student to themselves, and to their weaknesses. It also requires them to make decisions, decisions that oftentimes are difficult to make.

The last, and often most frightening requirement of VQ is that each student, at the end of the school year, is required to stand before a panel of judges, four non-teachers from the community plus one or two teachers, and describe for this panel what they chose for their ‘project’ and how it had helped them prepare for the world beyond high school — all in a measured time frame.

This part of the program for some students is the most difficult, standing before strangers and making a presentation, knowing they are being graded on their presentations. A powerful lesson in learning about real life and about themselves and their talents.

I was introduced to VQ two years ago when I “mentored” a student wanting to write a book but didn’t have a clue on how to go about it. Both of us learned a lot, proving that learning is an ever ongoing process, regardless of one’s age.

At the end of the year both Joan and I volunteered to be “judge” and sit as a judge for seven students, a thoroughly enjoyable experience for both of us.

As judges Joan and I saw in action that ageless parable of the talents. Not one of our students had the same talents.

We saw how some students had buried their talents by sloughing off and not utilizing their given talents to the fullest. This parable reminds us that no two human beings receive the same talent but that the Lord still expects each student given a talent to use it wisely in the service of others.

We also learn from this parable that those who expand on their talents are rewarded according to the talents given them but those who bury their talents have it taken from them.

VQ provided us with powerful examples of just how different each student’s talents are, and how different each student reacts to challenges. VQ is a powerful learning-about-self program.

Donald Conkey is a retired agricultural economist in Woodstock.
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