Project Week: For Better Or For Worse

Hedy Gutfreund Editorials Editor   The very mention of Project Week is nearly magical for students at Latin. We have a shared affinity for a week dedicated to exploring our interests. And who shouldn’t? What other school would give such a great opportunity? New students look at the school with elation at the fact that they will soon get to go on an exotic Project Week to learn a new language, change the world, or explore a city. But this year, not everyone is as excited with the options. A collective shift toward outdoorsy and service-related Project-Weeks has some students hoping desperately to avoid one of these and others excited at the recent shift. The question remains: what should Project Week be? When I asked sophomore Chloe Stiffle what she thought of the change in focus of Project Week trips to be more service-related or outdoorsy, she began to work with our definition of the purpose of Project Week. “To be honest,” she confided, “I don’t really have an opinion on it. It’s Project Week – isn’t spending a little time to help others kind of part of the purpose?” Is it? The student handbook makes it contradictorily clear that Project Week is vague, which is personally fine by me. As stated in the handbook, “Project Week provides students with unique opportunities to enjoy educational experiences outside the classroom.” It also makes it clear that Project Week is “part of the Latin Curriculum.” So even though Chloe makes a valid point that helping others is a part of Project Week, it isn’t against the philosophy of Project Week to be a tiny bit selfish and explore a new country without focusing on service. Many people, though, don’t feel affected by the shift from projects like Grand Canyon and California arts to Joplin Service and Southern California Service. After taking into account what her brothers were able to choose from, freshman Sydney Lehmann “thinks the options this year do not sound as amazing as last year.” Nevertheless, she notes, “I really [do like the options this year]. I picked India as my first choice, which is a mix between service and outdoorsy. The other four I picked weren’t as outdoorsy, though.” Sophomore Tyler Hagedorn perspicaciously agrees, but understands that his opinion doesn’t account for everyone’s, saying, “Since I like the outdoors, I wasn’t disappointed by the out-of-town domestic options. I thought the in-town projects last year offered more variety, so I was a bit disappointed by that this year.” Sophomore Casey Boykins was a little more fiercely disappointed than Tyler, though. Casey was upset with the options this year, because she “didn’t feel like there were many good choices. It was too bad that [she] had to put a few projects down based on process of elimination.” The limited options might just be setting her up for disappointment, which is too bad to hear. It seems that students were happy with a number of the projects but had difficulty finding five to put down. If they wanted an exotic trip, they’d be thrilled with Brussels or Cambodia. If they wanted something outdoorsy and exotic, Bolivia, Ecuador, or India sounded great. For those who wanted domestic projects, only one out-of-town, there was no option that was not focused on the outdoors. After such projects as Grand Canyon and California Arts and Marine Biology in Florida, it was harder to find a balance this year if we wanted to go out of town. And though there were many new options in-town, they didn’t seem to pique as much excitement as last year. Casey’s difficulty finding options she liked can be boiled down to the fact that she had to put down five in-town project weeks. As an anonymous junior states, “If you want to go out of town, there are some great options. But if you’re stuck in town, there aren’t very many options. So much focus was put on the band/chorus trip that in-town projects got lost in the shuffle.” Beyond the options, the sign-up method changed this year. We could now pick five options (maximum of three out-of-town options), but there was a caveat: our parents had to do it on their RomanNet accounts. This tree-saving, parent-pleasing gesture caused little stir among students, and senior Michaella Baker explains. “I think the idea was well thought out,” she says, “but in reality, everyone I talked to just did it themselves on their parent’s account rather than teaching their parents how to do it.” Even if the kids are the ones pressing the buttons, though, it does encourage students to talk the options through with their parents before jotting a few options down and forging a signature.   When it comes down to it, Project Week should be what we choose to do (with our parents, of course). If Casey speaks for many people in the school, it’s upsetting to see that not everyone will get to have a choice they’re 100% happy with this year. People will always be disappointed to not get to go on one of the more sought-after trips, but hopefully, everyone will get a great experience this year. So whether you end up assigned to trek through Bolivia or just trek to the fifth floor (the latter of which I proudly partook in last year with no regrets), just remember that you’re lucky to get the freedom to choose. But if you think there are some options missing, speak up. What makes Project Week special to you? If leaving a comment below isn’t enough, talk to an advisor about a great idea you had, and maybe it will take off.  ]]>