Upper School Project Week Proposals Underway


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A 2019 Project Week Exchange Trip to Madrid, Spain

Over the past few weeks, Upper School teachers have been submitting their proposals for Project Week activities to the Project Week coordinators and committee. Scheduled for the week of March 14, 2022, Project Week is a staple of the Upper School experience, as well as a way for students in all four grades to come together and connect.

The Project Week catalog will be available to students and parents by the beginning of November. There will be a week and a half before registration opens so families can review the trips, and another week and a half before registration closes at the end of November.

However, Project Week this year will look different than in previous years. “There are fewer projects that are travel projects,” said Ed Mahoney, Upper School math teacher and Project Week Coordinator. “This is one of those years that fewer folks are comfortable traveling, which is a shame, because I know there’s always a high demand for travel projects.”

Travel projects have good reason for being in high demand. Senior Nora Goodwillie, who was part of the 2019 exchange trip to Spain, said, “Being in a different country and getting to experience new places, and getting to immerse myself fully in a new culture in an exchange was very cool.”

Not only will there be fewer out-of-town trips, but those select trips will travel only within the lower 48 states. All projects will follow the same COVID protocols that are currently in place at Latin, as well as all additional measures required by any outside organizations involved. Some projects will also require proof of vaccination.

“The people we’re working with are also vaccinated,” said Xavier Espejo-Vadillo, Upper School Spanish teacher and Project Week Coordinator. “That’s what we can manage in terms of safety.”

In addition to following COVID protocols, there are several elements that contribute to a successful project. “It’s important to propose something that you, personally, are passionate about,” said Upper School history teacher Ernesto Cruz. “If you’re not fired up to do that project, how can we expect students to be interested in it?” This year, Mr. Cruz is planning an in-town project that involves appreciating Chicago’s culture and history through social media.
“One of the major reasons I’m structuring my project the way I am is because I don’t want to worry about COVID protocols,” said Mr. Cruz. “I think the unknown piece is going to influence the way a lot of my colleagues plan what they’re doing this year.”

Despite uncertainty regarding COVID, Mr. Mahoney and Mr. Espejo-Vadillo remain confident in the success of this year’s Project Week.

“Those in-towns that we have are really excellent,” said Mr. Mahoney. “Some of them have been offered in the past, and we have some brand new ones that I think will be attractive to students.”

Still, some students have been disappointed with the in-town projects in previous years. Junior Anna Hynes said, “I have two older brothers, and they both went to Latin. They’ve told me about their out-of-town projects, including Trinidad and Giving Kids the World, and their in-towns just don’t compare.” She added, “I understand why there won’t be as many out-of-town projects this year, but it feels like the people that stay in-town are missing out.”

Another unknown this year is how projects will be assigned. Historically, students have ranked their top-choice projects and then were randomly selected for each trip lottery-style. However, this model assumed students had four years worth of projects to experience. Since the current seniors are the only class that has experienced an Upper School Project Week, there has been discussion as to whether this model will be used again this year.

“It’s interesting,” said Mr. Espejo-Vadillo. “The seniors were freshmen when they went, so it’s possible that a lot of them didn’t go to projects abroad because they put them aside for the coming years.”

Mr. Mahoney said that no decision regarding project assignments has been definitively made. “We’ve had discussions with the P-Week committee, which reviews projects before they go to catalog and works with faculty to tighten up their projects,” he said. “There are a lot of opinions and a couple of different models that we’re considering, but at this point, no decision has been made.”

Complicating the decision, seniors have the Project Week experience that the rest of the school does not, but this is their last year at Latin, and therefore their last Project Week. “We’re also looking at how it affects years after this year.” Mr. Mahoney said. “If we prioritize one group, that typically means that only that group will travel, so there are discussions about whether it’s good for the program.”

Reflecting on past Project Weeks, Mr. Cruz said, “It’s really unlike any other time of the year. It’s a chance to learn in a new way. To meet students and teachers you wouldn’t ordinarily interact with. Some of the experiences I value most from my time at Latin come from getting to know students I never encountered other than during P-Week, and that’s pretty outstanding.”