By Herna Alexandre ‘16
While trying to find their way in the world, seniors partake in the Woodland Individual Senior Experience program. The WISE program is a yearlong program, which provides seniors with skills and knowledge that can better help them when they progress into college.
WISE allows the seniors involved to find themselves by giving them the opportunity to explore their passions outside of the traditional classroom setting.
“I think that the students who are in the program get to discover new interests and abilities,” said Ms. Laura Gavenda, one of the two WISE coordinators. “For many it will be the first time they have to make a lengthy presentation, for others the fact that these projects don’t have any guidelines allows the students to go out of their own box.”
According to wireservices.org the WISE program was founded in 1972 at Woodlands High School in Greenburgh, New York by a group of students, teachers, parents and community members to better help the graduating high school senior’s transition into life after high school.
Since then, the WISE program has spread from Woodlands High School to over a 100 different public and private high schools nationwide.
WISE was introduced to the school over a decade ago and is now being run by the Social Studies Department along with Ms. Laura Gavenda and Ms. Rosemary Gamba, the two WISE coordinators.
The WISE program consists of LACE, which is four elements that each WISE program follows. LACE stands for Local control, All seniors eligible for graduation can participate, Credit bearing, and Exchange of information and ideas.
WISE is a two-semester program. The first semester of WISE takes places in a classroom environment which is focused on an in depth version of U.S. Government and Economics.
In the second semester of WISE, the classes usually meet in room 245 for the entire first week of the semester and then for the rest of the semester the students meet with the coordinators and their chosen mentor at least once during the week up until presentations begin.
“Once presentations begin we meet every day until the end of the semester,” said Ms. Gamba. “However, in their absence from class they are responsible for their journal writing, mentor meetings, committee responsibilities so even though technically they›re not in the classroom they are still working.”
There are currently two senior classes of 34 students involved in the WISE program. Each senior has the opportunity to pick any topic of interest to work on for the year, and they also have a choice in picking their mentors.
“In most cases students can choose a mentor from anywhere within the building and it can be anyone,” said Ms. Gamba, “mentors do not have to be teachers only and students pick based on comfort level not on prior knowledge.”
The student chosen mentors are there to guide and help the students when necessary, but are not allowed to do anything beyond that.
“The mentor can be constructive and lend a second pair of eyes to the work,” said Ms. Gamba. “However, they are strictly prohibited from swaying students in regards to their chosen project.”
Students have complete creative control over their topic choice. It can range from something they have always been interested in to something they plan to do in the future.
“I feel…………..a bit ambivalent to having creative control over the topic choice because, from one end it gives you the opportunity to research whatever interests you,” said Monica Riskevich ‘15, “but from the other end it also opens up the doors for you to go in the wrong direction.”
Ms. Gavenda said, “Students can research a topic and present in any format. Creativity is an asset in the WISE program, and it’s something that we encourage.”
Learning ASL (American Sign Language), animal cruelty, bioengineering, fashion, hair, music (hip hop, jazz), Cambodian history and culture, tattoos, and prosthetics were some of the past topics that were chosen by students.
Once a topic is chosen, the students start to work on it and keep track of their progress by writing in journals, which are frequently updated, until the final presentation of their topic.
“Keeping a journal of their progress is how the students justify the English credit they earn for the second semester,” said Ms. Gavenda.
Students benefit from the WISE program by discovering many skills, strengths, and talents that they didn’t realize they had before.
“I’m benefiting from WISE because, rather than sticking random facts into my head, I›m learning something that I genuinely want to research,” said Monica Riskevich ’15
They also learn to work with others as well as work independently to develop organizational, research, writing, and presentation skills. WISE provides them with real-world skills that will help them to succeed in college and in life.
“It gives them the initial college experience as well as allows them to discover things about themselves or about the world they live in overall,” said Ms. Gamba. “It’s an eye opener as a student once said to me. WISE also makes them realize that sometimes what they perceive about certain people, places, or things isn’t always actually the case.”