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Seniors Shine at WISE Showcase

From healthcare to performing arts, from fashion design to computer programming, Eastchester High School students have no shortage of diverse interests. That much was evident on June 16, as seniors packed the high school gym to make their final presentations at the 2022 WISE Showcase.

With their insights, observations and impressions splashed on colorful poster-board displays, participants in the WISE Program got the chance to speak with their classmates, teachers and administrators about their unique experiences over the last several weeks.

The WISE (Wide-ranging Interest-based Senior Experience) Program is open to district seniors who wish to spend the last 4-6 weeks of the school year gaining experience in a field of their choice, either through unpaid internships or independent projects. This year, 237 students participated in the initiative, with many gaining valuable insight into how one might potentially turn an interest or hobby into a career.

Joshua Gleason, who plans to major in Industrial Design next year at the Rochester Institute of Technology, landed an internship the field of graphic design, working for the Girl Scouts of America. The experience served as an eye-opener, explained Gleason, particularly when it came to preparing him for receiving feedback in a professional setting.

“With the Girl Scouts, it was a critiquing environment, so when I got a job done, I would speak with a mentor and they would tell me what to change, what to fix,” said Gleason. “l worked a lot with color schemes and logo editing. . . but I learned a lot about the workplace, and I got to see if this could be the right occupation for me.”

Another student, Meaghan Vassar, turned her passion for animal care into an internship with Giving Retriever, a company that specializes in the training and deployment of service dogs. Vassar admitted that she initially had hoped to work in a veterinarian’s office, but her time with Giving Retriever proved to be especially rewarding, as she was able to witness first-hand the effects that service and therapy dogs can have.

“Part of the internship was going to different schools, sometimes into classrooms for kids with autism or different disabilities and helping them train the dogs,” said Vassar. “It was amazing to see them build that sort of connection with the dogs, and we saw some incredible outcomes with the kids.”

Adrian Acocella—whose love for reading led to a position at Barnes & Noble—said that the experience was a crash course in navigating the world of retail.

“I had a lot of different types of jobs to make sure everything was working and efficient” said Acocella. “That involved making sure the store looked nice, that things were put away properly, helping customers out with the books, finding what they were looking for or even recommending a book to them.”

Not all students used the opportunity to do off-campus internships, however, as several used the WISE framework to give back to the school district. One senior, Khushbu Dulani, selected an endeavor that may have an impact on the lives of students in coming years.

Dulani used the WISE program to explore civics education in the school district, working with teachers and administrators to identify possible paths to improved student engagement. After studying state-based curriculums and speaking with educators, one of Dulani’s exercises was even implemented in a fourth-grade classroom this year.

“I mapped out six different projects that teachers can use, but the main idea was to help students learn the impact of their voices,” said Dulani.

Dulani added that working under WISE guidelines helped to provide a level of structure to the research and also allowed for the opportunity to make connections that aided in the academic journey.

“Doing this for WISE meant I got to present this to my peers, I got to present these ideas to administrators,” Dulani said. “It means that it’s more than just a project I did on my own.”