Charger Challenge replaces Graduation Project

By Caroline Schneider

Along with the 326 freshmen and the lack of parking spaces in the parking lot, something else new has come to Northwood this year. Replacing the graduation project for the first time in two years is the Charger Challenge.
The Charger Challenge is the newly developed graduation project, a requirement that students have to participate in and complete before receiving their diplomas. This year’s project, however, has some major differences from the last. In the new project, every grade level has to complete an individual project as well as 20 hours of community service a year. This project also doesn’t require mentor hours, which was one of the largest student complaints of the last project.
According to assistant principal Melanie Williams, the requirement of mentor hours wasn’t realistic anymore due to budget cuts.
“Some students had a really rough time finding a mentor [so the county office] started paying a company called Chatham Together to be mentors for our students,” Williams said. “Based on budget cuts, we couldn’t pay them anymore.”
At the end of last year, upon hearing what they thought meant “no more graduation project,” Northwood now-seniors celebrated. What they didn’t understand at the time, however, was that the Board of Education was still going to require some sort of project designed by the faculty of each school.
The administration asked their leadership team (composed of the head of each department) along with some additional teachers to attend a meeting to come up with ideas. Furthermore, Williams sent out an email to every teacher, trying to get as much input as possible on what they wanted for their students.
“I got a lot of feedback from teachers saying that in addition to course requirements they really wanted our students to work on what we’re calling a well-rounded student, being able to survive in a world that’s larger than Pittsboro,” Williams said.
Williams said teachers wanted students to learn more about diversity, tolerance and cultural awareness.
“[We just want students] to really be able to be receptive to the diversity that you will experience when you transition out of high school,” Williams said.
The administration put their favorite ideas together and submitted their conclusion to the county office where it was approved.
Each grade level has been assigned a reading or writing project that will introduce them to new thoughts and ideas regarding diversity. On top of that, each grade level has a community service requirement as well.
Senior Catherine Anderson believes that the community service aspect of the project will be valuable for generations to come.
“I think it’s a good thing and will really benefit the incoming freshmen to have all that community service when they’re applying for college in a few years,” Anderson said.
Williams agreed that the community service would be valuable, but for a different reason.
“We really want people to think about service to the community,” Williams said. “We want you guys to know that there are other people in the world that may be less fortunate, and you have to be thankful, and service is something that really helps you.”
Now when it comes to high school students, work is work, and a popular question being thrown around is whether or not this project is going to add onto already busy upperclassmen schedules, or replace parts of them.
“For English 12, it’s actually instead of,” Williams said.
English 12 students will still be learning most of the material that has always been in English, but some components have been eliminated from the course load to make room for the project so that seniors aren’t over worked.
“I’ll probably be cutting out another unit of study or maybe a couple of activities or projects here and there because there is just no time,” said English 12 teacher Nick Winstead.
In the other three grade levels, however, the project will be on top of the rest of their coursework.
“[That’s] because if you think about the graduation project in previous years, it was completely in addition to your course work,” Williams said.
Junior Cassie Meyer feels that an extra project on top of an already busy junior schedule will be especially demanding.
“Next semester I have three AP [classes] which is going to be really stressful already, once you add the Charger Challenge it’s going to be a pretty heavy load,” said Meyer.
Junior Courtney Daniel feels the same way.
“My course load is pretty good right now, but sports included and having the project is [going to be] challenging time-wise,” Daniel said.
As of now, the plan is that the Charger Challenge will stay the same for the next four years.
“We want this year’s freshmen to be able to go through the whole process because the goal of it is to be truly a culminating activity where there’s something to do at every year that builds upon the last,” Williams said.
The idea is that the oral presentation required in the 12th grade guidelines will be a summary of all that the students have learned about diversity over the years.
“I think it will be better [than the last project],” Daniel said. “Because all of the grades are doing it, it will give us [all] more experience.”