New senior class forms plans for future

Senior Seminar will be a pass/no pass course

They've earned the credits, they've taken the walk in their caps and gowns, and they expect to greet life with open arms. But what will graduating seniors do after high school?

A new graduation requirement in the Tigard-Tualatin School District is designed to help students find that next step in their lives post-graduation.

The Class of 2007 will be the first class of seniors to be required to take Senior Seminar, a semester-long course that centers on formulating a plan for after graduation. In 2004, the School Board voted to increase the number of credits required for high school graduation. This year that steady increase to 26 credits also includes half a credit for the new seminar class.

The rumor of a new graduation requirement spread like wildfire in the halls, noted Jim McCaffrey, Senior Seminar teacher and chairman for the professional-technical and business education at Tualatin High School.

What is Senior Seminar and how will it help students plan for the future?

'The students have got to learn to think outside the box,' McCaffrey said, 'because the student's box is rapidly changing.'

In a world where job competition is on a global scale and where living on minimum wage is unheard of, McCaffrey said a plan for the future, whether it be college, career, apprenticeship or military, is vitally important.

'The whole idea is to create a meaningful summary and capsulation of the whole high school experience and to make it more relevant to what they will do next in life,' said School Board Chairman Mark Chism.

The pass/no pass course includes writing and public speaking components throughout the semester. But the most important aspect of the seminar is likely time management, McCaffrey noted. Students are given a list of course components including completing three job shadows, a volunteer experience and a civic-involvement project.

But unlike most courses where students are given information and facts to regurgitate for tests or quizzes, in this course the real test is accomplishing everything in one semester and formulating a plan for the future. No small task, McCaffrey admits.

'I've failed if a student leaves and he or she has not embraced a plan after this class,' he added.

While Tigard and Tualatin high schools' new Senior Seminar program is not a revolutionarily new idea, the program will be a first in the district.

'The course isn't just about having a plan, but taking some action,' said Tualatin High Principal Jeff Smith.

McCaffrey is excited to see what actions, what projects and what goals students will set for themselves over the course of the seminar. He expects great things from the program. He expects each student to formulate a plan.

McCaffrey grabs a plaque with a quote from Winston Churchill engraved on the front. He points to the long passage and says this will be how he will start his Senior Seminar classes.

'To every man there comes in his lifetime that special moment when he is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to him and fitted to his talent. What a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified for the work which would be his finest hour.'