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Mt. Pleasant Area revises senior project rules

Mt. Pleasant Journal
Seth Wright, 18, a senior at Mt. Pleasant Area Junior/Senior High School, prepares to take steps toward completing his senior project by job shadowing an employee at the GenOn Energy Inc. Conemaugh generating station in New Florence, where he learned aspects of engineering in a photo taken in January 2013. Submitted

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Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

In an effort to better prepare Mt. Pleasant Area Junior/Senior High School students for post-secondary education or careers, the district has implemented more stringent graduation requirements during the 2012-13 school year.

The Class of 2013 is the first group which must adhere to the updated requirements which involve completion of both community service and career shadowing.

In the past, requirements stipulated either a community service project or a career shadowing experience, but never both.

To fulfill the job shadowing requirement, senior Seth Wright, 18, spent time with Kirk Rumbaugh — a mechanical engineer with GenOn Energy in New Florence.

Wright said the experience gave him knowledge on an aspect of engineering that he never considered. He said is now more interested in designing thermodynamic and hydraulic equipment.

“It opened my eyes, and reassured me of my choice. I will know what to look for in the programs offered when choosing a college,” Wright said.

Wright also performed approximately 41 hours of community service, mostly during the 2012 Westmoreland County Fair.

Ellen Brady, 17, shadowed Todd Ulery, a Mt. Pleasant chiropractor.

Brady said she was interested in both chiropractic and physical therapy that Ulery's office provides.

Brady said she is now interested in pursuing a degree in physical therapy at either the University of Pittsburgh or Duquesne University with a focus on treating sports injuries. Brady exceeded the minimum shadowing hours by spending 18 to 20 hours at the chiropractic office.

“Interacting with people and getting people back to pre-injured health would be rewarding,” Brady said. “I could relate to people I encountered there, and I want to make it my life's career.”

Ulery said several students have completed senior project requirements at his office. He said he feels it's a great opportunity for students to interact with various professionals to help them make their career decisions.

“It was a great experience with all of the students, they were receptive to all of the duties asked of them,” Ulery said. “Implementing this program will be beneficial for them down the road.”

The two other project components students must complete to graduate are the composition of a career portfolio and an exit interview.

Students complete some of the portfolio work in class.

Upcoming seniors are required to submit at least two photos of their career shadowing experiences and academic and career plans.

For the exit interviews — conducted during the first semester of the school year — students are asked to present the details of their project to a select group of faculty, including counselors, teachers and the principal.

The interviewers also ask the student questions regarding their job shadowing experience.

“This gives them the opportunity to experience the process of being interviewed for a job or college admission,” said Chris Potoka, guidance counselor at the Mt. Pleasant Area Junior/Senior High School. “Our goal is to prepare them for post-secondary plans.”

Career shadowing has given some students confirmation of what vocational paths they are considering, while other students discovered it wasn't what they expected, Potoka said.

To inquire about career shadowing possibilities, students are urged to contact businesses where they could complete the requirement. School counselors will assist them, if necessary, Potoka said.

Community service hours for upcoming seniors will be increased to nine hours that can be accumulated starting their freshman year. Students graduating after 2015 will be required to perform 12 hours of community service.

Students must wait to pursue the required 16 hours of career shadowing until their junior year to ensure they will still be interested in the career as they prepare to graduate, Potoka said.

Most students complete their career shadowing locally, according to Potoka.

Senior Ashton Salopek created a digital slideshow presentation in digital video productions class that will be shown to students in grades nine to 11 explaining the latest graduation requirements.

The presentation is designed to give underclassmen the opportunity to begin accumulating community service hours and think of a career path that might interest them.

Information will also be sent home with juniors to ensure parents are aware of what is expected of students.

For more information on senior project requirements, go to the district website at and click on “Graduation project.”

Kelly Vernon is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-547-5722 or

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