Something unique at Holy Family School in Southeast Portland is the capstone project. Eighth graders work for a year on the ending projects to seal their middle school experience. It’s an independent learning project meant to be a hands-on experience.

I chose to research the causes and effects of bullying. I tied this in with public speaking as these were things I had wanted to learn. My capstone allowed me to try something new and gave me a good push towards something I had wanted to do for a long time.

Students are assigned a faculty advisor who assists with the presentation and essay portions of the project. I found this to be extremely helpful. Sometimes I would find myself stuck on sections of the essay that just didn’t seem right and knew I had to rephrase, but I couldn’t find a way to do so. My faculty advisor was very willing to help and would meet with me one-on-one. This was incredibly productive in the growth of my essay.

“The Capstone is one of my favorite parts about the curriculum at Holy Family,” said Patrick Cornell, my faculty advisor. “Research has shown that giving students agency over what they learn boosts everything from engagement to learning outcomes. Seeing kids delve into things like coding, cosmetology, and taekwondo really gives us as teachers insight into the unique interests and capabilities of our students while also helping them establish learning practices that will go on to benefit them not just in high school but for the rest of their lives.”

I am immensely grateful to Holy Family for giving me the opportunity and tools to help me in this ginormous project. I can joyfully say that I will be leaving Holy Family with skills I didn’t know I possessed, and I was able to learn and gain many of these skills through my capstone project.

Haugen is an eighth grader at Holy Family School in Southeast Portland.