Senior projects THS's culminating requirement offers a window on adulthood

Tupelo High School’s sixth year of required senior projects – fully developed research, analysis, work and conclusions leading to a quantifiable result – has almost 400 would-be graduates in the process of meeting an April 28 deadline for presentations.
Each year the senior project requirement (formally called a Culmination Project) results in impressive legacies both inspiring and useful, all seeking to show parents, teachers, fellow students, the community and the seniors themselves that knowledge, talent, gifts and imagination can produce satisfying outcomes.
This year the Culmination Day has been set April 28 in the BancorpSouth Arena, and all will be evaluated – a real-world rehearsal for the tests in college and the working world.
THS committed to the idea of senior projects after a visit by the regional accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 2002.
The projects usually involve special interests of the seniors and sometimes rise from personal experiences. All the seniors have project mentors to offer advice, guidance and inspiration, another real-world setting often tied to personal success.
Tupelo’s Association for Excellence in Education is in its second year as a primary sponsor of the senior projects, pairing with the Lee County Medical Alliance. The senior project program falls under the THS English Department, a logical place because the projects all involve the challenging use of oral presentations, which must have clarity and precision to explain what has been undertaken.
The exercise is meant as an introduction to the adult world and a demonstration of what it is possible to learn in the THS curriculum – a step into expectations more rigorous than in adolescence and childhood.
This year’s presentations will be open to a public audience.
The senior project is comprised of a research paper, portfolio, the product, and the presentation, and the four parts represent three major grades for THS seniors over the school year. The presentation is backed up by detailed preparation that includes dressing for success, business etiquette, and organizational skills.
AEE’s role should produce stronger participation and outcomes in the long term because the organization, with hundreds of members, has the support structure necessary to provide the volunteer hours needed.
It is hoped that successful dropout prevention programs will raise the number of seniors at THS well above 400.
Tupelo is not unique in requiring senior projects, and we believe the requirement is appropriate. It opens the door on still-greater challenges, an appropriate graduation-related event with a maturity incentive.

Joe Rutherford