Each spring, seniors have the opportunity to design and orchestrate independent projects of their choice. The project process culminates in the Senior Project Fair at the end of the school year. Students show off their hard work to
faculty, alumni, parents, and other students. On May 20 in Heath Commons, 36 seniors presented 26 unique projects ranging from written work, to ventures in entrepreneurship, to a machine that harnessed Hopkins’ own food waste to create sustainable energy.
The Senior Project Program grants seniors the time and freedom to explore in depth a subject of particular interest. Maliya Ellis ’19 wrote short stories and sonnets, some originally in Spanish, and others originally in English, and then translated each into the other language. When asked what inspired her project, Ellis responded, “I spent last summer doing community service in Ecuador, which left me with both a renewed interest in Spanish and a whole lot of interesting experiences to unpack. I wanted to reflect on those experiences via creative writing, logically in Spanish, the language in which I experienced everything.”
She continued, “I’ve also read a lot of literature in translation, and it’s never quite the same as the original, so I wanted to understand that process through myself.” When asked about the challenges of her project, Ellis described how “I knew the original writing would be challenging because it takes a lot of creative energy. But creative writing in Spanish brings the extra challenge of grammar and vocabulary. I had to decide whether to prioritize meaning, meter, or rhyme, and it was painful sacrificing one of the three.”
Isabel Vlahakis ’19 explored the influence fashion and politics had on each other during the French Revolution by writing a research paper and using her knowledge to “make what could have been a dress from that time period.” Vlahakis recalled that last year in AP European History she “watched a video about how fashions have changed and influenced each other, which really inspired [her] senior project.”
Raven Levine ’19 collaborated with Emma DeNaples ’19 to write, film, and edit an original movie that follows a high-school senior “through a week in her life, dealing with the academic stress of school, and the difficulties of prom as a gay teenager.” Levine was not only excited to “be able to tell a more in depth story with a longer run time” than was possible in the Hopkins film classes, but was also motivated by what her project represents. “The central character, Alice, is a character whose high school experience reflects my own in many ways.
Although seniors were given the option to substitute their project for a course, finding enough time to complete their project to their original expectations proved to be a common challenge. Theo Tellides ’19, whose goal was to digitize and index 70 years of Razor archives explained that “it took a lot longer to index articles than initially planned so I only digitized one year per decade.”
George Kosinski ’19 partnered with Eliot Carlson ’19 to recreate ten small-scale Renoir paintings. Kosinski also felt the pres- sure of limited time: “Renoir uses many layers and washes in each of his paintings, so it was hard to replicate that in the limited time we had.” Benjamin Washburne ’19, who worked with Alex Hughes ’19 to convert food waste from the Hopkins dining hall to methane and electric current via anaerobic and aerobic digestion faced a unique obstacle: “My nose faced the greatest challenge of the project, as it was incredibly stinky.”
Despite long hours at the computer screen, Levine was happy with the outcome of her project as well as the experience she had gained: “I learned a lot of technical things from this project. I also learned more about directing a larger group of actors, something which I had not done before.”
Tellides was excited to share his insights into Hopkins’ past: “I learned that Dr. Lovell narrowly avoided a boiler explosion while performing repairs. I also learned that The Razor was once a lot more inflammatory, with articles complaining about rising tuition, and a column called ‘The Mug’ that was devoted to roasting a particular senior each issue.”
With the school year nearly over, next year’s seniors are pondering their own projects. Olivia Wen ’20 said, “The senior projects this year seemed like such rewarding experiences. I am excited to have the opportunity to explore something I’m passionate about next spring.”