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Class of 2023 Explores Careers and Interests through Capstone Projects

Kaylee Barker '23 had been considering the pursuit of a career as a physical therapist specializing in sports medicine, but wondered whether it would be a good fit. To gain insight into the field, she shadowed a physical therapist in May as part of her Senior Capstone project.

“What I learned from this project was how perfect this career is for me,” she said. “The day-to-day interaction with patients and the ability to have a significant impact on someone's life is such a rewarding experience and something I look forward to as I pursue this career.”

Annually, Capstone projects at The Colorado Springs School (CSS) immerse seniors in areas of their choice to deliver an experience that fosters innovation and engagement in a real-world context before graduation. Topics this year ranged from forensic psychiatry, athletics marketing, and orthopedic surgery to the life of a first responder, navigating the financial field, and coaching soccer.

Unlike CSS’s signature Experience-Centered Seminar program, which is planned by Upper School faculty and carried out in groups each spring, the Capstone curriculum tasks students with researching and designing their own unique topics. Throughout the process, they form essential questions to guide their experiences, conduct informational interviews with professionals beyond the walls of CSS, and secure a community mentor to provide them with expert guidance.

“The experiential aspect of each Capstone gave this year's seniors many avenues to test out ‘real-world’ options for hobbies, careers, and college majors, and the Class of 2023 enthusiastically embraced those opportunities,” said Capstone Director Amy Miller, also the school’s English department chair and National Honor Society faculty sponsor. “They built guitars and mandolins, saw the flipside of college admissions, taught French, and discovered the realities of non-profit community organizations in addition to many more areas of focus. We hope this taste of life beyond high school readies our seniors even more for the excitement of college in just a few months.”

Barker spent the majority of her Capstone days observing the hands-on interaction her mentor physical therapist had with each of his patients. "What surprised me was just how much of an impact physical therapy can have on a person's quality of life," she said. "Patients come in for treatment, progress over time, and work toward the ultimate goal of getting back to where they used to be pre-injury."

Senior Nathan Garrett, a 2023 National Merit Scholarship Finalist, tailored his Capstone project around a topic he’s deeply passionate about: French. His was a two-part experience, wherein he not only shadowed and assisted CSS French Teacher Max Frugé in the classroom, but also worked independently to translate the French book Existentialism is a Humanism to English.

“My focus has always been on learning the language, and it's nice to flip my understanding of language on its head

a little by seriously considering it from the point of view of someone who is passing it on to new students,” said Garrett, who plans to study economics at Colorado College in the fall. “Additionally, in my experience, learning another language felt like my very being expanded beyond what I could previously imagine. The idea of creating this sensation in others was an appealing thought.”

While planning his Capstone on discovering success in entrepreneurship, Andrew Hedden ’23 desired to launch a business he could continue even after leaving Colorado Springs to attend the University of Oregon as a freshman this fall. Maintaining a deep passion for automobiles, he created Stellar Auto Spa & Services, a mobile car detailing company.

Hedden, a Lifer who attended CSS since preschool, consulted with local business owners to gain knowledge on how to be a successful entrepreneur. Their advice included setting up a legal entity and opening several business accounts such as banking and Venmo, which he did.

"I also learned how to write contracts for a business and how to do my own accounting," Hedden said. "Most importantly, I believe I learned the lesson that hard work pays off and the importance of people skills. I always knew I had these abilities, but I was a little iffy with them. Now I have no issues with talking to and meeting new people."

The Senior Capstone program, according to Hedden, is directly in line with CSS’s mission: Through superior academics and mentoring, The Colorado Springs School prepares students to think independently and to meet the challenges of a dynamic world with leadership, ingenuity, problem-solving skills, and personal integrity.

“Throughout my project, I learned many new problem-solving skills and how personal integrity is used daily in the business world,” Hedden said. “I also learned how important it is to be a true leader in a business setting.”

Learn about other 2023 Senior Capstone projects here.