Capstone projects lead students to look deeper | PostIndependent.com

Capstone projects lead students to look deeper

Savannah Kelley
Post Independent Correspondent
Danny Serafin, a Glenwood Springs High School senior, cuts Jack Flohr's hair.
Savannah Kelley/Post Independent Correspondent |

It’s not every day that a high school student cuts hair for the homeless population. That’s exactly what Danny Serafin, Glenwood Springs High School senior, is doing for his Capstone project, a new graduation requirement for the Roaring Fork School District.

“I started thinking of possibilities that I could give back to my community and find the project that I want to do,” said Serafin.

He decided to use his passion for barbering in his Capstone project by providing haircuts for homeless people in Glenwood. He also cuts the hair of male students at GSHS. In fact, many students don’t even know Serafin’s last name, because he is more commonly known as Danny the barber.

“I wanted to look into the way that people talk to one another and see a different perspective, and I found that barbering was a perfect way to do that,” said Serafin.

“I also recently had a conversation with a student who said, ‘This is the coolest thing because I would have never done this project if it wasn’t a Capstone.’”— Tom Penzel, RFSD Capstone coordinator

According to the Capstone Handbook 2017-18, Capstones are projects that require students to think critically, develop real-life skills that will prepare them for college and adult life, as well as assisting in developing new character skills.

“The juniors start their Capstone proposal process in December,” said Tom Penzel, RFSD Capstone coordinator. “Then your proposal is either accepted or needs to be revised. This year was unique because of the way that Capstones were introduced last year. We had a lot of seniors that hadn’t even turned in a proposal.”

The 2017-18 seniors will be the first class required to complete a Capstone project for graduation.

“Now, around 99 percent of the seniors across the district have turned in proposals,” said Penzel. “Glenwood has 197 of 210 seniors that have turned in their proposals, which is pretty impressive.”

The students’ attitudes toward the new requirement varies.

“I know some students feel like this was kind of dropped on them and it’s just one more addition to things that they have to do,” said Penzel. “I also recently had a conversation with a student who said, ‘This is the coolest thing because I would have never done this project if it wasn’t a Capstone.’”

While some students view the added requirement as a way to look deeper into their interest, others find it unnecessary.

“Initially, I wasn’t a fan of it,” said Zoe Lyon, GSHS senior. “I see the purpose of Capstones when you’re in college because you have more of an educational background to create a meaningful project.”

Lyon plans to create a digital and hardcopy schematic that explains the juvenile delinquency justice system.

“I’ve been doing mock trial for three years, so I’ve become really passionate about the criminal system in general,” said Lyon. “I want to know how the judicial system works in its entirety.”

Many students have even found ways that their projects can benefit their future career. GSHS senior Elijah Pettet has chosen to direct and produce a short film because of his interest in a film career.

“I would’ve done this project one way or another,” he said. “The whole Capstone thing just kind of motivated me to do it, so I can see it being a great driver for students who just need a little extra push to get a project started.”

Even though Pettet is creating a project that intrigues him, he views some of the Capstone procedures excessive.

“I really enjoy the whole idea of the project, but I think it could be delivered in a very different way,” said Pettet. “I do think that for the students who are self-motivated, the extra fluff that we have to do seems unnecessary. I’m nearly done with my Capstone, and it feels like I’m taking steps backwards to fill the requirements.”

Capstones have pushed students to look deeper into ways that they can help their community.

“I like that I get to give back in my own way,” said Serafin. “The homeless people get cheered up every time someone comes and talks to them, so I want to give back in a manner that makes them feel good and also makes me feel good too.”


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