Auburn’s Renaissance Capstone boasts student-led projects

By Emily Sipiora

Auburn High School is well-known for hosting numerous academic programs: a Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) troupe, the Renaissance Academy, and Human Public Services are all a part of the college preparatory academies.

The initiative to prepare students for the outside world is the most apparent in the Renaissance Capstone course. Students are required to curate, submit, and evaluate each others individual projects.

Each project requires a research paper, a formal justification, and a summative presentation at the end of the year. Every student’s project is encouraged to have charitable benefit to the community– not only for themselves.

“I love everything about learning and school, from science to the humanities, and the Capstone project has given me the initiative to actually put those loves of mine to work and allowed me to create (or attempt to create) something that I think could be really meaningful,” student Jacob Higgins said.

The class is reserved for seniors in the Renaissance Academy only. It’s a zero hour course– students volunteer an extra hour of their morning to pursue their independent projects. It will continue to be a zero hour next year.

Current year juniors have begun vying for spots in the course. Seats are limited– at the end of the year, only a handful of students will be selected to receive award scholarships for their project.

The incoming junior class will have sponsored seats, where organizations such as Alignment Rockford and The Rockford Area Arts Council have set aside funding for their sponsored student.

“For me it’s the ideal learning situation,” said John Rauh, instructor.

“Engaged, motivated students are given the freedom to pursue their personal interests and passions through rigorous academic thought, which is the vision of our program.”

Projects include charitable jewelry shops, independent films, publishing short stories, writing comics, and computer programming. A typical day in the course includes coming to class, logging onto a computer and working on their Capstone project.

Networking with the Rockford arts community is a substantial aspect of this course. Students are required to connect with a local mentor in order to fully evaluate their work.

The mentor is expected to help the student reach their full potential. One student, a cartoonist, is mentored by a professional artist working outside of Rockford.

Essentially, the course allows the student to network in the Rockford community while maintaining a sense of purpose and a goal.

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