At Summit School District, students are using their class projects to launch real-world initiatives

Project showcase to be held at Summit High School on Feb. 15

Snowy Peaks Principal Jim Smith speaks with senior Izzy Esposito during the school's project showcase on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024. Both Snowy Peaks and Summit High School require a project for their students that encapsulates a personal passion and skill-building.
Robert Tann/Summit Daily News

As the only girl on an otherwise all-boys golf team, Summit High School student Kate Eldredge knows what it’s like to feel like an underdog. 

“I’ve definitely had to hold my own, prove I can hit from the same tees and that I’m at the same level these boys are,” Eldredge said. 

Now, Eldredge is working with local golf professionals to build an all-girls group, facilitated through the Keystone Ranch Golf Course, as part of a school project. For her, it’s a way to channel her passion into real-world impacts. 

“What I’ve found is girls feel a lack of confidence, they feel intimidated and really minimized,” Eldredge said. 

Forming an all-girls team is about “more than just learning how to play golf,” she said, “It is sisterhood, it is fun and it’s about keeping girls in a great sport.”

Eldredge is one of many Summit High School students pursuing their mid-year project meant to showcase their interests and ability to engage with communities in Summit County and beyond. 

A requirement for all Summit 10th graders, the projects are the culmination of the district’s ​​International Baccalaureate program for elementary and middle schoolers, known as the Primary Years program and the Secondary Years program, respectively. 

Doing so opens the door for students to pursue the IB Diploma program in 11th and 12th grade, which includes more courses, written essays and intensive exams — all of which is optional. 

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Students usually begin work on their mid-year project during the fall before presenting during the spring semester. Though the presentation helps encapsulate their idea, students can pursue hours of work that extend beyond the school year, with some initiatives coming to fruition months later. 

Summit High School teacher Amanda Winters, who helps lead the projects, said the initiative is meant to hone the traits of the district’s graduate profile. The five-point philosophy challenges students to be curious, courageous, prepared, growth-oriented and globally aware by the time they reach graduation.

Winters said the project also provides “a really awesome opportunity for kids to take something that they’re interested in and go as big with it as they can.” 

She added that those efforts can translate to skills that can guide them in their post-secondary education endeavors. 

For Summit High 10th grader Heidi Wuppermann, this came in the form of preserving and encouraging a life-long skill. 

Amid a learning environment that is becoming more and more digitally oriented, Wuppermann said she wants to help young people like her develop public speaking skills. For her project, Wuppermann collaborated with a high school student in Oregon who launched a program to bring public speaking to classrooms. 

Modeled after the same approach, Wuppermann plans to lead a one to two-hour class on public speaking for students in late elementary and early middle school. Wuppermann said she’s worked with teachers and principals in Summit and Lake counties’ school districts to pilot the program at both districts. 

She hopes it can eventually grow to other districts in Colorado. 

“To be able to advocate and speak on issues that are important for young voices,”  Wuppermann said. “By fostering that skill from a very young age, we’re able to allow students to gain confidence in advocating for things they’re passionate about.”

For some students, the projects have a direct correlation to their future careers. 

Snowy Peaks senior Izzy Esposito speaks about her personal project, which saw her complete more than 30 hours of teaching assistance outside of school.
Robert Tann/Summit Daily News

At an event at Snowy Peaks High School earlier this month, senior students presented their personal projects which are similar to the 10th-grade mid-year project at Summit High. Students are required to complete a minimum of 30 hours outside of their regular school time for the project. 

“One of the things that we really like to pride ourselves on is giving students choice and allowing them to pursue their passions,” said Snowy Peaks Principal Jim Smith.” And so for there to be a culminating project their senior year, it’s this demonstration for students that they are independent learners.” 

Snowy Peaks senior Izzy Esposito said her project, which saw her working with her former eighth-grade science teacher as a teaching assistant, will help with her career goals. 

“I learned a lot of the more behind-the-scenes stuff of education such as curriculum changes, conflict resolution,” Esposito said. “I also got to help out a lot with some of the different projects they did in that class, answer a lot of questions and really just get to make some connections with students, which I absolutely love.”

Next year, Esposito will attend Endicott College near Boston where she plans to pursue a teaching degree. 

“I would love to come back to Snowy one day and teach,” she said. “That’s the dream.” 

The public will have the opportunity to view Summit High School’s 10th-grade projects during an open house event at the high school on Thursday, Feb. 15 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. 

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