Community organizations are stepping up to help Columbus high school seniors find ideas for their senior projects.

More than two dozen agencies went to Columbus East High School on Aug. 8 as part of a senior project opportunity fair to provide ideas.

Having a presence at the fair was a good way to interact with students, said Colleen Herrick, a volunteer with the city’s Animal Care Services. The animal shelter needs benches for its walking path, she said.

“There’s a lot of areas here that we use volunteers in,” Herrick said. “We’re a good host location for students looking to hold an event.”

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The senior project is mandatory for students at Columbus East and Columbus North high schools and is tied to Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. graduation requirements, said Anne Edds, East senior project coordinator. Senior projects typically fall under three categories including a career focus, a community focus or self improvement/hobby, she said.

“Another good quality of a senior project is that a student has a passion for it,” Edds said.

While organizations including Sans Souci, Turning Point Domestic Violence Services and the Bartholomew County Soil and Water Conservation District were among those who offered senior project ideas at the fair, some seniors had already decided on a project.

Tori Overfelt said she wanted to help the homeless population and the poor in New York City as part of a mission trip through First Christian Church this fall during fall break. Overfelt said she’s been planning the project since last year, adding that she is interested in doing mission work as a career after high school.

She plans to work closely with her youth minister, Tyler Tolbert, who will serve as her mentor. First Christian Church will partner with a mission based in New York City to help individuals in need.

“I thought it would be a really good start to kind of get behind the organization process of missions before I jump into that as a career,” she said.

Overfelt, who will be among 16 church members participating on the trip, said it will cost $650 per person. The money is being raised through fundraisers at the church, bake sales and sending out letters to friends and family for financial support, she said.

Tyler Thomas plans to raise money for the school’s unified track team through a silent auction during the Columbus East and Columbus North boys basketball game later this year. Student-athletes with intellectual disabilities are part of the team who compete.

Thomas, who plays football, basketball, unified track and lacrosse at East, said it was important to give back. Although he hasn’t determined a final fundraising goal, Thomas said he hopes to raise at least $1,000.

“I wanted to give back to them because they’ve helped me mature a lot throughout the years,” he said.

Under the requirements for a senior project, a proposal must be submitted and will be reviewed by a committee made up of three faculty members. In addition, seniors will also write a research paper that aligns with the project, according to Edds.

A final presentation, including an electronic portfolio to be turned in, takes place in the spring in front of two faculty members and three members of the community, which may include a representative from a certain organization or company within the community. The senior project grade is 50 percent of a student’s second semester English 12 grade, Edds said.

While the senior project is time-intensive, it is meant to be educational as well, Edds said. More than 300 seniors will be required to turn in a project this year.

Senior project deadlines

Proposal due: Oct. 20

Begin research for paper: January

Write argumentative research paper/conferences with teachers about paper: January-March 7

Research paper due: March 8

Sign of commitment due: March 29

Graded research paper returned: April 2

Journal and mentor log checks: Dec. 4, Jan. 16, Feb. 5, March 5 and April 2

Project due date: April 18

Letter to the judges due: April 20

Portfolio due date: April 25

Practice presentations for boards: April 26-May 21

Senior boards: May 22, 23

Source: Senior project 2017-18 handout

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or