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Cap & Gown

Senior Projects Provide Capstone Experience, Bridge to Future

by Karen Lewis Taylor   |   Back to Table of Contents

In the Jan. 31, 2019, New York Times guide “How to Be More Empathetic,” Claire Cain Miller wrote, “More and more, we live in bubbles. Most of us are surrounded by people who look like us, vote like us, earn like us, spend money like us, have educations like us and worship like us. The result is an empathy deficit, and it’s at the root of many of our biggest problems.” But, she added, “researchers have discovered that, far from being an immutable trait, empathy can be developed.”

Helping our students avoid such “bubbles”— to be prepared to live and thrive in a complex and interdependent world — is precisely what school leaders had in mind when they created Lead From Here, Ravenscroft’s groundbreaking citizen leadership framework. A Ravenscroft education combines rigorous academics, competitive athletics and robust performing arts opportunities with a comprehensive curriculum that develops students’ potential as leaders and frames community engagement as essential.

It seems fitting, then, that the institution’s last requirement of its seniors calls on them to engage in a community-focused project or internship where they can flex their 21st-century competencies in a real-world setting.

“The purpose of the senior project is to allow students to explore the citizen leadership framework in a practical manner by working with local nonprofits, governmental organizations and members in our community that work to improve the lives of constituents,” senior dean Kat Belk explained. “This allows our seniors to demonstrate Leading Self, Leading Others and Changing Their Worlds.”

Some students find a good fit at organizations aligned with their college or career interests, while others with a passion for a particular cause seek out a way to further it. For the last three weeks of their final semester at Ravenscroft, seniors dig into their projects, giving of their time and talent — and developing new skills and perspectives for a future that’s just around the corner.

As we celebrate this outstanding class of Ravens, we asked seniors to reflect on their projects and the impact the program has had on them.


“Now more than ever, we should reflect upon what these people and this place have taught us.”

valedictorian Erin Pugh ’19  

Jump to:

Senior Reflections

College and Career Preparation

Varun Senior

Varun Atree ’19
K9/Feline Oncology Diagnostic Lab at the NC State Centennial Biomedical Campus


The purpose of the K9/Feline Oncology Diagnostic Lab is to test whether or not a dog or a cat has a type of cancer called lymphoma, and several extensive processes need to be completed to determine that. In simple terms, this process involves extracting DNA from tissue samples, multiplying this DNA using a special technique called PCR and then running the samples through specific gels to determine whether the cells are lymphoma positive or negative. During my first day at the lab, I was given a lot of new information about concepts with which I had no experience, so I tried to retain the information as best as I could by taking notes, staying focused and paying attention to detail. By the end of the internship, I was able to learn both the theories and the executions of these processes.

During my time at Ravenscroft, I took several STEM-based classes at the honors and AP level in which I established a level of precision and work ethic that I applied in the lab at NC State. Now that I have completed my internship, I feel more prepared to work in college-level settings where I can gain the essential hands-on experience necessary for accomplishing my goal of becoming a successful engineer.

Adam Senior

Adam Seidenfrau ’19
District C


Working with District C allowed me to experience what it might be like to work as a team to solve complex problems that actually have an impact on the real world. In school we talk a lot about “changing our world,” and this project gave me better insight into how my actions could determine the success of the company we worked with.

Citrix, a company specializing in cloud-based IT services and virtual desktops, is currently experiencing low renewal rates for one of its most popular projects. Despite the fact that none of us really knew much about Citrix, we were able to practice our researching skills and, more important, our interpersonal communication skills. Through group work and interviews, we were able to put ourselves in the shoes of someone who might actually deal with these kinds of problems.

This project was perfect for me because I was able to practice my leadership skills while working with my team to come up with an efficient and effective solution to a real-world problem. I really valued this experience because it’s not often that high school students have the opportunity to work with real businesses to solve real problems. District C confirmed the preexisting notion that, often, the solution to a problem is much deeper than what it appears to be. I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with District C and Citrix, pushing myself out of my comfort zone as I worked to solve a problem that has an impact on the world outside of Ravenscroft.

Nick Senior

Nick Zullo ’19
District C


I was immediately drawn to the opportunity to learn about some of the finer points of running a company. I anticipated we would work with a local small business, perhaps a restaurant or shop, and was shocked to learn we would be partnering with Citrix, a multibillion-dollar software company. Through this partnership, I learned about a corporation known for its innovation and cutting-edge technology, attributes so vital to a modern company.

As I hope to start my own company in the future, going through the District C process was an experience invaluable to my career aspirations. My District C leaders taught me about the “tools” of the creative process a businessperson uses, which was my most significant takeaway from this program. This process made evident the importance of understanding the many different elements of business. My group was given Citrix’s goal and asked to provide a path to meet this goal, and we found ourselves struggling through large files of data and other analytics; but we took a step back and used our tools more effectively, taking a more holistic approach and combining our numbers with creative, outside-the-box ideas to reach our solution.

To finalize this process, we visited Citrix’s office and pitched our ideas to company executives and employees. Pitch Night was incredibly exciting, as we were able to showcase our research and solutions, improve our public-speaking skills and learn more about the corporate atmosphere — experiences I cannot wait to use as I explore my passion for business and entrepreneurship.

Local Service, Global Connections

Charlotte and Maddy

Charlotte Jones ’19 and
Maddy Mehr ’19

Dress for Success


Dress for Success is a global nonprofit providing services in over 40 states and 27 countries. Volunteers include career counselors and personal stylists, marketing specialists and motivational speakers, and store managers and back-of-store volunteers. Dress for Success’ main goal is to provide the support that women need in order to kick off their careers and prepare for their futures. In its most organic form, it is women supporting women.

We are both passionate about the work this organization is doing. The most beneficial thing that we learned from doing our senior project at Dress for Success is that you do not have to be on the frontlines to make an impact. Since our work was mostly in the back of the store, organizing and sorting clothing, jewelry, shoes and toiletries, we had no direct contact with clients. However, we made a difference by helping with the organization of the store, giving easier access to the items clients needed. This was an important lesson that we will take with us beyond our years at Ravenscroft as we make our own impact on the world.

Dress for Success is definitely making strides in changing our world by practicing the leadership qualities of being resourceful and having a vision in support of the goal of giving all women equal opportunity to achieve their dreams. Volunteering with this organization taught us that small contributions make a big impact, teamwork is essential to success, we have to have empathy for all the different situations people come from and, no matter where we are in our career paths, we always have people in our corner supporting us.


Laura Dueñas-Pincay ’19
Curamericas Global


My senior project struck me as the perfect opportunity to learn more about health care and Curamericas Global’s mission of serving mothers and children in impoverished communities abroad. As my family is from Ecuador, I understand this struggle and have seen it myself. Curamericas also takes many service trips to reach out to communities in need in countries such as Guatemala, Bolivia, Liberia and Haiti. Traveling is one of the things I love most, so Curamericas’ service trips also attracted me to this nonprofit.

As I’ve engaged in my project over the past few weeks, my leadership and communication skills have improved a lot. Many times we had meetings with the executive director, and if he was not there, we were to call him and take copious notes of the tasks that were assigned. We had to take initiative and prioritize among all the tasks and make sure to email the director back with what we did during the day. I also learned what it is like for nonprofits to reach out to people and convince them to get involved and donate money to support the group’s work. Connecting with people and effectively getting the message across is difficult, and I learned more about this important work in my project. My creative skills also improved, as I created brochures for a fundraising “marathon” Curamericas is planning.

I am glad to have been a part of a community with a strong mission, even if for just a few weeks.

Ravens Reflect on Upper School Traditions

We asked members of the Class of 2019 this question at their Alumni Association Welcome Dinner May 30: “What Upper School event or tradition has been most meaningful to you and why?” Here’s what some of them had to say!

“Starting senior year by walking across campus. I remember seniors doing it in the past, and it was really neat to see the kids standing where I once was.” Vivian Avery ’19

“Stark Raven Madness, because it always sets a positive and exciting tone for the year to come.” Devin Wilson ’19

“I really enjoyed Community Day, when we get to work with kids from every grade.”Charlie Winston ’19

“I found this year’s and last year’s Culture Festival to be the most meaningful because it illustrates Ravenscroft’s efforts to become more diverse and inclusive.” Hannah Pangborn ’19

“The Madrigal Dinner meant a great deal to me because it was such a unique and impactful fine arts event to participate in. It was very special.” Jackson Davis ’19

“Celebration Day, because I got to perform with my two best friends, David Kim ’19 and William DeStaffan ’20, in front of the whole Upper School.” Quenton Blache ’19

“SPEAK. Other perspectives.” Ethan Dillo ’19

“Listening to senior speeches was really fun!” Sriti Donthi ’19

“Morning Meeting, because it’s the one time we can all get together and see people.” Kenan Poole ’19

“Ravenscroft’s students’ ability to make their own traditions within our class. This makes countless memories I will hold throughout my life.” Davis Macnabb ’19

Mentoring and Building Community


Zoë Nagel ’19
Note in the Pocket

For my senior project, I volunteered at Note in the Pocket, a program that works to provide good-quality clothing to children throughout Wake County living below the poverty line. I was already connected with this nonprofit through my work as a Teen Ambassador.

From my first day volunteering to my most recent shifts for my senior project, Note in the Pocket has, in my eyes, helped me shift through all three spheres of the Lead from Here framework. When I first started out at Note in the Pocket, I was excited to be working at a charity that does such good work locally. I had to be motivated to make sure I got as much done in a given shift as I could. I had to be accountable for the clothes I sorted, folded, stacked and weighed. Overall, it was a real-life application of Leading Self. As I became more confident in my role as a Teen Ambassador, I switched to Leading With Others during weekend shifts when groups came in, often for the first time, to learn how Note in the Pocket works.

Finally, during my senior project, I truly saw how volunteering with this organization is Changing My World. We have a mountain of donations in the corner of the workspace, which is usually overflowing and stacked up to the ceiling. Over three weeks, I saw how having numerous students from Ravenscroft volunteering for several hours a day really made an impact. By the time the three weeks were over, we had gone through every single bag. Though our group didn’t climb a mountain so much as dismantle one, I think we all felt that we had made an achievement that will hopefully impact many local kids.


Anthony Peay ’19
Brentwood Boys & Girls Club


Serving at the Brentwood Boys & Girls Club was a great experience. I thoroughly enjoyed playing with and helping the kids. The effect that we seniors had on those kids in that program was indescribable. I was able to have a positive impact on the black kids in the program, which was great because there aren’t any black people who work there. When I would talk to the kids about my educational experience, I told them that I will be going to NC State next fall and studying engineering. I also told them that my dream is to work for Nike. Giving them the spiel on my goals made their heads spin.

However, these kids definitely have big dreams and desires of their own. Some want to be doctors and others want to be CEOs of their own company. I told these kids that in order to make these dreams a reality, they need to work hard and apply themselves — and that nothing is impossible.

When I was their age, I was in an after-school program at the YMCA. Working at Brentwood allowed me to reminisce on the great times of my childhood.


Sam Tabet ’19
Brentwood Boys & Girls Club


As I reflect on my time at Ravenscroft, I am starting to glean the most valuable aspects of my school experience. Most memorably, I will value the care and mentorship I received from my teachers and advisors along with our strong sense of community. Being in an environment where respect between teachers and students is reciprocated and where students support each other prepared me for and paralleled my senior project experience with the Brentwood Boys & Girls Club. The staff and volunteers at the club worked tirelessly and reminded me of the good there is in the world. While we learn about lots of great men and women in our history classes, it is the lesser-mentioned, well-intentioned people in our community who have come to inspire and motivate me.

Likewise, the students themselves, ranging in age from kindergarten to high school, showed a strong sense of community in their interactions and care for one another. While kids will always be kids, behind their cool facade lies a genuine concern and interest for their peers. Their unwavering empathy for those who cry after scraping their knee and their willingness to clean up after themselves, help younger kids with their homework and translate for their parents were the highlights of my senior project.

My time at Ravenscroft has taught me to be a contributing member of my community. As I venture off into the world after graduation, my senior project and the people I met at the Boys & Girls Club will serve as a salient example of the impact people can have on their communities and what it means to be a citizen leader.

The Class of 2019 College Quiz

Members of the Class of 2019 are headed to nearly 60 colleges and universities in the United States and Europe, with three more pursuing gap-year plans. How much do you know about where our newest alumni will be this fall? Take our quiz and find out! Each multiple-choice answer is a post-secondary program one or more of our 2019 graduates will attend.

  1. Which college or university has the largest campus by acreage?    
  1. University of Wisconsin
  2. Madison University of South Carolina
  3. Berry College
  4. North Carolina State University

  1. Which American college or university is the oldest?
  1. Dartmouth College
  2. Dickinson College
  3. University of Georgia
  4. Washington and Lee University

  1. Which of the following colleges/universities will be home to the most members of the Class of 2019?
  1. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  2. East Carolina University
  3. Wake Forest University
  4. North Carolina State University

  1. The most common team nickname among these institutions is the Bears. Which of the following schools does NOT have a bear as its mascot?
  1. Tufts University
  2. Barnard College
  3. Cornell University
  4. Washington University in St. Louis

  1. Several Ravens will be attending university or gap-year programs abroad. Which destination requires the longest flight?
  1. University of St Andrews, Scotland
  2. Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
  3. Global Citizen Year in Senegal
  4. Institut Quimic de Sarria, Spain

raven soaring

Read more about the Class of 2019’s achievements and college plans and access year-end photo albums on our Senior Success page.

Class of 2019 Photo Albums

Watch valedictorian Erin Pugh 19s speech at Commencement.