SHS seniors share projects

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(Photo by CAROLINE LOBSINGER) For his senior project, Sandpoint High School student Jaxon Pettit detailed the topic of “The effect of texting on teen literacy” on Nov. 21.

SANDPOINT — Problem solving and critical thinking are two things students in today’s world should take from their education, according to Sandpoint High School senior Kendall Mitton.

For her senior project, Mitton chose the topic, “The Product of Today’s Education,” because both of her grandparents, who had a profound influence on her, had both been high school teachers.

“I would say I have a very different perspective on education and I wanted to share that positive aspect with all of you,” Mitton told those gathered in the room during the school’s senior project presentation day on Nov. 21.

Her project surrounded the question of “What are students getting from today’s education?” One answer to that question is problem solving, which she said is important because it allows people to adapt to quick-changing environments. To high school students, she said, problem solving may look like math problems or drama between friends. To adults, it can look like careers, such as entrepreneurs, doctors, scientists, engineers, and more.

“They all work together to problem solve to make the quality of life in the U.S. better,” Mitton said. “So it is really important that schools and education are giving you this background so that you can be more successful in the future.”

The second thing is critical thinking, she said, which is based off of personal knowledge and having a well-rounded education. Mitton said studies have shown that to have a well-rounded education, students need to have a background in arts, humanities, sciences, social sciences, English and math. Strengths and interests are important as well, Mitton said, as studies have also shown that people spend one-third of their life at their job.

For that reason, Mitton said she would like to be in a career that she is interested in and passionate about. Mitton said her passion is environmental law, which she plans to get a start on next year, possibly at the University of Idaho, though the college choice is subject to change.

In concluding her presentation, Mitton asked — and answered — the question, “Who cares?”

“You should all care because we are the future generation of America,” she said. “Putting effort toward your academic success is important because it will result in your future success, your happiness, and a more educated society. If you are not doing well in school right now, it is not too late to start investing in yourself and putting yourself out there to have better opportunities.”

SHS senior Jaxon Pettit also touched on today’s education with the topic of “The Effect of Texting on Teen Literacy.” Pettit said he chose the topic because he has heard adults talk often about the negative effect of texting when it comes to literacy of today’s youth.

“I wanted to do some research to see if that is true and get some first-hand accounts from teachers and other academic professionals,” Pettit said.

The first thing he found is that teens need to be more aware of when using acronyms and slang is OK, like when you are texting friends. When writing an essay or other academic paper, however, then it is time to use formal speech. This has become a “big” problem, he said, because students don’t always recognize when they need to use formal, versus informal, language, because they get into the habit when texting friends.

“It just becomes natural to them when they are writing,” he said, adding that autocorrect has made it harder for students to be able to spell on their own as well.

The second thing Pettit found through his research is the importance of parents when it comes to monitoring cellphone use.

“I think parents should raise their kids to text responsibly — don’t just let a three year old use the iPad or phone all day and not have any other experiences,” Pettit said. “They should encourage other activities such as sports, playing an instrument, reading a book, or just going outside.”

Parents should educate themselves on responsible cellphone use and how to set boundaries for their kids as well, he said.

Finally, Pettit said while parents are important, it really comes down to the student to refrain from being distracted by texting and cellphones.

“Distractions will always be there, so even if it is not a cellphone distracting you, it could be something else,” Pettit said. “So it is ultimately up to the student not to let it control you. Students need to develop self control to focus on tasks and they need to be able to recognize when to use formal writing versus informal writing. Keep in mind your audience.”

This was advice that was received not only by fellow SHS seniors, but younger students as well, as the senior projects correlate with the students’ Connections classes. Connections started in 2016 at SHS and is centered around the Idaho Department of Education’s Sources of Strength program, a nationally recognized suicide prevention program. While the seniors will graduate, freshman, sophomores and juniors will stay in the same groups each year in order to grow and retain support as they progress through high school.

Senior projects are a graduation requirement for Idaho students, and while following the guidelines outlined by the state and the school, each senior chose a topic that appealed to them in some way. Topics varied from today’s education, to the negative impact of gray wolves introduced in North Idaho, how changing an individual’s everyday habits can benefit the environment, and even the benefits of skateboarding for youth.

“It was exciting to see the variety of topics the seniors chose to do research on and the information they presented,” said SHS postsecondary counselor Jeralyn Mire. “I also enjoyed watching the underclassman ask questions, all learning something new and interesting. The seniors spend a great deal of time on this project and their presentations were professional and well done.”

Mary Malone can be reached by email at and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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