Making a Difference with Senior Projects

BeFunky Collage a Community service and engagement play a significant role in the Ross School philosophy. The motto “Know Thyself in Order to Serve” reflects the school’s commitment to preparing students for meaningful lives and leadership in the global community. Several members of the Class of 2017 used their Senior Projects as a means to raise awareness and support for societal issues like homelessness, endangered species, and physical disability.

During his 2016 Field Academy trip to Namibia, Aaron Kresberg ’17 fell in love with the country, returning over the summer to spend three weeks volunteering with the Rare and Endangered Species Trust. Combining the domains of Media Studies and Technology and Science, Aaron used his Senior Project to raise awareness and money for the organization’s mission, which is to protect, research, and provide education about the “Forgotten Five plus One”: the Cape griffon vulture, the dwarf python, the African wild/painted dog, the Cape/ground pangolin, the Damara dikdik, and the spotted rubber frog. He worked with local businesses in his hometown, Sag Harbor, to try and raise $5,000 for the Trust.

Aaron convinced Sag Harbor’s Provisions Natural Foods to make the trust a beneficiary of their donation program, in which the company donates $0.20 to a nonprofit each month on behalf of customers who supply reusable bags for their purchases; this agreement yielded $1,400 to benefit the foundation’s work. He also organized a social media–driven crowdfunding campaign to spread awareness of the organization’s mission, which resulted in additional contributions totaling $1,500. He hopes to meet his goal by raising the remainder through selling photos he took in Namibia, which are on exhibition in Sag Harbor’s Sara Nightingale Gallery through the end of February.

Evi Kaasik-Saunders ’17 used her Senior Project to provide solutions for two seemingly disparate issues: homelessness and waste pollution. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, more than a half-million Americans are homeless on any given night in the United States. Meanwhile, Americans produce an estimated 4.4 pounds of waste daily. Although about 75 percent of our waste is recyclable, the vast majority of it will end up in landfills. Using integrated systems thinking, Evi sought to create an environmentally friendly solution that would provide homeless people with the items they need to remain safe and relatively comfortable.

Working within the domains of Cultural History, World Languages and Literature: English, and Mathematics, Evi founded SustainaBox, an organization that assembles sustainably produced care packages for those taking refuge in homeless shelters. Every kit contains a series of donated essentials: a blanket, travel-sized toiletries and personal hygiene products, packaged snacks, gloves, socks, and a portable rain poncho. “We aspire to provide relief to those in need while leaving a minimal carbon footprint on the environment,” Evi wrote.

32273489512_906787e5b9_k (1)For her Senior Project, Isabelle Rowe ’17 paired the Science and Wellness domains to raise and train a puppy that will serve as a service animal on behalf of the Guide Dog Foundation. Isabelle’s inspiration for raising a puppy was her Modernity project, in which she researched Ivan Pavlov and animal conditioning. After months of planning and obtaining permission from both the foundation and Ross School administration, Isabelle was assigned Tucci, a three-month-old golden retriever puppy.

Following her mastery of potty training and basic commands, Tucci and Isabelle began specialized training courses and advanced socialization in environments as diverse as classrooms, beaches, and movie theaters. “As she gets older, more will be expected of her,” Isabelle said. “I bring her to class with me, so that she can learn to be obedient, quiet, and comfortable.”

Tucci will remain with Isabelle until she reaches 12–14 months old, at which point she will be returned to the Guide Dog Foundation for her permanent assignment.