Fine Arts Academy seniors focus on isolation for capstone project

Seniors+Cecelia+Thomas+and+Lizzy+Healy+work+on+building+the+table+part+of+the+project.

Photo Used With Permission From Cecelia Thomas

Seniors Cecelia Thomas and Lizzy Healy work on building the table part of the project.

Eleven seniors in the Fine Arts Academy have been working on their capstone project for the year. Their focus is on the student body’s mental health and how isolation due to COVID-19 restrictions has impacted them. The seniors working on the project are Sydney Shaver, Grayson Campbell, Jessica Lawson, Julia White, Isabel Samatar, June Holm, Anna Koubek, Mia Lemon, Lizzy Healy, Anya Newman and Cecelia Thomas. 

“[For our capstone,] we are focusing around isolation, specifically the isolation that many students have felt with the format of online school and lockdown with COVID,” Thomas said. 

For the first part of their project, they sent out a survey to the student body on isolation related to online school, as well as the HHS environment before lockdown.

“[We wanted to] evaluate the environment that HHS sets up to help, [as well as] ways [that] they can improve in how they support the mental health of their students. We sent out a survey and got about 280 responses, which is awesome. We [asked] about student’s mental health and if they felt isolated during the time of COVID. [We also asked] if the format of online school had impacted their motivation in school. Then, we had some open-ended questions about how they thought the school could better improve in supporting students’ mental health,” Thomas said.

The group’s goal for the results from the survey is to open the eyes of administration to the student’s mental health needs. They are hoping improvements will be made to better support the student body. 

“With our survey results, we’re going to be making a report to administration, so that they can analyze the environment and maybe there’s some improvements they could make. We’re specifically thinking about maybe how they could restructure advisory or how they could hire more mental health professionals at the school. The way we’re going to report that to them is we’re going to [make] a website. We’ll be able to walk them through the data and walk them through suggestions that we’ve gathered,” Thomas said. 

The second part of their project is an artistic representation. They are designing a table that will be in either the courtyard or first story of HHS. 

“We’re also doing an artistic representation. We’re building a table, and we’re having a tile top and painting on the tiles. What we’re going to depict is how the night sky looked on March 13, 2020, which was our first day of quarantine, [which is] kind of symbolic. We chose constellations because we felt like it really represented how people could feel isolated and individual like the stars, but we’re all actually connected like the constellation. The idea of isolation yet connection,” Thomas said. 

They are also going to incorporate mental health resources on the table to still showcase their theme. 

“There’s going to be a QR code that students can scan [on the table] with their phone, and it’s going to take them to specific self care suggestions that we, as a Capstone 11, have come up with, and we did some self care interviews with 18-year-olds from HHS that we knew. [They gave] suggestions that they have for how students could take care of their mental health,” Thomas said. 

To complete all parts of the project, the group split into committees depending on their skills. Thomas was part of the more analytical side of the project, while others were more involved with the creative side. 

“We kind of split up into committees. We had people who were more of the mental health and survey focus, and then people who were more working on the table and the artistic representation. It’s kind of funny because the people who are working on the survey stuff are more analytical [and] I’m on that committee. [They’re] more analytical and [worked] more [on] organizing things,” Thomas said. “The [people focusing more on the] artistic representation are more creative and want to get all of these ideas out. So we split up, but there are eleven of us, so we actually do collaborate on a ton of stuff. We’ve all been involved in the designing of it, but it’s more like certain committees specialized just so that we can get more things done.”

The group decided on this topic because they realized how relevant mental health and addressing the isolation that we have all experienced is. They wanted to put something in the high school that would commemorate the past year and all that the student body has experienced. 

“At the beginning of the semester we had a huge brainstorm, and we just kept coming back to the theme of isolation. We didn’t know if we wanted to do COVID specifically, because we feel like our whole lives have been [about] COVID, but we did feel like there was kind of a need at the high school to just talk about it more. We knew a lot of our friends and a lot of students we know have been feeling isolated, so we just thought that was really a need that we wanted to address. [Mental health is] just something we’re all really passionate about, so we thought that was the way to go,” Thomas said. 

Everyone working on the project believes mental health is important in general, not just because of the pandemic. However, they realized its growing importance in this day and age. 

“I think [mental health is] always an important topic, but especially that we’re at this age, all of us, it’s not a delicate age, but it’s a place where we’re really learning more about ourselves and how [to] take care and support ourselves. [Also, it’s important to learn] how [to] support the people we’re around. It’s just so important, and mental health affects everything we do, not just our schoolwork,” Thomas said. “It affects all of our relationships and how we live our lives, but I think it’s especially important now because we were all thinking [about how] lockdown has made people feel really isolated and more disconnected from their friends and loved ones. Everyone says it, but [being so isolated has been] just so weird. It’s nothing any of us have ever experienced, so we just thought it was good to focus on mental health, especially now.”

Thomas does not think that the results of the survey will be surprising to administration. She is hoping it will prompt them to take more action with student’s mental health. 

“I think they might expect it, but we were honestly kind of surprised. We had a question [on the survey] about [if] you would agree or disagree [that the] HHS community adequately supports [your] mental health. We had equal parts [that] agreed and disagreed. There’s obviously a rift there. I don’t think they’ll be too surprised, but it might be a little bit of like, ‘Oh, it’s good to hear what the students are actually thinking,’” Thomas said. 

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