Every year Northwest High School’s Ulysses Signature Program offers students a unique opportunity to enhance their high school experience through being involved in a small, nurturing intellectual community.
Last week, senior students participating in the school’s Ulysses Signature Program presented their final projects at the Ulysses Fair, which took place on last Wednesday and Thursday, with half of the seniors presenting on each day.
The honors program, which is unique to Northwest, is a four-year experience said Ulysses coordinator Dr. Suzanne Borenzweig. “The skills that they learn in the Ulysses Program are the skills that they are expected to know when they get to college, but most students don’t ever learn how to do it,” said Borenzweig. “In the Ulysses Program, we take them step by step through the upper-level college research process. We actually teach them how to do that every step of the way from finding sources and identifying the validity and value of sources, writing about those sources, and citing those sources, and finally, synthesizing their sources in a variety of ways.”
Borenzweig explained that students in 9th grade and 10th grade take English, Social Studies, and Science through the Ulysses Program. The students then take Advanced Research in 11th grade and their senior research program in 12th grade that is where they start to focus on their own interests. “In senior year, that is where they focus on their research projects. The students propose and finally complete and present their research project,” said Borenzweig.
Over the course of two days, 44 students displayed their research projects in Northwest’s auditorium while members of the Northwest community, including their peers, parents, and friends, could view and ask questions about the research topics. The topics of Ulysses Projects are as varied as they are interesting, ranging from subjects like Megan Lynch’s Rehabilitation After Abuse: A Dog’s Recovery to Victoria Chang’s PSTD: The Silent Injury to Nassim Abbouchi’s Just a Game: A Study of the Social, Mental, and Psychological Effects of Chess or Emily Gerard’s Pretty in Pink: Are the Disney Princesses Feminist Role Models?
“The kids take a personal interest in these projects,” said Northwest Principal Lance Dempsey, “and the level of research that they do is quite extensive. This is something that is near and dear to their hearts. It is something that they believe in and want to share with their fellow students. It is great to watch the underclassmen go around and ask questions of these seniors about their projects. I love to hear how passionate my seniors are about the research they’ve done. It is extraordinary.”
“The Ulysses Program has really introduced me to the world of research,” said Hannah Crook, whose project is I’ll Just Do It Tomorrow: A Correlation Study of Study Habits and Academic Performance. “Honestly, it has shown me what I am going see in college and I really feel that it is one is the most important things that I can take away from high school,” Crook said that when she talks friends who attend other high schools about the work she is doing they have often not heard of the research techniques. “When I show them what I am doing — the projects I am interested in and the things I have been able to do — like learning the MLA Format, which is Modern Language Association’s style guide for scholarly study, they don’t know what I am talking about,” said Crook.
“People who have come back to school who are in college and were part of the Ulysses Program say, ‘Thank God for the Ulysses Program, or I wouldn’t have known how to do research or even where to start.’ It has really helped me progress as a student and even as a person. I feel like I have learned life skills and research skills. I feel like I am a much better student for it,” said the senior who is planning to play soccer at Clark University next year and is hoping to major in political science.
Now in its twelfth year, the Ulysses Signature Program accepts applications from eighth-grade students who will be attending Northwest the following Fall. The program requires students be nominated by two middle school teachers and expects students to maintain a grade point average of 3.0 in all classes throughout their four years at Northwest to remain, receives about 170 applications for the roughly 100 spots in each class every year.
“In the first two years Ulysses students don’t take research classes,” said senior Dylan Reed, who helped recently helped middle school students apply to the program. “Students get the benefit of being in class with other Ulysses students. Some of the distractions that you have a normal classroom environment you don’t have in a Ulysses class. In Ulysses English in freshmen year, you are not going to have the normal distractions of students still adjusting to high school because all the students in the class have been handpicked to be there. They are there to learn. They are there to get it done.”
“The Ulysses Program cultivates you together as a group in a learning community by being in the learning community you can develop your research skills and learning skills,” said Reed, who was presenting his research project, The Great North American Ski Town: A Study of Economic Endurance. “In your senior year, you come out of the program as a better researcher and a better learner. You know how to work with other. It is definitely a learning experience, as you see other people learn, as you see yourself grow, and as the program mentors you along.”
Senior Tyler Pawlowski’s Ulysses research project, Soldiers for Hire: A Look Into the Use of Private Military Companies, focused on the issues surrounding privatized militaries in support of diplomatic and political missions around the world and while he learned a lot about a subject that was near and dear to him, he also learned life skills that will help him throughout his college career.
“I have learned a ton about how to do research and what sources to use,” said Pawlowski. “It taught me about scholarly journals, which is something I didn’t know much about. This program has taught me how to be a better researcher, how to give a better presentation, how to be a better student. It has helped me all around.”
The Ulysses program will host another Ulysses Fair for the second half of the senior class participating in the Ulysses Signature Program in April.
Top: Friends, parents, and teachers peruse the research projects presented by seniors in Northwest High School’s Ulysses Signature Program at the Ulysses Fair in Northwest’s auditorium.
Nest: Hannah Crook presents her research project, I’ll Just Do It Tomorrow: A Correlation Study of Study Habits and Academic Performance.
Next: Northwest senior Dylan Reed talks to a visitor about his project, The Great North American Ski Town: A Study of Economic Endurance.
Next: Tyler Pawlowski presented his project Soldiers for Hire: A Look Into the Use of Private Military Companies.
Photos by Germantown Pulse