COMMUNITY GEM: Chaminade Julienne teacher helps students become leaders with capstone projects

Chaminade Julienne High School teacher, and Community Gem,  Molly Bardine teaches her senior class at the school Tuesday April 26, 2022. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

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Chaminade Julienne High School teacher, and Community Gem, Molly Bardine teaches her senior class at the school Tuesday April 26, 2022. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Seniors at Catholic high school put faith into action

Seniors are often the leaders at their high school. They head student organizations, and they are the captains on the playing field, said Molly Bardine, chair of the English department at Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School in Dayton.

But Bardine gives seniors at the school a chance to be leaders in the community, too, by coordinating the senior social justice capstone projects.

“We wanted to give every senior the opportunity to take on a servant leadership role,” she said.

Each year, students work with partners or in groups to put their faith into action and make a difference in the subject of their choice, Bardine said. Projects have covered a wide range of issues, including food waste, pollinator gardens, refugees, human trafficking, mentoring and more.

“The issues that they choose are as diverse as our students, and we hope that it’s also their passion,” she said.

About 40 to 45 projects are completed during the school year, which starts with submitting a proposal in the fall, presenting their findings at a symposium in the spring and writing an essay reflecting on their experience. Some projects are even carried on into the following year.

In the process, they learn more about themselves and how they can make an impact, Bardine said.

“I think the kids learn to tap into their own talents, too,” she said.

Service is already a part of the culture at Chaminade Julienne, and the capstone project is meant to be a culminating activity that helps students develop and demonstrate their skills in a movement toward justice, she said.

Some students – such as those working on issues involving poverty or the opioid crisis – find out how national issues hit close to home.

“They come to realize that these worldwide issues are in our own neighborhoods,” said Bardine, of Kettering, who has taught at Chaminade Julienne for 27 years.

But by meeting others who care about these issues and work in the field, they also end up learning firsthand about the generosity of the Dayton community and how people are working on those issues locally to make a difference, she said.

Bardine, as the founder and “driving force” for the capstone project, has provided her students with the means to make change, said Dan Eiser, also an English teacher at the school. All seniors have participated in a capstone project since the graduating class of 2014.

“There are so many things out of their control, to give them agency over their community and their lives is pretty special,” said Eiser, who nominated Bardine as a Dayton Daily News Community Gem.

Many of the groups center their projects in the communities from which they come, giving back in their own neighborhoods. Eiser sees the excitement and the pride the seniors take in their projects, and also the time Bardine gives every student. She lets them dream big, said Eiser, of South Park.

Bardine said that those who feel sad or concerned about the future need only look at the capstone projects by the school’s seniors.

“These kids bring me hope,” she said.

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