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.