Saint John’s College High School
Second Place Winner
Think back to when you were in your senior year of high school. You had just completed all of your
college applications in addition to being ready to complete all required high school credits needed to
graduate. As January and the second semester approached, your excitement, anticipation, and anxieties
for the future intensified. Had you ever thought about how fully prepared you were for your next
endeavors? Had your high school given you the ‘flextime’ to have internship opportunities, expand on a
senior capstone project or even volunteer abroad? This last semester of your high school career could
have been the best yet, spent acquiring so much more knowledge through real world experiences
instead of in a classroom twiddling your thumbs.
I know of many students, especially those who have graduated from my high school, who wish they had
had the opportunity to expand on a senior capstone project or even apply to an internship before
attending college. However, do not get me wrong, my high school offers a renowned college prep
curriculum that sets its students up for greater successes in their respective futures. As I look back and
reflect on what has been offered to me and all that I have accomplished there, I cannot help but be
grateful for the wide selection of courses, creative and performing arts, athletics, service opportunities,
and academic support that have been resources at my fingertips. As many schools around the DC Metro
(DMV) area do not have the ability to offer their students such an array of resources, having a variety to
choose from has only heightened my high school experience and intuitively has helped me identify where
my interests lie.
My school recently launched the Entrepreneurial Center for Innovation and Leadership (ECIL). According
to the website, ECIL’s mission is to “focus on social responsibility and our role in creating a positive
impact in our communities and in the world” ("Entrepreneurial Center”). This encourages students like
myself, who are interested in stepping outside the realm of the traditional classroom, take creative and
critical thinking and turn it into bold action that positively impacts our diverse communities.
ECIL has allowed me to select a challenge and figure out a way to solve that challenge using the United
Nation’s (UN) Sustainable Development Goals. I am currently interested in attempting to tackle the lack
of clean water and sanitation, and irresponsible consumption and production. Water scarcity is real, as,
for every ten persons, three do not have access to safe and potable drinking water. Especially in first
world countries, the amount of water that is wasted on a daily basis is extremely concerning, considering
more than 40% of the global population is impacted by water scarcity (“Goal 6”). Throughout this
capstone, I am able to build upon this Sustainable Development Goal that will eventually result into a
prototype that is pitched to a panel of judges, similar to the business-related reality TV series Shark Tank.
However, the project ends there and we graduate high school. Yes, the experience of creating a
beneficial product that could potentially be on the market one day is a riveting experience, but there is
always room for growth, suggestion, and improvement. I wish there was more time to fully expand my
project and see the reality of my prototype.
As an aspiring Civil and Environmental engineer who wants to concentrate on creating and maintaining
sustainable water systems in developing countries, expanding my ECIL Capstone Project outside the
walls of my school would have been one thing that wholeheartedly would have made my high school
experience more relevant to my future. If given the opportunity to expand, I would create an advanced
model of the prototype that I have designed: a water refiltration system. The prototype that I have
designed efficiently collects wasted water and safely filters it so that it becomes potable again. This
product could be sold to companies that work in places where water is seen to be wasted the most:
cafeterias and dining halls, restaurants, resorts, and even in one’s home.
As many companies are turning towards using more sustainable and environmentally friendly resources,
this wasted water filtration system would hopefully be an economically and environmentally attractive
product. Additionally, an incentive to draw companies in to buying this product is that all wasted water
that is filtered would be repackaged and sent to those in need; therefore every gallon of wasted water
that is filtered quenches one person’s minimum daily hydration needs. If I had flextime during my last
semester of high school, I could have fleshed out the design created for my prototype, giving me the
opportunity to connect with various companies in the region.
Taking myself away from the classroom for a semester and into the streets of the greater Washington
area would undoubtedly bring a new dimension to my project. I would spend some time shadowing in the
Office of Environmental Management at the Department of Energy. Making a visit to Capitol Hill would
better acquaint me with government policies, laws, and acts in place that could later alter or prohibit the
production of my refiltration system. After being more informed about the policy making side, paying a
visit to some centers who are completely devoted to sustainability would give me a better idea of
potential companies that will buy and promote my product.
The Merrill Environmental Center in Annapolis is a perfect example of a building that is 100%
environmentally friendly, housing the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Headquarters. Because that entity is
devoted to energy efficient design, potentially interning there could bring great insight towards my
knowledge of environmental conservation and preservation. Although these are just a few of the
businesses that I could expose myself to, invariably, each would bring a unique angle to my Capstone.
Adding additional flex time to my schedule could make these incredible experiences happen, setting me
up for greater success in my project and beyond.
My school has taken a step in the right direction towards developing global leaders in today’s world.
However if flex time was implemented into the senior schedule, Capstone students could really deepen
their understanding of their projects through the experiential learning model. Furthermore, their projects
could become real world products in the marketplace. In the grand scheme of things, all students could
benefit greatly from flex time because of the open-ended structure. There are many other schools who
have innovated models that give students experiential off campus opportunities. So why not make it
apart of everyone’s high school experience if it has all of these personal, professional, and societal
“Average Daily Water Usage.” The World Counts, www.theworldcounts.com/stories/average-daily-waterusage.
“Entrepreneurial Center.” St. John's College High School | President's Welcome, www.stjohnschs.org/page/academics/entrepreneurial-center.
“Goal 6: Water and Sanitation - United Nations Sustainable Development.” United Nations, United Nations, www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/water-and-sanitation/.