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WISE Reinvents Senior Year

Independent Study Program Quells Boredom, Increases Motivation

November 3, 2010

WISE Reinvents Senior Year

by Alexis Mattera

Despite the numerous advancements in medicine, there is still no cure for a highly contagious disease plaguing high school seniors. Symptoms include excessive yawning, lack of concentration, procrastination, class skipping and a blasé attitude toward anything relating to education. Dun dun dunnnnn…it’s senioritis!

Fortunately, there’s a potential vaccination circulating which could quash most strains and keep seniors on track until graduation. It’s called WISE, or the Wise Individualized Senior Experience, and it’s been helping students not only stay focused but gain real-world experience while they’re still in high school for more than 30 years. Take Ralph Vasami, for example: He spent the majority of his senior year as a WISE participant interning at a weather forecasting company and though the self-described “ordinary student with ordinary ambitions” wasn’t even sure if he would attend college, his experience with WISE opened his eyes to the possibility. He went on to attend Lyndon State College and today, he is the CEO of the company he interned at, Universal Weather & Aviation Inc., which has 1,300 employees in 20 countries and $860 million in annual billings. Yeah. Wow.

WISE participants spend most of their days outside the classroom but many, like Vasami, report they are more motivated to learn than ever. Dave Marcus, the writer of this piece, was a classmate of Vasami’s in 1970s and was also a WISE participant when the program was in its pilot stage; he feels is one of the few education reforms that actually delivers what it promises and Marcus’ former classmates agree, saying they would have floundered in their college classes without the practical experiences they had during internships at museums, publishing houses and engineering firms the WISE program provided.

So seniors, think WISE will keep you on track for the remainder of your time in high school? If so, see if your school is one of the program’s partner schools. And if there are any former WISE participants in the audience, did the program have the same impact as it had on Vasami and Marcus?


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