The senior project is a long-treasured tradition at Milton—an opportunity for Class I students to spend the month before Graduation focusing on one topic before presenting their work.
This year, the coronavirus pandemic changed many seniors’ plans for projects, but members of the Class of 2020 have still found creative ways to use this time period, either by pursuing their projects safely, altering their projects, staying in their regular classes, or dedicating their month to serving the Milton community.
“We wanted the students to choose something that would keep them connected and engaged with Milton,” said Jackie Bonenfant, dean of academic initiatives. “We want them to do something that has value and meaning to them.”
New this year are the opportunities students had to work with various Milton offices, including Admission and the Office of Multiculturalism and Community Development, on initiatives such as new student orientation. Seniors could also work with Upper School administrators to plan and coordinate year-end events, including Graduation, so the class would have some input into the celebrations.
This year’s project line-up includes virtual musical performances, art portfolios, volunteering to distribute face masks in Hong Kong, learning new recipes, creating a cultural map of Boston, learning new computer programming skills, writing a fantasy novella, and making clothing, among others.
For some students, like Rory Hallowell ’20, the pandemic made little difference on plans for the project. Hallowell, an avid conservationist, did an internship at the Chocorua Lake Conservancy in Tamworth, New Hampshire. He spent the month shadowing the land trust’s stewardship director and working on everything from maintenance to culling invasive plants to water-quality testing. In the process, he has learned about edible plants and the rich history of the Mount Chocorua region; he also made a presentation to the Explorers Club about his work.
“My favorite part of this internship has been getting outdoors and getting dirty,” said Hallowell. “The coronavirus has definitely put a damper on the fun of the work—manual labor is hard enough without wearing a mask—but it has not ruined my senior project at all.”
Senior projects will be presented to the Milton community during the week of Graduation. Instead of an in-person project fair or performances, seniors are creating videos to show their work, Bonenfant said.
For their final class assignments of the year, students in Josh Emmott’s Globalization and Islam class turned to Instagram this spring to spark awareness and support for philanthropic endeavors halfway around the world. Using the popular social media channel, students built pages to educate and help raise money and volunteers for causes in the Middle East. Below are a few of these students’ projects.
The Collateral Repair Project: A Social Media Campaign for the Collateral Repair Project in Amman
Jana Amin ’21, Leydn McEvoy ’20, and Kavi Shah ’20
UNRWA: Students supporting the United Nations Relief and Works Agency For Palestinian Refugees
Zachary Rahaman ’21 and D’Anique Briggs ’20
EcoPeace: Students interested in the Middle East, sustainability, and history
Stefan Aleksic ’20, Nara Mohyeddin ’21, Caroline Heyburn ’20
Students For Sawiyan: Students promoting the work of Jordanian non-profit, Sawiyan
Brendan Hegarty ’20, Larissa Wolfberg ’20, Caitlin Waugh ’20
Jana Amin has taken her coursework and turned it into an essay for publication this summer on the Malala Fund website: https://assembly.malala.org/. Jana is also expanding a project that Olivia Wang started last year, connecting Milton students to the Collateral Repair Project e-learning program. Both Olivia and Jana traveled to Jordan during Milton’s spring break trip to the region in 2019.
“Their goal is to recruit Milton students to train as English language tutors for refugees in Jordan, so that when the curfew in Amman is lifted, Milton students will be ready to tutor the refugees,” says Mr. Emmott. “This is something that I am trying to integrate into my Middle East elective class in the fall.”
Some of Milton’s best student writers and artists gathered virtually on Monday evening for the Laurence S. Persky Memorial Awards. The annual awards are given for the best work appearing in Milton Academy student publications and honor excellence in creative writing, journalism, art, photography, and production.
Guest speaker and alumna Neha Wadekar ’07 spoke to students from Nairobi, Kenya (2 a.m. her time), where she is based as a freelance journalist. She spoke about her non-linear career path and how students can follow their passions and take risks, even in these uncertain times.
“Success comes in many different forms,” said Wadekar. “People who are creative, passionate, and flexible are the people who can thrive in any environment. For me, writing is an art. It’s a personal form of freedom and self-expression. It’s a privilege.”
Wadekar said her work brings her joy and although working as a freelancer can have ups and downs, she said she’s “never regretted my decision.”
The Persky Awards were established to honor the memory of a Milton student writer who passed away just prior to his Class I year more than 30 years ago. Emily Franklin, Milton alumna and author, was one of the judges. Emily received a Persky Award as a senior in 1990.
Head of School Todd Bland had the honor of announcing the individual awards.
- Nara Mohyeddin ’21 for her creative nonfiction “Heirloom”
- Beck Kendig ’20 for his fiction “The Criminal”
- Eliza Dunn ’21 for her poem “A History of Children”
Persky Award Winners:
- In creative nonfiction: Malia Chung ’20 for “Portrait”
- In fiction: Eleni Mazareas ’21 for “As We Lie at Dawn”
- In poetry: Anne Kwok ’21 for “Mother Makes Steamed Fish for Dinner”
- Jeanna Shaw ’20 for her painting “My Immigrant Father”
- Grace Li ’20 for her photograph “Color as Emotion 1”
- Claire Mallela ’22 for her digital art “Inside Jokes and Passing Notes”
Persky Award Winners:
- In painting: Ethan Furdak ‘’20 for “Facets”
- In photography: Max Andrade ’21 for “Wet Wetsuit”
- In digital art: Lynn Yuan ‘’21 for “The Taste of Home”
Best Science Article, featured in Helix:
Wilder Crosier ’21 for “Quantum Dots: Tiny Crystals Brightening Today’s Technologies”
The Milton Measure’s Editorial Board for “The Assembly”
Best Commentary—National Topic:
Joshua Hwang ’21, The Milton Measure, for “Life for Asians After Coronavirus”
Best Commentary—Milton Topic:
Nikhil Pande ’21 and George Rose ’21, The Milton Paper, for “The Dirt on Our Lawn Care”
David Shaw ’20, The Milton Measure, for “Unspoken Stories”
Best News Story:
Sarah Alkhafaji ’20 and Nara Mohyeddin ’21, The Milton Paper, for “Transitions”
Best Overall News Writer:
A tie: Cece Zinny ’21, The Milton Measure, and Sneha Jaiswal ’22, The Milton Paper
Annie Wernerfelt ’20, The Milton Paper, for “Our Relationships with the Town of Milton”
Best Overall Sports Writer:
Antoine Wiley ’20, The Milton Paper
Best Milton Sports Coverage:
Colin Baker ’21, The Milton Measure
Best Milton Arts Coverage:
Ava D’Ambrosio ’22, The Milton Measure
Best Overall Arts Writing:
Grace Li ’20, The Milton Paper
Best Arts Feature:
Nara Mohyeddin ’21, The Milton Paper, for “Toni Morrison and 1,001 Nights”
Margot Becker ’20, The Milton Paper
Best Humor Piece:
India Claudy ’20 and Ethan Furdak ’20, The Shallot, for “Stanford EDIII Application”
Three Milton teams competed in a virtual Independent School League hackathon hosted by Middlesex School. Teams had six hours to collaborate and develop a working prototype focused on the theme of “creating something that will be beneficial to others.” They presented their projects over Zoom. The winning team was Ben Botvinick ’21, Zack Ankner ’20, and Blake Ankner ’23, who built a fully functional website called Hobbyist.
“It’s a simple website, where anyone suffering from quarantine boredom can go to find a hobby,” says Botvinick. “Users fill out a quick form about their goals, interests, and inclinations. Then we give them a suggestion for how to spend their time and some video courses to get them started.”
Botvinick says they “had a blast participating” and said the other two Milton teams “both had amazing functional prototypes within six hours, which is no easy feat.”
The Milton Girls Who Code team was made up of Grace Chiang ’20, Ella O’Hanlon ’21, Lauren Walker ’21, Tori Choo ‘’21, and Miriam Zuo ’20. They created an app called Dine’N’Donate, which allows users to order food based on location and preferences; connects users to local food banks and restaurants; and informs them about how the pandemic is affecting restaurant workers.
“We divided these tasks among ourselves and collaborated via Zoom,” says Zuo. “It was helpful to talk to other team members whenever we got stuck. It was more difficult to work virtually than in person, but we were quite happy with the end product.”
Sebastian Park ’21, Max Litvak ’20 and Mikhail Dmitrienko ’21 made a website called Corona Calculator, which predicted the user’s likelihood of COVID-19 mortality based on different demographics. Students used data for different mortality rates within different age groups.
“The experience was unique because I had never worked with either of my partners on code before, so we spent time coordinating how we were going to split up the work,” says Park. “Mikhail worked on the backend, which is all of the computations happening on the server side, while Max and I worked on the frontend, which is the user interface.”
Rural, tucked-away places contain rich stories, but they’re not often found on stage in modern theater, playwright and Tony Award-nominated actor John Cariani told Milton performing arts students this week.
Cariani wrote Almost, Maine, a play told through nine stories about love and loss in a remote, fictional Maine town. Milton students performed the show in February; Cariani joined members of the cast and crew—along with others who had planned to put on Milton’s spring musical, Urinetown—via Zoom to talk about the play and his career in theater and television.
Small-town life hasn’t always been ignored—plays from the middle of the 20th Century depicted nuanced suburban and rural lives—but political divisions seem to have created an “us vs. them” rift in American culture, with rural people often depicted unfairly as simple or ignorant in current media.
“I’ve figured out, kind of in the middle of my life, that I’m passionate about the way urbane, well-educated people treat rural people,” Cariani said. “I’m from a small farm town in northern Maine, and that’s what I write about. We’re taught that where we’re from is bad. I’m just asking people not to forget that multifaceted, intelligent people live in rural America. Contemporary American art and culture do not represent multidimensional rural and working-class people.”
Almost, Maine is one of the most produced plays in the country, and it is a popular student production. It opened in 2004 in Portland, Maine, where it received critical acclaim, and has run internationally, as well as for two months as an off-Broadway production where reception was more mixed.
“I wanted it to go to Broadway, and I was so excited for what was going to happen,” Cariani told students. “None of those dreams come true. But there’s a great quote in Hamlet: ‘There are more things in heaven and earth than can be dreamt of in your philosophy.’ And that has been the case in my life. The things that I dreamt didn’t happen, but the things that have happened were better than what I could have imagined.”
When the pandemic started, work shut down for theater actors and crews; Cariani had been about to start performances of Caroline, or Change on Broadway when the coronavirus shuttered New York theaters. Cariani wondered if there was a way he could make some meaningful contribution, and a teacher friend suggested he try to reach students who had recently performed Almost, Maine; the friend noted the challenges of teaching the arts remotely. Milton students asked Cariani questions about his script development, his use of humor, and the staging for the show, and he shared stories about the process of getting plays produced.
No one could have imagined the coronavirus pandemic playing out the way it has, Cariani said, especially the high school seniors who are missing in-person milestones. But the social-distancing measures during the pandemic do have a silver lining for creators: boredom. Great ideas occur to creative people in boring moments, he said, encouraging students to mine their quieter times for ideas. “Give yourself time to daydream,” he said.
Cariani has received numerous accolades including an Outer Critics Circle Award win and Tony nomination for his role as Motel the Tailor in Fiddler on the Roof, and an Outer Critics Circle Award nomination for his performance as Nigel Bottom in Something Rotten! Cariani appeared as a cast member on Law and Order for five years; his other television appearances include The Blacklist, Homeland, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.