PAA Student Displays Passion for Service in Senior Project

July 01, 2006 | Heather Fowler

It is not every day that a school assignment can ignite a lifelong passion. While working on her senior project, Jesica Hernandez of Portland Adventist Academy (PAA) was touched by her teacher’s stories and photos of orphans in Ethiopia. She decided to go above and beyond her original project requirements. In addition to her original presentation on various photographic styles, she created an ongoing outreach to raise money so these children could receive basic health care, shelter and educational opportunities.

Inspired by her teacher, Joan Oksenholt, Hernandez decided to make a multimedia presentation about the children. Using Oksenholt’s photographs, she created a video to share with churches and schools to help raise money for the orphans. “We can help them,” says Hernandez. “They need us and we all can do something.”

In their junior year, PAA students present a proposal to a faculty committee for a senior project. The students prepare their projects and defend them using various types of media. A reflection of the student’s high school experience, the project not only gives the student the awareness of the importance of their education but also prepares them for life. “It gives them real-world relevance, a connection that they need for the future,” says Oksenholt.

Real-world relevance is not the only lesson Hernandez learned from her project. Hernandez would like to keep serving others, possibly as a missionary. “I want to be a radiologist. Working in the medical field would enable me to help others all over the world,” she says.