YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Yorktown High School seniors were brought before the Board of Education after straying from their classrooms. However, they were not there to be reprimanded—just the opposite.

The students are near the completion of their semester-long Wise Individualized Student Experience (WISE) projects. WISE Services is a not-for-profit organization that helps participating schools to develop a program under which students can design individualized, passion-driven projects intended to empower students as they transition out of high school.

Participating students pair up with a member of the community to get real-world insight into a professional field of their choosing. Projects can include, but are not limited to, internships, independent research, self-improvement, community service or cultural, artistic and performance-based activities.

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Under the guidance of English teacher Pamela Chesser, this year’s group pursued interests in the fields of fashion, nursing, pharmaceuticals and more. They kept blogs of the experience and shared their insights.

Some students were able to bulk up their portfolio with real-world clips during the project. Senior Gresa Muriqi, for instance, pursued her interest in advertising and communications by sitting in on a communications class at Manhattan College. She did additional research online and shared some of it on Twitter. In doing so, she caught the eye of SPECKmedia, a social media consulting agency, and was asked to write two guest articles for their blog.

While journaling the experience, students also explored deeper themes. They explored ethics within their field, shared resources they thought were valuable, and reflected on their strengths, weaknesses and growth throughout the process. Additionally, they were asked to create something sustainable that would last after the completion of their projects.

Keiyana Grant pursued her interests in cosmetology and fashion. In addition to interning at Paulo’s Atelier Hair Salon in White Plains, she walked in a prom fashion show for Lorde and Taylor. Her WISE experience continued to take a community-events oriented approach once she got involved in Yorktown High School’s prom dress drive, which she included as her sustainable contribution. She will also be assisting ASK at the annual Community Day at the Jefferson Valley Mall on June 17.

The civic emphasis of the project impressed members of the school board.

“If students around the world are made aware of some of the problems that have existed on the planet for years, perhaps they will find some ingenious ways of correcting those things,” said Dr. Ralph Napolitano, superintendent of schools.

Some students took full advantage of the project, and used it as an opportunity to explore several interests. Senior Madelyn Fortuna pursued education and photography, spending time as an assistant in classrooms at Crompond and Brookside elementary schools. She also completed a photography internship. She incorporated her photography skills in the classrooms as well, photographing field trips and other activities.

Fortuna has been taking taekwondo classes at Philam Self Defense in Yorktown since she was in middle school, and recently earned her black belt. For the sustainability element of her project, she taught a self-defense course to a group of her peers on April 25. Also a Girl Scout since kindergarten, Fortuna was able to meet the requirements of both her WISE project and the community service requirements of her Gold Award project.

Fortuna said she enjoyed the project and learned a lot, right until the end when she was the instructor. She said it was fun to share that interest with others and she was pleasantly surprised by the turnout of about 10 girls.

“I’m really glad that my friends are doing this,” she said. “I’m having fun and I’m learning some as they’re going because they are thinking of things that I didn’t think of.”

Lorna Groux, head instructor at Philam Self Defense said the studio hosts many community events and she was happy to allow Fortuna to hold her event there. She added that Fortuna was providing a valuable service to the girls that came out because they can take their knowledge of a few defensive maneuvers off to college with them next fall.

Assistant Superintendent Lisa O’Shea commended Chesser for her involvement in developing the course for the students at Yorktown High School.

“To see her pride in them tonight is very heartwarming,” O’Shea said.