Unique Senior Year
During the second half of their senior year, Schechter Westchester students are afforded two extraordinary opportunities. The first is the Lev v’Nefesh Poland/Israel Experience, a grade-wide trip to Poland and Israel, learning about the sorrows and joys, strength and vibrancy of their shared heritage. Upon returning home, each student participates in WISE, a program that takes learning out of the classroom and into the “real” world through research, guidance from mentors, and internships within the student’s specific interest. Learn more:
Lev V'Nefesh - Senior Trip to Poland and Israel
WISE: Wise Individualized Senior Experience
Embarking to Poland
Every February, Schechter Westchester High School seniors embark on Lev V’Nefesh. Students travel first to Poland for just more than a week and then on to Israel for two months. In Poland, students learn first hand about the vibrant Jewish life that existed before the Holocaust through visits historic Jewish cemeteries where great rabbis and community leaders are buried, tours of towns where Jewish communities thrived, and davening (praying) in the majestic synagogues that have been preserved. The group tours the Warsaw Ghetto, walks through Nazi concentration camps, visits Schindler’s factory, and meets Righteous Gentiles.
Immersion in Israel - Past and Present
Students study more than 4,000 years of Jewish history while traveling the country and immersing themselves in Israeli society. Beginning with the Biblical period, the intensive academic curriculum provides students with an overview of the history of our people. It also delves into each major era of Jewish and Israeli history, culminating in an in-depth look at modern Israel and the challenges that Israelis and Jews face on a daily basis throughout the world. Along with the academic curriculum, students have the opportunity to participate in a myriad of cultural sports, and recreational activities.
Strengthening Ties to Israel and the Jewish People
In partnership with the Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center for Conservative Judaism, our students interact with Israeli teenagers as well as high school seniors from throughout North America. Within the Fuchsberg program, we have our own dedicated dorms, buses, and teachers. Our students meet other Fuchsberg students at meals and campus-based cultural events. Students enjoy the benefits of living at the Fuchsberg Center surrounded by the unique cultural and religious opportunities that Jerusalem affords.
Our goal through this program is to strengthen our students’ relationship with Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael, the people and the land of Israel, as well as its cultures and traditions.
Individualized Senior Experience (WISE)
Upon returning from Israel, our seniors participate in a multi-faceted program to culminate their year. All students participate in the WISE (Wise Individualized Senior Experience) program, wherein, each student engages in serious study or exploration in an area of specific interest that may involve research, projects, and generally an internship.
Students design their program with the input of an in-school mentor and other members of the faculty before they travel to Israel. This program is designed to be individualized for all students, so that each student’s project is unique. The program culminates in a formal presentation by each student to a committee of peers, teachers, administrators, and parents. Students will spend approximately 15–20 hours per week on their WISE project.
The Wise Individualized Senior Experience is an enrichment program for second-semester seniors that goes beyond the traditional academic offerings of secondary education. Under the guidance of mentor-teachers, students design individualized projects that reflect some career or personal interest. They may explore an academic pursuit, a social service/volunteer interest, a career exploration, or other type of creative project. The projects may take the form of internships with community agencies or businesses, intensive research on topics of interest, or artistic/performance-based activities. WISE emphasizes real-world, outside-of-the-classroom experience and is designed to be self motivating. It brings together students, school administrators, faculty members, and community members and helps the school become a more integral part of the surrounding communities.
Students’ work is supervised by three adults: the mentor, the community supervisor, and the WISE coordinator. Students work closely with a mentor who they select from the Schechter Westchester faculty or staff. Mentors monitor students’ progress and meet with them weekly. Students are expected to spend at least 20 hours a week working directly on their projects. During this time, they are engaged in both primary and secondary research, including reading from a variety of sources, interviews, lectures, seminars, workshops, and other appropriate visits relevant to their project. They maintain daily journals to discuss their on-site experiences as well as outside research.
WISE prepares students to become independent adults. Students must design their projects, find a mentor and community contact, and plan their semester so that they complete all their work in a timely manner. Each student must also prepare a final presentation as a culmination of their work. The presentation, delivered publicly, must be approximately 30 minutes in length, with an additional 15 minutes allowed for questions. At the presentation, students submit an annotated bibliography in which they comment on the value of the readings prepared in conjunction with their work. Students are then evaluated by a panel of faculty members, community representatives, and peers, each of whom will have read the student’s journal prior to the presentation.
The program is designed, implemented, and evaluated by a task force of interested students, faculty members, parents, and community members. This task force meets several times during the year.