CJ Students Influencing Our World Today

A new program at Chaminade Julienne challenges seniors to apply all the lessons of their four-year Catholic educational experience by actualizing the traditions of the school’s two founding orders, the Marianists and the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. The Senior Capstone Project is a cross-curricular, inquiry-based research project that calls seniors to become servant leaders in our world today.

After spending junior year volunteering at a community organization for a minimum of 25 hours, students spend senior year gaining a deeper insight into global issues and, in the process, develop into compassionate social justice advocates — taking the next step by researching an issue and then influencing others to become part of the solution. Seniors work in teams to research and connect a topic to the Catholic social teachings of the Church, find professional mentors within the community, meet quarterly Capstone goals, and put their plans into action.

One of the 42 projects this year has caught the attention of Honda Motor Company with regard to providing cleaner fuel emissions and less fuel consumption.

“We are redesigning the piston of the internal combustion engine to create electricity as it moves. The redesign would change the way hybrid engines are built, harnessing more electricity while consuming less gas,” senior Kyle Shoup said. “We want to put a damper on our impact to the environment to preserve it for future generations and to use our talents to responsibly care for the earth and other humans.”

Inspired by their involvement with CJ STEMM (science, technology, engineering, math and medicine), Kyle and his teammates Thomas Carmody, Matt Dudon, Kris Heidenreich, and Zach Thomas enrolled in Project Lead the Way engineering courses and decided to address environmental concerns. The team’s focus and research has led them to work with Honda engineers and local college professors.

“It’s certainly an innovative idea,” said Steve Wendel, professor at Sinclair Community College and the group’s mentor. “If their idea can be applied to what Honda is already doing, it truly could change the world by improving efficiency.”

Mike Bulugaris, a staff engineer at the Honda Auto Plant in Marysville, Ohio, is also working with the group as a mentor. He’s put the group in touch with leaders at the automaker’s hybrid division, recommended areas of research and provided encouragement for their “out-of-the-box idea.”

"Long-term ideas that address carbon footprint (both product and factory side), multi-material body design (for lighter weight), and ideas that counter increasing labor costs (meaning keeping manufacturing jobs in the U.S.) will reshape our industry in the next 10 to 20 years. This Senior Capstone Project is focused in these key areas.

“The next generation of engineers will face these issues and a team of young minds like this just might create that next great idea. Seems like some good things are happening at CJ," Bulugaris said.

What makes the Capstone unique is its connection to the Catholic Social Teaching of the Church and CJ’s founding orders, said English teacher Molly Bardine. She took the lead on piloting the program with a dozen seniors last school year. “During their research students are required to connect their issue to the Catholic Social teachings of the Church to serve as inspiration to their project,” she said.

In part for her work to implement the project at CJ, Bardine was named a recipient of the 2013 Sr. Dorothy Stang Award. The award honors those within the Archdiocese of Cincinnati working to advance social justice by demonstrating the values of martyr Sr. Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN.

“The purpose of the Capstone is to allow students the opportunity to go beyond the traditional service experiences into actual projects designed to impact even more lives and learn how to be servant leaders truly living out their Catholic faith,” she said.

“Great learning happens when students are engaged with a subject that involves their passions,” Bardine said. Topics this year range from sanctity of life and homelessness to self-image, fair trade, environmentalism and more.

All teams will present their Capstone findings April 30 at the school’s Stang Symposium, named in honor of alumna and martyr Sr. Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN, a 1949 graduate of Julienne High School – a CJ predecessor school.

“I am very impressed with the Senior Capstone Project because it is a way for students to connect faith, meaning and advocacy to affect change in issues about which they have become passionate,” said Brother Ray Fitz, S.M., Fr. Ferree Professor of Social Justice at the University of Dayton and CJ Trustee.

Bro. Fitz serves as honorary chairperson of LIFT— Leading in Faith Today, which was announced January 30. In addition to capital improvements, the campaign also makes possible initiatives like the Senior Capstone Project and other curricular programs, increases opportunities for teacher development and elevates the school’s comprehensive ministry and service program.

“Students at Chaminade Julienne are not just studying social justice issues, they are finding ways they can work for change in our community,” Bro. Fitz said.

The Senior Capstone Project was the subject of a feature story in the February 7, 2014 issue of FamilyOnline, a Marianist publication.