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Glen Oaks students get WISE

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A select group of seniors at the Queens High School of Teaching in Glen Oaks Friday celebrated their near-completion of a full year of personal exploration and growth at the 19th-annual Wise Individualized Senior Experience conference.

The program, which offers unique opportunities to students at more than 60 schools nationwide, gives participants a chance to pursue their individual passions while bridging the gap between school and their adult lives through individual projects, work with teacher-mentors and internships.

By allowing each student in the program to select hor or her own yearlong pursuit, WISE is a journey that culminates in real world experience that takes their education outside the classroom.

“We’ve had projects on everything from bowling to becoming a doctor, gardening, baking and becoming a teacher,” said Jim Woolsey, a WISE teacher at the school. “They spend the whole second semester working in their field. ... How powerful is it if you’re an education major to be able to tell a college admissions officer that you already have [real world teaching experience] under your belt?”

Enthusiastic WISE participant Kellivea Smallwood, 18, of Bellerose, has been given the opportunity to do just that in her application to her top-choice school, Nyack College, where she hopes to continue her dream of becoming an educator.

Since the start of the spring semester, Smallwood has been an intern at PS/IS 208 just next-door to the Queens High School of Teaching, helping Thorton teach her kindergarten class.

Smallwood said the experience has been invaluable as she has learned and evolved in ways she would never have been able to in a conventional high school classroom.

“It’s such a great experience because I’m basically like a student teacher and I am hands-on with kids every day,” she said. “I’ve learned that you have to have a lot of patience and I learned you have to be organized. My backpack used to be a mess, but it can’t be anymore because you have to lead by example.”

Amanda LaSalle, another WISE student, dedicated her year to service and spent 1 1/2 weeks building houses in New Orleans with Habitat for Humanity.

Friday’s conference was a chance for this year’s participants to hear each other’s stories, take part in group workshops, meet WISE graduates who are now in the professional world and look ahead to the last stretch of the program, dubbed the “cure for senioritis” by Woolsey.

“It instills so many things. Everything from organization skills to time management, being able to network, really being able to communicate in an adult way and being able to participate in the adult world,” Woolsey said. “They’re often able to circumvent the culture shock that comes with the first year after high school.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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