The Mysteries of Senior Presentations Revealed

What to expect and how to handle it.

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“You don’t have to write about something amazing. You do not have to give a Martin Luther King Speech for your senior presentation. I think the best thing to do is reflect on something that everyone can find beneficial.” -Lexi Kowalak ’17

8:00 a.m. The Chapel. Morning Meeting. The president of Student Government Association (SGA) announces “And now we have a senior presentation by.” The senior walks up the steps of the stage. Once at the podium her presentation begins. It is her time to shine.

Every student who first walks into SEM as a freshman may or may not know that when senior year comes, they will have to give a presentation about themselves. This might not seem scary to some but to others it is a horrifying thought. Standing up in front of peers, teachers, and family and telling a story that is private and personal can be quite nerve wracking. No other school in the Western New York requires every senior to give a presentation in front of the whole school. Why does SEM?

“Senior presentations are a reflection of how trusting SEM students are to the community around them. I think this is a great example for the underclassmen to know that we are the type of community where we can trust each other, that it is a supportive place,” explained Head of School Mrs. Marlette.

According to Gary Sutton, who has worked at SEM for 46 years, senior presentations did not always have a definite format as  they have now. It was not the integral part of seniors life as it is now. Originally, Morning Meeting only existed to check attendance . In the 1990’s Morning Meeting became more involved and became the time to make announcements about the school play or a sports game. Mr. Sutton said he has observed how SEM students have become increasingly at ease speaking in front of people and at creating a common culture. “Morning Meeting really brings together the fabric of the school.”

As Morning Meeting became a familiarity at SEM, senior presentations were expanded and became part of  Morning Meeting. In the beginning, the presentations were not formally directed. Advancement and Communications Associate Betsy Bloom ’08 said  “When my class did them, the presentations were mostly impersonal and more topic based. I spoke about global warming which is something important to me but not personal. If I was doing it now I would have done something related to my life. It’s a way of sharing a part of yourself to the whole school and allowing people to see another side of yourself. Making it more personal was a really smart decision and I am glad it has evolved.”

Today, a senior presentation requires a minimum of 5 to 8 minutes on an experience a student had or a hobby they enjoy. Any accompanying audio or video has to be preapproved. “Be ready to sign up for your senior presentation in the first few days of the school year. I thought it was good to sign up so early for everyone to know their date and be prepared, said Amanda Lee ‘17.

Half of the Class of 2017 has already finished their senior presentations, topics included, a heartfelt thank you to a grandmother, a hula hoop champion, and a Youtube sensation. Senior Jesse Sloier described being very nervous at first but that once she got up on stage and saw everyone looking happy she felt better. She talked about her love of going to concerts. She had a lot of adrenaline and her legs quivered  but her mind was focused on the presentation and the people around her. “My mind was okay but my body responded differently.” After her presentation she felt good about it. There were no regrets.. Jesse even said she wants to do it again because she “loved” how she could tell a story about herself that not many people knew. “It’s neat to share things about yourself,” she said.

Mikang Kim ’17  said senior presentations are a mix of stressful, fun, and a little scary because the student shows a part of her that people do not know about. She believes it a good experience for everyone because someday each SEM student will have to be in the spotlight whether they like it or not. She added, and what better way to start off as a senior to tell the people whom you admire a story about you.

Lexi Kowalak ’17 introduced her senior presentation by letting the audience know that she has been thinking of something to write about from the start of freshman year. There were so many stories she could share but felt that the best story would be challenging her own theories. As she came up with her presentation about swimming with sharks. “When you brainstorm ideas to write for your college essays always reflect upon the fact that you can also use the essay for your senior presentation.” 

“Take advantage of the opportunity to stand up there and present an aspect of yourself that does not have to be the most important thing about you.” -Jesse Sloier ’17.

Many SEM students and parents believe that the newly introduced Capstone program will replace senior presentations. Ms. Ammerman, head of Capstone cleared up all the rumors. “If senior presentations ever change it would never have anything to do with the Capstone.” She believes that the quality of presentations have gotten better every year so no one wants to take them away or change them right now. “It is a great to start the morning because I get to know something about each student. So when she graduates, I know a little piece of something that is important to each student.”

Senior Presentations continue to make a mark on the faculty and students at Buffalo Seminary. The uniqueness of the presentations show the diverse community we are. “The reflection the students have to do of what is  important to them and the exercise of making a public presentation shows the pride in how you present yourself shows the type of community we are,” Mrs. Marlette said.

“Thank you.” Cheers and applause ring through the chapel. The senior walks down the steps of the stage. The president of the SGA asks, “And do we have any faculty or student announcements?” It’s over.