2020 Credo Project Takes On a New Spin


Ira Zhusti met new friends from Italy through HelloTalk

Sarah Villa and Sydney Washburn

The Personal Credo Project, a memorable project completed each year by junior AP Language and Composition students, took on a unique twist this year: Students created short videos detailing their work, and after viewing their classmates’ videos, students voted for their favorite. Each class selected a winner who was awarded a $5 Dunkin gift card.
This project, which has become an SHS tradition, challenges students to choose a task to complete every day for a specific period of time to explore the principles of transcendentalism. Ideals such as self-reliance, the beauty of nature, and the benefits of spirituality are typically selected by students. Students are encouraged to implement mindfulness in their lives to achieve a sense of bettering themselves. Students also interview experts or professionals who have deep knowledge or information related to their credo.
This year, students had to take on the additional task of creating a video to represent their experience. Juniors Ira Zhusti, Gretchen Voelger-Swain, Ainsley Hayes, and Sarah Villa showed excellence in this area and were selected as winners by their classmates. After a final round of competition that included judging from senior English and journalism students, Sarah Villa’s video earned top honors for the competition.
Ira Zhusti, a junior in Cathy Hall’s F Block AP Language and Composition class, made the daunting decision to attempt to learn Italian for two weeks. While she had some previous knowledge of the language through courses and travel experiences, Zhusti was opened to an entirely new world of Italian culture. She downloaded language learning apps like DuoLingo and HelloTalk to learn the basics. She also made connections with people who speak Italian and were willing to enhance her learning. She developed many friendships and even exchanged Christmas packages with one new friend.
Zhusti said she “learned a lot about their culture and their modern-day living,” saying she “definitely wants to continue learning Italian.” When asked why she believes she won the credo video competition among her classmates, Zhusti thought perhaps the “effort and uniqueness” to her project made it stand out above others. She is delighted with this project’s outcome, as it helped fuel her love for languages. Zhusti thought the new credo project allowed students to witness the extreme relevance of this work in all of their lives.
Similar to Zhusti’s concept, Gretchen Voelger-Swain decided to study the Korean language by utilizing programs like HelloTalk and online podcasts. Much like Zhusti, Voelger-Swain had the opportunity to meet several new people and immerse herself in Korean culture. Voelger-Swain’s background knowledge of the Korean language and her deep interest in appreciating other cultures were vital in achieving successful results. Voelger-Swain credits her winning to the “very visually appealing factor” of her video along with “impressing classmates from speaking Korean in the beginning and end of the video.” Along with winning a $5 Dunkin gift card, she also enjoyed the “motivating push to finally learn Korean” and the new friendships she formed by corresponding with Korean-speaking people. Voelger-Swain said she was able to expand her interests and learn more about herself and others while completing the project.
In Hall’s F block class, the competition was extremely close between Ira Zhusti and Ainsley Hayes. Both students produced excellent videos, and they were tied for top honors. After the second round of competition, Hayes earned the distinction of the second-place winner among her classmates. Hayes said she was “definitely very surprised” by the overwhelmingly positive response that her video received. Hayes’ project involved sewing and embroidering a quilt every day for two weeks, with each square representing someone in her family. In response to coming so close to winning, Hayes remarked that she was “honestly taken very much by surprise” when Mrs. Hall told her that her video was among the top two: “I never would have expected that, and I was so happy that Ira won the contest. Her video was amazing and definitely deserving!” Nevertheless, the uniqueness and originality of Hayes’ project resonated with her classmates and was inspiring to those around her.
AP Language and Composition teacher Anne Blake originally came up with the video concept and helped create changes to the overall project this year due to COVID. According to Blake, the project was typically one month long, and this year, the English teachers “decided to change it to two weeks since we lost ten school days.” Blake said the shortened period enabled students to complete their credos “authentically.” Describing how the required video aspect “worked better than in years past” and the students “did great” on the completion of their tasks, Blake explained how the project allowed students to “hit pause” and reflect while completing their daily tasks, which was especially important considering this school year.
As two students who participated in this project — one who had a winning video (Sarah Villa) and one who didn’t (Sydney Washburn) — the video competition was a great opportunity for everyone to showcase their hard work and feel recognized for their progress. We both had amazing experiences with this project and feel grateful for the opportunity. Through writing letters of appreciation to loved ones (Villa) and exploring the benefits of yoga and self-reflection (Washburn), we were both able to improve ourselves and our outlook on the world around us. We hope this aspect of the Credo Project prevails through years to come, and students can continue to take two (much needed) weeks to examine their lives and inspire their classmates!