A senior project that makes a difference: Helping underprivileged students

Generosity goes a long way and for two of Norfolk Collegiate’s students having a spirit of giving to at-risk youth has become a rewarding experience that has sparked an interest of non-profit work within their communities.

Seniors Carter Kennedy ’16 and Ann Burns Morrison ’16 have teamed together for their senior project and their impact on others is truly one to be noted.

As part of our Oaks senior year, students are tasked with completing their senior projects, in which they have to take on an activity that will allow them to grow and will benefit the community.

Within one of Norfolk’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods, Carter and Ann Burns have academically adopted students of P. B. Young Sr. Elementary School and Young Terrace Community Center, an initiative sponsored by Trinity Presbyterian Church. 

“I wanted to help serve an at-risk population of students because I think it is important to give them the skills they will need throughout their academic careers,” said Carter. “If students did not understand something during class, they know that we will provide them with one-on-one help and that they will have as much time as they need for this additional help.”

Carter and Ann Burns’ desire to inspire youth to be stronger academically is not one that comes as a surprise as Collegiate’s Portrait of a Graduate teaches students how to develop an individual moral compass that allows them to have compassion toward their communities.

“The students within this area often live in environments that are not conducive to the advancement of their learning,” said Ann Burns. “Before tutoring, our first task was to host a book drive and donate it to the elementary school.”

The book drive, which amassed more than 400 books, was collected by Collegiate’s Middle and Upper School students.

“By giving the school more books, this allowed for children to be able to take books home and keep them if they wanted,” said Carter.

Carter and Ann Burns primarily tutor students in the area of mathematics; however, if students have other work they find to be troublesome, Carter and Ann Burns will provide help in those areas.

“We tutor math varying each grade level. Sometimes, if a student has other work, we will work on anything from English to science,” said Carter.

Carter and Ann Burns opened the tutoring opportunities to allow fellow Norfolk Collegiate students to serve as tutors.

“I believe the most important element of the project is the tutoring portion,” said Mark McElhaney, senior project advisor. “While collecting supplies and hosting a fundraiser are important, it is through interaction with the students that these young women, and other students who spend time volunteering to tutor, may begin to build empathy for people whose lives are so very different than their own.”

After having this experience, Carter hopes to pursue a career in helping others.

“My work with at-risk students in the City of Norfolk has inspired a passion within me for helping youth within my community and on a global scale,” she said.

As the initial project hostess, both ladies hope that the project carries on as a senior project tradition.

“The objective of our senior project is not only to help the students with academics, but to also build relationship with them and have fun,” they said. “We want to get as many Norfolk Collegiate students involved as possible so that after we graduate, there will still be a partnership between the two schools.”

Mr. McElhaney also agrees.

“As the members of rising senior classes consider choices for their projects, I would encourage them to consider this one,” said McElhaney. “It is worthwhile, important and gratifying. This project offers many skills and experiences which can be valuable as Collegiate students head to college and to careers.”

“My advice to the junior class is to select a senior project that you are passionate about,” Carter said. “If you are doing a project involving volunteering then it is important to think about what you can do to help other people and to serve the community.”

For more information about Ann Burns and Carter’s senior project, contact Mark McElhaney at McElhaneyM@norfolkcollegiate.org.