Lauren Ellis, a senior at Palmetto High School, has been enrolled in the Capstone program since it began during her sophomore year. The program takes Advanced Placement types of classes and expands them by adding a research component.
Since its inception, the Capstone program has expanded. In the first year, only sophomores were allowed to enroll. This year, freshmen were added to the mix and it has grown to more than 300 students.
As she grew along with the program, Ellis and her friend Aaron Maxwell realized there was a need for a student board to help provide community service opportunities.
“There was no requirement before,” Ellis says. “It was just really encouraged.”
So she and Maxwell went to the administration asked if it would be possible for them to create a board and if it could be an official organization.
“At school, we are still developing, but we are treated like a club,” Ellis says. “We participated in Plant the Pride and we had our own section.
For Mr. Panther, we had a Capstone representative.”
Ellis says they are working towards becoming a funded program. She says they are far enough along in the process to have elections for board members scheduled for later this year. The group has evolved to the point that a website has been developed.
“There are six board members,” Ellis says. “Two of them are in charge of tutoring.”
The organization’s first big volunteer push was for last spring’s Relay for Life and the group had 10 member students participate.
“Right now, we are just developing and becoming a known entity,” Ellis says.
There is a board member in charge of seeking out and coordinating community service. Each month they offer community service opportunities, anything from beach clean-ups to tutoring, both in the program they created at Perrine Elementary and to other Capstone students who need help. Ellis is participating in the tutoring programs. “I absolutely love helping students,” she says.
“I tutor not only to help students achieve academic success (via grades), but also to build self confidence. I focus on helping the individual find their own tools for success. I know I’ve done my job when the student does not need me anymore, because that means they have learned to comprehend and analyze for themselves.”
Ellis is a certified tutor at the advanced level through the National Tutoring Association. She has more than 20 hours of instruction on how to relate and assist students of all ages.
Outside of the Capstone program, Ellis is a member of the National Honor Society and secretary of the Jewish Student Union. Her plans for the future include working for a degree in political science or philosophy and then to go to law school.
“That would be where political science comes in,” she says. “I’m interested in political philosophy; what’s the best way govern people.”
Ellis says a career in politics is not out of the question, but more than likely she will choose to stay in the law profession. She is also interested in litigation.
Last summer she took a class in constitutional law at Duke University. She says that while she found the subject interesting, she is uncertain about what she could do with a degree in constitutional law other than be a professor and teach.
Ellis is considering applying for entrance to Pomona College in California, the University of Florida, Duke University, Emory, Tulane, New York University and the University of Southern California.
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld