WISE Services, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, helps participating high schools develop a program that gives seniors of all ability levels the opportunity to design individualized, passion-driven projects that empower a transition from high school to college, work and lifelong learning. In a WISE program:
- Students engage in individualized, passion-driven experiential learning;
- Parents, teachers, students, administrators, business, labor and social agency leaders collaborate, plan, implement and assess the program based on local needs;
- All students have equal access to participation;
- Schools offer academic credit for experiential learning as an integral component of the curriculum;
- Schools foster an environment of mutual support, exchange and collaboration;
- The family of diverse participating schools collaborates to enable each program to remain unique, dynamic and responsive to change.
The WISE “Capstone” experience fulfills the 21st Century need for personalization, equity, multiculturalism, intergenerational understanding and coping skills in education.
A WISE program consists of the following four elements:
Local control: A local task force designs its program following the guidelines provided by WISE Services. On a regular basis, the task force establishes and reviews the calendar, the timelines and the assessment process for each program.
ALL seniors eligible for graduation can participate: A program is open to all students eligible to graduate; equity forms the very basis of our democratic school system.
Credit bearing: Students earn credit for participating in the program. By providing credit, the school is saying that it values both the program and the student’s effort in designing and executing his or her project.
Exchange of information and ideas: WISE encourages the exchange of ideas and information through the WISE website, newsletter, annual Coordinators’ Exchanges, Annual Conferences and email contacts. WISE schools are encouraged to share ideas with one another and to make use of the support available to them from WISE Services.
Message from the Founder
In 1991, Andrew Courtney and I retired from Woodlands High School in Hartsdale, NY. We had founded the Woodlands Individualized Senior Experience in 1973 and had been excited by the thousands of projects we saw. Knowing that other schools would be interested in beginning their own programs, we started WISE Services. The first WISE Services conference for interested schools was held in May 1992, and WISE Services helped three other schools in Westchester County, NY (Scarsdale, Croton-Harmon and Mamaroneck) design and implement senior project programs for their high schools in the spring of 1993. Almost twenty years later, approximately 60 diverse high schools across the nation have become part of the WISE consortium. Since the program began, over 30,000 seniors have completed WISE projects.
Our work with so many different high schools has reinforced our initial understanding about the major strengths of WISE. There is a desperate need for a structured and supportive transition from high school to college and work. For 18-year-old seniors, this transition looms as both frightening and inviting.
We know there is a continuing need for our program as a bridge to the world beyond high school. We know from watching our students and listening to our graduates that WISE works. We also know that schools can implement and shape WISE to their particular needs.
Like many a WISE senior, WISE Services turns 18 in the coming year. Age 18 marks a rite of passage into adulthood for our students, and it marks a similar rite of passage for WISE Services. Our experiences have taught us to trust the fundamental elements of the program—the student, the mentor, the project, the journal and the presentation, as well as the task force, the coordinator and the process of assessment.
So, welcome to WISE and our new website. This “wiser” website is here so all of you can take advantage of WISE Services’ wise services. This promises to be an exciting time for WISE to grow. Then again, turning 20 is always exciting!