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Just as a real capstone is held aloft by the building blocks beneath it, the SEM Capstone is built on four years of learning and growth, and stands proudly at the highest point of the structure that a student has built stone by stone.

Every SEM senior completes this self-directed independent project, guided by the prospectus but with CAPSTONE mentors.

Capstone is College Prep

From its inception, the Capstone program's purpose has been to bridge the high school and college experiences, providing a space for seniors to stretch themselves beyond what they have already accomplished.

The skills students develop and practice through SEM's Capstone projects align, by design, with the characteristics that colleges seek in applicants. These same skills and mindsets lead to success in college and beyond.

Capstone's Place at SEM

The Capstone program both informs and reflects SEM's academic program, which intentionally scaffolds students' growth in the college-preparatory areas of research, academic writing, intellectual independence, and self-management.

During the trimester-long Junior Capstone course, each junior narrows down a research question under the guidance of a team of faculty mentors. With the support of mentors and a small group of peers with related interests, juniors conduct preliminary research and develop a prospectus, or plan of action, for the projects they will complete senior year.

It has been amazing to see the students bring their plans to fruition. In the past, when they've done internships, it's to get an experience in the community, but now we're seeing students reach out into the community for experiences that truly inform their inquiry. There’s a moment where you really see the light bulb go on, and you can see they're just completely inspired from within.

-Kris Kemmis, Director of Operations and Capstone Community Liaison

Capstone Faculty: Kris Kemmis, Director of Operations and Capstone Community Liaison; Jennifer Goetz-Bixby, Science faculty and math/sciences mentor, Sharon Kounovsky, Academic Dean and Capstone Coordinator; Carey Miller, History faculty and humanities mentor; Benjamin Joplin, English faculty and humanities mentor. Front row: Gabriela Lyons, Languages department faculty and language and culture mentor; Caitlin Cass, Fine Arts faculty and arts mentor; Beth Lewitzky, school librarian, Research & Information Literacy teacher, and Capstone research librarian.

I discovered my college major because of Capstone!
Grace Heidinger '17, Duquesne University '21, sports journalism major

Click to expand list of projects 2017-18


A Closer Look into Body Diversity in the Fashion Industry

A History of Irish Folktales and Mythology

A Study of History and Racial Identity in the Dominican Republic

ACL Tears in Young Female Athletes

Advertising Techniques

America’s Attitude Toward Natural Hair, As Seen Through My Journey

Artistic Therapy and Stress Reduction

Depression in Teenagers

Diversity of Squash in America

East Asian Stereotypes and Representation in America

Evolution of Dissociative Identity Disorder in American Media

Forensic Anthropology and the Crime Scene

Full Spectrum: A Photographic Study

How Emotions Behind an Art Form Translate to an Audience

Interior Design and How to Create a Successful Business

Life in the Ocean

Lupus and Its Effects

Medical Studies of Canines

Mental Illness and Creativity

Personal Style through Art

Portrayal of Women in Sports Media

Power Industry: An Original Novel

Psychological Effects of War on Refugees

Reasons Behind Medical Students’ Choice of Specialties

Repeat: A Short Film

Sneaker Bubble Tea Store

Strabismus and Convergence Insufficiency

Table Tennis Skills and Effects

Tennis and Cross-Country Nutrition

The Bald Eagles of Strawberry Island

The Case of Mary Bell: Punishments in China vs. the U.S.

The Effects of Childhood Cancer on Families

The Effects of Hockey on Female Teenagers’ Academic Life

The Power of Makeup

The Realities of PTSD for Combat Veterans

The Realities of Reconstruction Post Breast Cancer

Theories in American Psychology in American Education

Uncovering the Secrets of the Super Smash Bros. Community

Women in Journalism

Women in the U.S. Military