Oakbrook Preparatory School

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“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world.” – Albert Einstein

The Oakbrook difference is found in the stories of how students are developing 21st century skills, and in turn, making an impact in the lives of others. One of hallmarks of an Oakbrook education is the senior project where students design and implement a year long independent capstone project that fuels their passion with a purpose. The project, similar to the requirements of a graduate degree thesis, includes in-depth research, critical analysis, writing, project management, and a community presentation. Following are but a few examples about how Oakbrook students developed 21st century skills and how the senior project played a role in helping them discover and cultivate their calling.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10


Joseph Mannion ’07
Clemson University, PhD Candidate
Senior Project: Special Olympics Coach

Although an obvious scientist, Joe Mannion was passionate about doing something for his senior project where he was able to serve and make a difference in the lives of others. His love for people and physical fitness led him to the Upstate Men’s Special Olympics Gymnastic Team. He worked with the team weekly as well as traveled with them to the state competition. By the end of the year, the team’s lead coach wanted to hire him. Joe said the lessons he learned during his senior project continue to influence him today. "Coaching Special Olympics was my first real experience mentoring and leading a group. It helped me realized my own capabilities as a leader and the impact a coach can have on the lives of his team members,” said Joe, who is currently a PhD Candidate at Clemson University in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. His PhD project is in collaboration with a group at Savannah River National Lab and is funded through the National Nuclear Security Administration. “My experience with Special Olympics remains a source of confidence, patience, and humility when undertaking roles of leadership in my life, and is one of the fondest and most fulfilling memories of my time at Oakbrook."



Kelsey Perry ‘08
Anderson University ’12, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Senior Project: Nicaragua Mission Trip

Kelsey, with help from her mother Kim Perry, worked with fellow Oakbrook alumnus Casey Bolduc to gather a group of students to serve and lead Vacation Bible School at an orphanage in Nicaragua. The trip was a life changing experience for not only the children there but for Oakbrook students and has become Oakbrook’s largest annual mission project.”The impact my senior project has made on my life has been a significant one. I always thought ministry would be a part of my life, but I had never really thought about it vocationally. Being given the opportunity to plan and participate in these projects helped me to realize that this was what I love to do. I remember during one point on the Nicaragua trip that I would be perfectly content staying there and working with those kids the rest of my life. They stole a piece of my heart. Looking back, I believe this is when God started to show me that I was called into ministry,” said Kelsey, who studied Christian Ministry in college and is now in seminary to continue those studies. “My senior project helped to show me what I was supposed to do with my life and set me down the path I am on today. I am so thankful that Oakbrook gave me such a unique opportunity that I could not have had anywhere else. I am so excited to see that the Nicaragua trip has been continued to be an annual Oakbrook tradition and I really hope for the opportunity to go back with them in the future.”

Read article about Kelsey's project featured in the Spartanburg Herald Journal -six years after her original trip

"Students at Oakbrook Prep help orphans in Nicaragua for their senior project" April 4, 2014



Bethany Foil ‘10
Winthrop university ‘14
Senior Project: War Dogs

A longtime animal lover, Bethany Foil wanted to use her senior project as way to give back to man’s best friend. Bethany came up with the idea to send care packages overseas to soldiers with war dogs. She involved the entire Oakbrook community and collected more than 400 bowls, brushes, treats, food and toys to ship to war dogs and their handlers. In addition to collecting the items, Bethany was also involved in helping the retired or injured dogs find their forever homes. Bethany’s project was featured in the Spartanburg Herald-Journal after she traveled to Norfolk, Va., to assist in the rescue of veteran war dog Dag and deliver him to his new home. Before retiring, Dag worked as a patrol and drug dog in both San Diego and Kuwait. Bethany said she was amazed by how her fellow students and the Oakbrook community supported her mission to help such a special group of animals. “I have always been a huge supporter of the military and the troops overseas and to see my surrounding community come together and help me give to such a great cause was truly inspiring. It was a really great feeling when I received emails from some of the soldiers that received my care packages. I'm truly thankful I was given a chance to make a difference through my senior project, something I would never have had the push to do on my own. I'm also to this day truly thankful for everyone at Oakbrook that helped me collect these items. I could have never have done it without such a loving and caring group of people that were just as eager to support N.E.R.O. as I was.”

Read Bethany’s article featured in the Spartanburg Herald Journal
"War dogs retire in leisure with help from student" December 21, 2009



Mari Caroline McCaslin ‘11
Samford university ‘15
Senior Project: Rice Bowls

Mari Caroline knew early in her senior year that she wanted her senior project to help impoverished children in Nicaragua after traveling to the New Life Orphanage with Oakbrook during her sophomore year. She saw firsthand how little the children had and wanted to help. After partnering with the Spartanburg-based nonprofit Rice Bowls, which provides much-needed meals to children around the world, Mari Caroline organized a school- wide event to raise money for Rice Bowls. Her efforts not only brought in close to $4,000, but by connecting the orphanage with Rice Bowls, the children of New Life Orphanage continue to receive three healthy meals a day. In fact, the nonprofit group recently traveled back to the orphanage to visit and serve the children living there. “Little did I know that when I began my senior project that it would impact me more than I could have ever imagined. Having the opportunity to work with Rice Bowls was not only a senior project but it has continued in my life even now as I am a junior in college. My project helped me grow in so many ways and also helped me to realize my love for orphans and missions. I'm constantly in awe of the way that God used a simple thing such as a senior project to change my life!”

Read Mari Caroline’s article featured in the Spartanburg Herald Journal
"Oakbrook grad's project helps orphans in Nicaragua" May 22, 2011



Stephanie Simon ‘12
Furman University ‘16
Senior Project: Original Composition

At a very young age, Stephanie Simon fell in love with Jesus Christ and music. In fact, her love for both continues to inspire people daily. During her junior year at Oakbrook, Stephanie was in a horrific car crash that claimed her father's life. In the days following the accident, Stephanie began hearing a healing melody in her head. When it came time to pick a senior project, Stephanie took that melody and translated it into more than a school assignment. She dedicated herself to creating a tribute to her father and completed her first original composition, titled "My Father's Prelude." The song repeats the same melodious theme three times. The first, Stephanie said, represents her father. The notes follow his life from birth to death. The second represents Stephanie and her life. It sounds very similar to her father's theme but is meant to represent Stephanie as her own person on her own journey. The third doesn't represent a particular person's life, but rather an eternal journey. She said it represents a time when she'll be reunited with her father in Heaven. Stephanie said three is a number of perfection. "By the third time, everything will be perfect and at peace,” she said. Stephanie has performed her piece and shared her inspirational story with several groups both inside and outside Oakbrook, including being featured in the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. She sees it as a way to reach others who may be going through similar situations. "It's such a humbling, but incredible experience, seeing what's in your head on paper."

Read Stephanie’s article featured in the Spartanburg Herald Journal
"Oakbrook Preparatory Senior composes music in honor of late father" May 17, 2012



Murphy Wildeman ‘14
Senior Project: SonShine Club

Known for being an encourager, Murphy Wildeman wanted to use his senior project as an opportunity to bring joy to an underserved population. Murphy began volunteering with the SonShine Club, a local faith-based nonprofit for adults with special needs, in 2012 and immediately knew he would like his senior project to give back to this very extraordinary organization. He created and organized the group’s first annual Fall Ball, which was a prom-like dance held in the Oakbrook gymnasium. The event attracted more than 100 people and was featured on the front page of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal’s Sunday paper. Friends of the SonShine Club were given the royal treatment as they entered the ball. They had their pictures taken, enjoyed delicious refreshments, and danced the night away. Murphy joined in and danced with many of the guests. “It was a really awesome night. It made me feel good to know they were able to experience something that many of them were never able to while in high school. I still think of the evening often and continue to volunteer with the group. I made some really awesome friends that changed my life. The entire project showed me that something so little can make an impact on so many people’s lives, especially mine.”

Read Murphy’s article featured in the Spartanburg Herald Journal
"Oakbrook Preparatory Senior creates magical prom for special needs group" September 28, 2013


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