Western Academy of Beijing (WAB) student Emmanuel Croset is just 16 years old, but is well on his way to becoming a full-time photojournalist.
Emanuel is one of the first students to benefit from the Capstone Program, an innovative new project at WAB High School designed to allow self-directed learning, honing specific skills related to a student's career goals and passions.
Capstone students are given 20 percent of their school day to dive deep into their passions through a curriculum they create in conjunction with a mentor. Together they establish goals and identify tools that will aid achievement. Their schedule includes core learning, an independent project and an internship.
WAB High School Principal Melanie Vrba said it has been a career-long passion of hers to implement individual pathways like Capstone, which allow students to immerse themselves in learning about their areas of passionate interest.
"I'm proud to work at WAB," she said," where our open-minded and risk-taking community embraced this effort wholeheartedly."
Emmanuel began using a camera at a young age and has since traveled to dozens of countries around the world capturing photos that tell stories about real world events.
"I love photography, it's my passion," Emmanuel said. "My goal was to start doing what I want to pursue in life as soon as I could, and that's the whole point of Capstone for me. I'm a better learner when I have the freedom to do things myself."
In its inaugural year, four WAB High School students have joined the Capstone Program, studying and working on computer programming, gaming art, dance and photojournalism. The students design long-term projects, often working with industry professionals, and take on leadership roles within the community. At the end of the project, they defend their learning to a panel of academics and experts in their field of study.
Derick Flores is a passionate dancer, and has spent his time in the Capstone Program coaching and choreographing dance teams.
"I gave Derick my approval to do the Capstone Program, because he is very passionate about dance," Derick's mother, Lily explained. "I think this program will bring out the best in him – not just in dance but in many other areas of his life."