(Editor’s note: Jesse Summers is a Sonoma Valley High School Senior and a student intern at the Index-Tribune. He organized the essay program described below for his senior project.)

All Sonoma Valley High School seniors are required to complete the senior project in order to graduate in June. The project consists of four major components: a research paper, a poster, a presentation and an activity that should somehow include an aspect of community service.

As seniors immediately discover in the fall semester, the research paper deadlines are, unfortunately, very close to the deadlines of many college applications, which leaves no room for procrastination. Despite being short on time, many college-bound seniors compose high-level research papers on top of numerous college essays; some applicants complete more than 10 essays.

The research paper is graded by two judges, given a passing or failing grade, and the student then either revises it, or doesn’t touch it until the final portfolio is due in April. However, once they have been submitted along with the application, the college essays written for prospective universities that students spend countless hours perfecting to the last comma, are disregarded.

These essays are unique, in that it is possibly the first time in a student’s high school experience that he or she is asked to write either about themselves, or exactly what they think about a topic, and not what they are told to think by a teacher or parent.

It presents an opportunity to really show who they are, not only as a student but as a person.

For my senior project, I decided to choose some of the best student college essays that were submitted to me and publish them as a series of articles in The Sonoma Index-Tribune. It is important for the community to hear the voice of youth.

The essays will be published over the next two weeks, along with a short bio of each student and the prompt that matches their essay. What follows below are the first two essays.