Senior Symposium Project Shines Despite COVID-19

Emma Spence-BTA '20


“When the Wells Run Dry: Analyzing and Addressing the Water Crisis in Gaza.”

“Is Math Racist? Investigating the Injustice of Bias in Artificial Intelligence.”

“The Evolution of Slavery: The Effects of the War on Drugs and Policing Issues on the Mass Incarceration of Black Men.” 


These are just a few of the titles of research papers written by Boston Trinity Academy seniors. At BTA, senior year culminates with Senior Honors Symposium. Over the course of the year, students analyze relevant social justice topics through two lenses: moral philosophy and Christian Ethics. Students research their topics, resulting in a 30 page paper at the end of their second semester. Once the paper is finished, students then write a six minute speech, which they present to an invited panel of judges who have relevance to each student's field of research.

As most of the second semester was canceled due to COVID-19, the seniors continued their research, but the fate of the presentation, which is in many ways the capstone of the course, was in question. Senior Night, the night when presentations take place, is a right of passage for all seniors at BTA, and many were worried that all of their reading and late nights would seemingly go to waste. However, BTA faculty were determined not to let all of the students’ efforts fall by the wayside. 

Teachers still came alongside students remotely to help them finish their papers and provide support as they wrote their speeches. Furthermore, in true stride with the rest of digital learning, Symposium Night was conducted via Zoom. This year's judges included attorneys, professors from MIT and BU, local ministers, psychologists, and a Harvard Law Student. All volunteered to listen to the seniors present over zoom and uphold the traditional question-and-answer portion of Symposium Night. The students were able to illustrate their knowledge and present their research to both the judges and  friends and family via Zoom Webinars. The importance and urgency of the topics still had the opportunity to be heard. 

Judges were impressed by the strength of the papers and by the composure students showed during their presentations.  One judge, a lawyer and college professor, remarked, “The level of engagement and analysis was as strong if not better presented, than the work of my undergraduates."

Another college professor said, “I very much enjoyed listening to the student presentations and was quite impressed with their poise, polish and content. Congratulations to BTA for offering students an opportunity to think!” 

Senior Symposium is a collegiate level seminar. The research is not just done in fulfillment for a course, but rather is an integral part of BTA’s curriculum that aims to teach students how to think for themselves, to research, and to acknowledge the needs of their community and in the world. It is a key opportunity to allow education to meet a heart passion for justice.  

Senior Phoebe Linnell sums it all up by saying, “...there are wrongs in the world that make our hearts break, injustices few people seem to care about, longstanding inequities that affect everyday people, human dignity that is being stripped from people. My symposium advisor, Dr. Milway, would always say that when we present our topics, we ‘speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.’ Symposium is a platform for students to become experts on an injustice, and share that knowledge such that other people not only understand the tangible problem, but become as passionate and curious as the student. In essence, social change happens when more people are passionate, curious, and knowledgeable about injustices-- making senior symposium the first step on that path to change.” 

Boston Trinity Academy’s class of 2020 was able to adapt to the online platform and still have an impactful experience.  We are extremely proud of their hard work and desire to remedy injustice in this world.