11/18/11 Graduation projects send seniors out into the world

Graduation projects send seniors out into the world

William Gattis, left, and Gade Lander, right, share a laugh with senior Preston Pervatte on Thursday at Williams High School during a graduation project presentation about how to drill a bowling ball.

Photos by Stuart Jones / Times-News

William Gattis, left, and Gade Lander, right, share a laugh with senior Preston Pervatte on Thursday at Williams High School during a graduation project presentation about how to drill a bowling ball.

BIGGER THAN THEMSELVES
Demi Covington, like many of the 87 Williams High School students who presented graduation projects Thursday, used the annual senior requirement as a way to step beyond herself and into the world.
By Michael D. Abernethy The Times-News 11/18/11     
Reprinted with permission.

Miranda McCloud, a senior at Williams High School, walks toward the elevator with cake in tow after finishing her presentation for her senior graduation project about the skills she learned at Carolina’s Cake Shop.
Miranda McCloud, a senior at Williams High School, walks toward the elevator with cake in tow after finishing her presentation for her senior graduation project about the skills she learned at Carolina’s Cake Shop.

   Covington’s father died in June 2010. She turned the tremendous loss into the basis of her research into the grieving process. After graduation, she hopes to become a clinical psychologist. Meeting with friends and others also mourning loved ones in the course of her research, she incorporated their experiences and thoughts into her presentation through photos and artwork. Her black-andwhite slideshow ended with the word “hopelessness” before bleeding into color, leaving only the word “hope” behind.

   “Because life goes on,” Covington said, “and eventually you do find hope again.”

   Though hers was likely more personal than most seniors’ graduation projects to be presented at five other Alamance County high schools in the coming weeks, it exemplifies much of what educators hoped the projects would help students accomplish when they began requiring graduation projects three years ago. The presentation is the final step of the project, which often begins in a student’s sophomore year, and is preceded by a research paper, creation of a physical product or volunteering in a service-based field and a portfolio of work completed in their project.

   Students present their work to a panel consisting of at least two, but up to four judges. The judges are volunteers from the community. Most presentations last about 10 minutes. The presentations are judged based on organization, students’ ability to communicate the key points of their project, the use of multimedia and a professional appearance.

   Graduation projects are the final exam for English 4 classes and make up 25 percent of the final grade in the required course.

   “We try to encourage students to focus their projects on diversity, social justice issues and community service,” said John Heath, assistant principal at Williams.“We want them to be involved and active in the community.”

   Heath has a list of about 75 possible projects that he refers students to. They include organizations and groups, such as Loaves & Fishes and Habitat for Humanity, that have partnered with the school system for graduation projects.    Often, students find their own way.

   Lauren Edwards stood before the four judges in room 315 and gave a marketing pitch as much as a project presentation.

   Edwards is launching a religiously themed clothing line called Divine Heart and produced the first T-shirts and a web presence for her presentation.

   “I have a strong entrepreneurial drive,” she told judges, “so why not start now and choose something I love?”

   In creating the clothing line, she worked closely with her father, Michael Edwards, who has experience as a designer and model. She also had to find printers, someone who could produce the T-shirts, models to wear the clothing for promotional photos and a Web designer to build DivineHeart.com   and a Facebook page.

   The line will officially launch on Valentine’s Day. Edwards plans to continue developing, marketing and selling the apparel while she attends Palm Beach Atlantic University studying dance and Spanish.

   Yerson Padilla focused his project on gay rights and is in the process of creating a gay-straight alliance at the high school.

   He researched the history of the now-defunct ban on gays and lesbians in the U.S. military, the federal Defense of Marriage Act and North Carolina’s upcoming vote.

   “I don’t believe anyone should be discriminated against because of who they are,” Padilla said Thursday. He hopes to one day work with the Human Rights Commission in Washington, D.C.

   Marc Gutierrez heaved a sigh of relief that echoed through the high school’s third-floor hallway Thursday.

   He’d just finished his presentation on overtone singing, also called “throat singing.”

   The practice involves singing two notes at once and is popular in Eastern music. For his project, Gutierrez researched the physics behind the body’s capability to produce a root note along with an accompanying octave, fifth or third note in a chord. He also trained to learn how to sing overtones himself. It took him nine months of practice before he perfected the method.

   For his presentation, he compiled a DVD of various throat-singing performances and also sang in overtones.

   “My presentation lasted 10 minutes, but the judges asked me questions for another 20 minutes. Now this, this, is over,” Gutierrez said, closing his portfolio with a smile. Graduation project presentations at other Alamance County high schools are already scheduled.

   Eastern Alamance presentations are Tuesday. Southern Alamance presentations are Dec. 6, Western Alamance on Dec. 7 and Graham High School on Dec. 8. Cummings High School presentations are Jan. 5. Contact the individual schools to become a judge or to find out how your organization can get involved in graduation projects.