In graduation home stretch: seniors present projects

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Pilgrim High School was filled with nervous but hopeful students on Thursday as they prepared to fulfill one of their final graduation requirements; their senior project presentations. Principal Gerry Habershaw made himself accessible for support, walking through the halls congratulating students that passed and wishing luck to those who had yet to present.

Susan Cranston, who oversees the projects, said students must pick either a pathway of "searching for identity" in which they pursue a subject of career or personal importance, or of "making a difference" by doing a community service or fundraising related project. Projects need to demonstrate a learning stretch that puts students out of their comfort zones and have some sort of final product. For instance, a student interested in dance might teach a class rather than take one, or a student interested in the military can do an investigative project on what it might be like to prepare for a military career. Once they find a mentor or expert to interview about their subject, they must complete 15 hours of work to go with the project, write a 5-8 page research paper through their English class, and finish it all off with a 5-12 minute oral presentation where they are judged by teachers, parents, or other community members whove volunteered. Some who complete their work over the summer present earlier in the school year, so Thursday was a second round of presentations.

If students fail the presentation, they must get feedback from their judges and present again. Habershaw said those who've had to do so always pass the second time around.

Sometimes, the topics are quite unique. Cranston said shes seen students try fly fishing, astronomy, building their own skateboards, and constructing bird feeders to study what types of birds may be attracted to them. Police work, criminal justice, nursing, education and childcare, and physical therapy tend to be the most popular topics, Cranston said.

Destiney-Dawn Barrett and Garrison Potter were two of a few seniors this year who picked physical therapy for their projects. Barrett studied the recovery rate of injured patients in physical therapy, and enjoyed observing the benefits patients reaped.

"Just having the ability of helping a patient recover from an injury [and] watching them from being crippled to being whole again was the best part of it," she said.

Once she graduates, Barrett will head off to Johnson and Wales to study business management and accounting.

Potter picked ACL physical therapy for his topic because he was always getting hurt as a kid and was interested in athletics, but found out upon completion of his project that he wasn’t quite as interested in going further with physical therapy. Instead, he's going to try respiratory therapy.

Lenita LaRoche worked on an environmental cause. She chose to organize her own shoreline cleanup as shed volunteered with Save the Bay and participated in cleanups before, but wanted to know what it would be like to host her own. She promoted the cleanup through social media and word of mouth, got supplies donated for her volunteers from Stop&Shop, and collected more than 50 pounds of waste with her volunteers during her cleanup.

Cranston also noted that the school has an agreement with Rhode Island Community Food Bank, so some students do their projects there. A project on hunger was a route taken by Emiley Boudreau, who worked at a soup kitchen and food bank. She learned about the lives of people struggling with poverty and food insecurity, state assistance, food stamps and the national school lunch program.

"I learned all the coordinations of food bank and soup kitchen, and [how] not everybody has it easy,” Boudreau said. She hopes to someday become a correctional officer and plans to attend CCRI.

Barrett, Potter, LaRoche, and Boudreau all passed their presentations.

Pilgrim has about 315 seniors this year. Graduation ceremonies take place on June 13.

ALL ABOUT THE ACL: Garrison Potter presents his project on ACL physical therapy. (Warwick Beacon photos)

SUPPORTIVE STAFF: Pilgrim teachers assistant Julia Moulton poses with Emiley Boudreau shortly after Boudreau presented her project Hunger in America.

RECOVERY RATES: Destiney-Dawn Barrett poses with her poster on physical therapy recovery rates.

CLEANING UP THE SHORES: Lenita LaRoche presents her project on organizing a shoreline beach cleanup.

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