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Newfound students wow with senior projects

Senior Emilee Haselton displayed some of the work she had done for her senior project at NHRS this year, which focused on Common Core learning in the field of English education. (Photo by Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
May 16, 2017
BRISTOL — Seniors at Newfound Regional High School are required each year to give a presentation on an area of interest to them and seven of those students this year opted to offer their projects up for the possibility of additional recognition by a panel of independent judges.

On May 11, judges from both the school and the community looked over their work, examined their displays and questioned them on their research. Each were scored in a variety of arenas for their work and overall presentations.

Taking home the Judge's Award this year was Valedictorian Gretchen Dancewicz-Helmers, whose study of mushrooms (mycology) greatly impressed the judges with her knowledge and depth of research on the topic.

Other entries were equally impressive, making it a very tough decision for the judges.

Paige Lane of Danbury did a study on brain aneurysms, interviewing brain surgeons from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and others in the medical field. To complete her project, she also created a progressive recovery book for youngsters, which educates them on the signs and effects of strokes. The subject matter centered on the ABC's of such neurological issues and, assisting her in the project, were elementary school students from Bridgewater-Hebron Elementary School who provided illustrations for the book.

"I wanted a way for kids to understand what may be happening to someone in their family, but not in a way that was scary," she said. "I felt if a kid drew the pictures for the book it would be more understandable."

Included were pages that showed I is for "Invisible," R is for recovery and W is for "Welcome Home."

Riley Provencher of Bristol said his mother now owns Piggy Back Rides and Slippery Slides childcare center so he focused his project on entrepreneurship.

"Entrepreneurship isn't a job, it's a mindset," he said.

Emilee Haselton of Alexandria spent her senior year researching Common Core literature with youth and developed a game, called "I Spy an Adjective," which brings fun to the educational standards applied to reading and writing.

Other projects encompassed in-depth studies on the effects of divorce on a family and the benefits of Physical Therapy, complete with educational games for the young and information sheets on therapeutic exercise.

Once the public was invited into the school to weigh in on their impressions of the projects, this year's People's Choice award ended up as a tie between Lane's study on brain aneurysms and 2017 Salutatorian Molly Schilling's work with the elderly.

Schilling's presentation focused on the "Benefits of Social Interactions of the Elderly," a project that took her to Merrimack County Nursing Home where she organized what turned out to be a successful Game Day for the residents.

Senior Project Coordinator for NRHS is Amy Yeakel of the Extended Learning Opportunities Program and she said the students this year worked especially hard on their presentations.

"Their challenge was proposed to them last May (a year ago), and some of them even began their work last summer," she said.

Retired science teacher and running coach Earl Mills initially brought the idea for Senior Projects to NRHS 10 years ago and the concept has since become a requirement for all graduating seniors.

"This is just one part of Coach Mills' legacy at NRHS," said Yeakel.

This year Mills came back to join the panel of judges in deciding which students would earn the two Distinction Awards, which will be recognized at graduation next month.

"I just thought it was a great thing for the students to do. It makes them organize themselves, and helps them with college and the future by doing their own independent research," Mills said.

In addition to the senior projects, the night also included displays of artwork in several genres, along with a Spring Concert musical presentation from the NRHS School Band, Jazz Band, Chorus, Acapello Group, Select Choir and the Miniature Drum Corp.

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