Seniors put best foot forward |

Seniors put best foot forward

Mary Thompson

With the confidence and professionalism of a park engineer, student Randall Hazeltine proposed a 2,000-square-foot addition to the skateboard park at Bijou Community Park on June 17.

The five judges listened intently as Hazeltine walked the panel through every aspect of the project.

In his pitch for the park, he included computer-generated plans, a topographical map of the land that the existing park is set on, a video documentary on skating in the park and a model of the existing park with the addition incorporated. Environmental planning, such as water drainage, was also calculated.

Only by the slip of the tongue could anyone tell that the young man before the panel wasn’t representing the city planner, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency or a park engineer. Because, intertwined with his rich vocabulary of building and engineering terms flowed the nomenclature of a skateboarder.

“In the addition, there’s a spine,” he said. “And all of it would be grindable, because it all has coping around the edges.”

Hazeltine’s unconventional jargon didn’t concern the judges because they weren’t exactly official either.

But, for Hazeltine, the panel before him was much more important than any elected official. It was a group that could make or break his future – the Senior Project judges.

Right along with final exams, Senior Projects at South Tahoe High School are the final loose ends for graduating students. Failure to follow through could lead to a session in summer school and not being able to walk with the rest of the class at the graduation ceremony.

But completion of the three-part project can thrust a student into a world of blossoming self esteem and a sprouting sense of accomplishment, according to Senior Project coordinator Janna Gard.

“They learn problem solving skills, how to work with a deadline and how to follow through with something that they started,” she said. “We’re trying to replicate real-world demands.”

Like the real world, the requirements are rigorous.

Projects started in December with a student written proposal concerning project topics to an advisory committee made up of school administrators and teachers. Once the students get the approval from the committee to pursue their topic, they start on a 2,800-word research paper, complete with three sources and due on April 14. After the paper, the students must log 15 hours of work on a physical product that can be presented to a panel in their presentations in mid-June.

Subjects for the projects vary greatly.

“We’ve had tattooing, body piercing, photography, sports related projects like snowboarding and backcountry skiing to scuba diving,” said Gard, who is also an English teacher at South Tahoe High. “Last year, one student sat in court and wrote case opinions and compared them to the judge’s.

“The students are only limited by their own imaginations.”

Senior Katy Hayward used her imagination and researched the dynamics of roller coasters.

For her physical project, Hayward constructed a makeshift coaster using high-pressure tubing as the track and a ball bearing as the car.

To the judges, she demonstrated how momentum drives the car through an inverted loop – a physics concept.

“The final stretch of the project (the physical portion) is where I stretched myself mentally and learned the most,” she said. “I’m delighted with my finished project.”

As for the students who didn’t make it through the project, Gard said the consequences of not walking with the graduating class are valid.

“Because I know how much help is offered, I think it’s a fair consequence because it’s a choice that the student makes,” she said. “If a kid is serious, they’ll pass because we’ll give them all the support and help they need. We’ll work with them until they get it right.”

This is the fifth year that Senior Projects have been required for graduation at South Tahoe High School. The project is often used at private schools and the particular model used at South Tahoe High resembles a program from the high school in Placerville.

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