Newtown High School students who took the first semester’s Junior/Senior Project course presented their projects over two nights, January 7 and January 9, at the school.
Each semester the high school offers students the opportunity to undertake a self-directed project of their choosing, which concludes with the presentation before the judges. During the course, each student works with a mentor to investigate his or her project.
Projects are then officially presented before a volunteer panel of judges.
Students and there projects for the fall semester were: Kenna Bassett, “A Marketing Plan for Newtown Strong Therapy Dogs”; Brenda Luna, “Suicide Prevention — Why Care?”; Charlotte Gray, “A Gnome Named Jerome: A Textured Children’s Book”; Kunal Marwah, “Ping Pong Fundraiser for Newtown Memorial Fund”; Gabriela Palaia, “Gender Flipped Macbeth”; Briana Man, “Late: A Short Film”; Sonya Stanczyk,n “Feeding the Need 101”; Brandon Rodriguez, “3D Modeling of Electric Automobile”; Erin Bernardi, “Endangered Mammals of North America”; and Lindsay Fuori “Art Therapy.”
When Lindsay presented her project January 9, everyone present ventured through the school, up a flight of stairs, and stood before a mural created in memory of the lives lost at Sandy Hook School on 12/14.
“Eight months ago I knew I wanted to do something,” Lindsay told The Bee this week when explaining why she wanted to create the mural. “I have lived in Newtown since I was 2 years old and spent some of my happiest years at Sandy Hook School. Considering myself an artist, in times of stress and trauma it felt natural to turn to art.”
Lindsay started volunteering with the Sandy Hook Arts Center for Kids (Shack) in January 2013, and found the same coping strategy she was helping the kids find: Art.
“The dream catcher was my first idea for the mural,” Lindsay said. “I wanted the piece to be something students would understand and could connect to, but not something that would have a negative connotation. I wanted the mural to heal, not hurt. That’s where the mentality of the dream catcher came in. I fell in love with the idea that the mural could be a memoriam but in a peaceful way.”
The mural features a dream catcher with brown and green feathers, 26 beads — six beads above the feathers weighing the catcher down while 20 beads “sit safely within the ring,” Lindsay said — and “Sandy Hook Jolly Green Giant footprints.”
“Native Americans believe that the night is filled with dreams, both good and bad,” Lindsay said. “The dream catcher, when hung over or near your bed, catches the dreams as they flow by. It is thought that the good dreams know how to pass through the dream catcher, slipping through the outer holes and slide down the soft feathers to the sleeping person below. The bad dreams, not knowing the way, getting tangled in the dream catcher and perish with the first light of the new day.”
This week, Sonya Stanczyk said this was her first time participating in the Junior/Senior Project course, and she created a handbook for other schools to recreate her NHS’s Feeding the Need program.
Sonya was recently named a Barton L. Weller Scholarship finalist for her Feeding the Need 101 project, and fellow Junior/Senior Project student Charlotte Gray was also named as a finalist for her project.
“Feeding the Need is this 18-month program that I have been working on,” Sonya said. “It’s a collaboration between the Newtown High School culinary department and the Connecticut Food Band, and we prepare meals for the homeless. We’ve reached about 15,000 meals in the past 18 months, and now that it is really stable at Newtown High School we wanted to expand it.”
Part of the expansion process, Sonya explained, was creating the handbook for other schools to use to implement the program.
“The idea is to give the handbook and other tools to other schools to help them adopt the program more smoothly,” said Sonya.
Briana Man created a shot film called Late for her project, and it is available to view on YouTube here. The movie is 8 minutes and 28 seconds long.
“It was about a main character who has a past which he feels responsible for, so it is him dealing with it now,” said Briana, who said she wants to study film in college and become a director of photography. “And basically the whole story is his past told through flashbacks.”
Briana said she wanted to take the Junior/Senior Project course to create a major project before college. Briana said she plans to attend New York University next school year.
For his project, Brandon Rodriguez created a 3-D model of an electric car that he plans to start constructing next semester.
“I just thought that it would be a nice challenge for me, and also thought with the Junior/Senior Project program that it would really help keep me on track and make sure I got things done in a timely manner,” said Brandon about why he wanted to do his project.
Brandon recommended that students who are passionate about something should take the Junior/Senior Project course.
“If you are passionate about something, you can get credits for doing something that you love,” Brandon said. “And it looks fantastic on a resume.”
To help finance the project, which Brandon sees as the biggest hurtle to building his car, he plans to raise funds on Kickstarter, a project funding website.