Ashley Gonzales' Senior Project, due this week at Carson High School, taught her about more than research papers and oral presentations.
"I've learned that I can make a difference, no matter how small it is," the 18-year-old said. "If I put my mind to it, I can do it."
About 400 projects will be presented this week by seniors. Students spent most of their year researching a project that centers around a subject, like quilting or playing the guitar; an altruistic project, like raising money for diabetes; or a career-oriented project, for which they shadow working adults.
"So far, the projects look pretty good," said Cheryl Macy, a Carson High English teacher and chairwoman of the Senior Project committee. "We have a really good class, and they seem to be working really hard on their projects."
For Gonzales, a lot of that work culminated in December. She found a Carson City family of five, the Rampleys, and made it her objective to give them a great Christmas. She called around, and convinced Smith's to donate a full Christmas dinner, while J.C. Penney donated money. Members of a credit union collected clothing and toys for the Rampley children: Tiffany, 16; Taylor, 9; Michelle, 6; and Nick, 13 months.
Along the way, Gonzales learned how to fund-raise and how to ask for help in an effort to reach her ultimate goal of helping to develop a teen center in Carson City.
"I want to help teens around here," she said. "There's nothing to do around here. I think that's why there's a lot of crime."
Mother Sheri Rampley is grateful for Gonzales' efforts.
"We tried to get others to help," she said. "It was always something. We found out we didn't sign up in enough time, or we needed transportation, and we didn't have that. All of a sudden, here she is, and it was great. She got a lot of people to do a lot of things."
Gonzales gave the family $450 of her December paychecks and secured $100 for food at Christmas. She was surprised to see her good deed turned around.
"Sheri had saved the last $5 from the money and bought us a Christmas ornament," Gonzales said. "It was really nice."
Gonzales is still looking for a bike for Taylor, after her's was stolen Christmas Day, and help for Tiffany, who as a pregnant teenage mother doesn't qualify for aid and has been unable to receive prenatal care. To help, call the Gonzaleses at 882-2459.
Gonzales continues to visit the family, taking them food, stuffed animals, clothes and kitchen items. This week, she will tell more about the family during her eight- to 12-minute Senior Project speech before a group of community judges.
"I'm totally prepared," she said. "Because I felt so passionate about this subject, I know that I can do the best I can and pass."
n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.