Projects usher Carson seniors into adulthood |

Projects usher Carson seniors into adulthood

Andrew Pridgen
Appeal Staff Writer
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Stephen Sawyers plays a Pearl Jam song for the judges during his senior project presentation at Carson High School on Wednesday. Sawyers learned to play guitar and read music for his project.

The class of 2008 at Carson High School represented a study in stark contrasts on Wednesday.

Some seniors stood in corners, rehearsing speeches, strumming guitars and preparing handouts – biting bottom lips, rubbing nervous palms on fresh pressed slacks, looking toward the sky for answers.

Others ran to friends, family and faculty for congratulatory hugs, carried fresh carnations and even jumped for joy – their senior projects, and presentations – were complete.

Such is the story through today as some 470 seniors, clad in their Sunday best, collectively inhale, give their final, and perhaps most important presentations of their scholastic careers to their peers and educators, and then – breathe again.

The project is a requirement to pass senior English for most students. It is the brainchild of outgoing principal Fred Perdomo. The projects began at the high school in 1997 as a part of AP English curriculum.

Former Carson High language arts teacher Mary Jean Lang helped take the program school-wide in 2000, requiring seniors to complete 15-plus hours on a project that betters the student and the community.

Whether it was Jose Gallegos, 18, who learned how to bodybuild and taught some of his friends along the way, overcoming shyness and learning the dangers of steroids, or Eric Gundrun, 17, who spent more than 50 hours learning mixed-martial arts and UFC-style fighting, prior to his being shipped off to Marine Corps boot camp on Sept. 3 – the students admitted they benefited most from the projects.

“I went in kind of thinking this is something I wouldn’t really get into,” said Enrique Delallana, 17, who plans to attend Western Nevada College next year in order to pursue a law degree. “I got to learn how to be a DJ; my mentor taught me how to set up equipment, mix songs – I got to play a couple shows.

“It was really fun. I learned a lot -and it’s something I’ll continue to do part-time.”

Brandy Cantley, 18, received a long embrace from her mentor, Ruth Gordon, director of the Mentor Center of Western Nevada, a community-sponsored center that matches young people with older role models. “I just never thought I’d get this involved in the project or care so much.”

Cantley was one of three students this year who participated in Gordon’s program.

“I found through mentoring that I can really help people – that’s what I want to do,” said Cantley, who plans to attend WNC in the fall to start on her nursing school prerequisites. “In a way – everyone, I think, found out a little more about what they can do.”

Gordon said the Carson High Senior Projects “show the very best of students.”

“I just love it,” she said. “And the kids at the (Mentor Center) just love the Carson (High) seniors. It’s just something I look forward to every year; and the kids do such a great job – you really see them change too.”

Carson High’s activities director Jennifer Tartan said the senior projects usher the students “into adulthood.”

Tartan, herself a guinea pig for a senior project, learned to cook from one of her students.

“It’s the running joke that I’m still single because I can’t cook,” she said. “Well, I guess that’s one less excuse.”

“This day kind of represents the culmination of senior year,” she said. “It’s the beginning of the end of their high school career. It’s always interesting – at the beginning of the year, the projects are kind of an albatross. Then they get involved, they see a change; they change from students to adults.”

Short of getting misty-eyed, Tartan gestured toward a group of students next to her.

“Seeing senior projects is bittersweet for the (faculty),” she said. “We realize they’re ready to leave.”


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