Like many others, Henry County High School senior Keely Carroll waited quietly in the hallway of Henry County High School last week.
Waiting to present her senior project to a panel of community members, she was approached by another student. “Are ya nervous?”
The response was an unequivocal yes.
Carroll said she was nervous because so much was riding on the presentation. “It (determines) whether we graduate,” she said. The worst part, she said, was not knowing what the panelists would ask.
Senior Ashley Crawford was nervous as well as she readied for her presentation on massage therapy. As she walked through her presentation, Crawford told her panel she was interested in massage therapy in part because it helped her grandfather.
During her presentation, Crawford told the judges about why she chose her topic, what her research paper taught her, who her mentor was and what she learned, as well as what obstacles she faced while working on her project.
“I now know different ways to get rid of headaches, just through the rotation of your fingertips,” she told her panelists.
Jimmy Pollard, one of Crawford’s judges, said after her presentation that he felt a little bad for the students.
“I feel bad for these kids because they’re so nervous,” he said.
Both of Crawford’s panelists congratulated her for a job well done.
“It makes me want to go get a massage now,” Shelly Medina said.
After their presentations, the seniors emerged from their panel rooms with a look of relief and a big sigh.
Sarah Baxter, whose project focused on dentistry, said she learned more than she ever thought she would during her project. And while she was a little nervous going into the presentation, afterwards, she was relaxed.
“Was it as bad as you thought it would be,” someone asked her.
“Not at all,” she responded.
As the parade of seniors continued, teacher Judy Rice sat on a bench with senior Matt Fortner, whose senior project took a look at seat belt safety. As Rice told him who one of his panelists was, he buried his head in his hands — it was someone who worked with him on the project.
The presentations marked the end of what Rice called a long road for the seniors. The class of 2008 was the first class required to complete a senior project in order to graduate. The project involved four components — a research paper, a project, a career portfolio and the final presentation.
“People are confused and didn’t know quite what to expect,” Rice said. “The kids, when they come out (of the presentation) realize it’s been worth it. They’ve gained life skills as well as academic skills through this.”
For some, the senior project was a reinforcement that what they planned to study in college was the right path. For others, like Carroll, they learned that what they thought they wanted to do might not be for them.
“I thought I wanted to be a teacher,” she said before her presentation. Her project, which focused on teaching kindergarteners, led her to the belief that maybe that wasn’t the right path, and now the soon-to-be graduate plans to go into nursing.
The panelists, who were composed of community members, teachers, elected officials and anyone who was interested in judging, were allowed to ask questions after the presentations, and then scored the presentations.
Rice said it was interesting to watch the students before and after their presentations.
“It’s kind of neat to see the kids nervously waiting, and then celebrating when they’re coming out,” she said. “A lot of them have said they don’t realize how much they know until they go in and talk to the judges. They’re scared about that part, there’s no preparation. I said ‘You’ll be fine, you’ve done this for a year, you’ve lived and breathed it for a year. So you’ll be fine.’”
The students, she said, are very proud of what they’ve accomplished.
Though the pressure is off, there’s one more step to the project — the Senior Project Showcase. The showcase will be held from 1 to 7 p.m. Monday, May 19, in the HCHS gym. The seniors will share information about their display and projects, and is designed to show off what the students have accomplished.
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