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Community Service Is Part Of The Culture

YHS Senior projects Meagan Montalto photo by Steve Montalto

Meagan Montalto (photo: Steve Montalto, HighMountain Images)

OAKHURST — There’s nothing quite like the sense of a good job done well, and that was the predominant feeling in the room recently when 146 smiling students from Yosemite High School displayed their senior projects for their families, friends and community.

Senior project are not easy: the process starts at the end of junior year when students are asked to start thinking about what community service project they will undertake. In the fall of senior year, they write proposals to the designated committee. Once projects are approved, students are required to complete a minimum of 20 hours of service for the greater good. On completion and leading up to graduation, they spend weeks working on their display boards, resume, research and reflection papers, all in preparation for this big night.

More than 75 judges were on hand to rate the presentations. YHS history teacher and mentor Rebecca Hardison recruits the volunteer judges from all around the foothills.

“Some are parents and relatives of seniors, some are former students, some are representatives from service organizations, some are my friends from Raymond Community Church. Others found out through social media and contacted me about it. I always start my judge compilation by seeking out former judges.”

Senior Projects 2016 Dainya DeBock

Dainya DeBock

It was the responsibility of each judge to review several projects.

When the votes were tallied, the top award for Best Visual Board went to Meagan Montalto for Operation Christmas Child.

Brooke Veater and Dainya Debock tied for 2nd in the best visual category. Brooke promoted reading in area schools and helped at the Boys and Girls Club, while Dainya organized a breast cancer awareness volleybally game to raise money for the cause.

Best Senior Project top honor went to Kenny Boyd, who cleaned headstones of past YHS alumni and others. Calissa Crumpton was awarded 2nd after organizing an historical dinner theater event to raise money for the purchase of a new timing machine for the swim team. Allie Donnell and Brook Bragdon tied for 3rd place. Allie worked with Vision Academy of the Arts, and Brook did a chemistry show at the Coarsegold fair.

Senior Projects 2016 Trevor Wood

Trevor Wood

The judges’ award for Most Professional Board was a split, handed to both Rose Curley and Kevin Kirk, who tied for first. Rose worked on My Tri youth triathlon at Bass Lake and Kevin put on a youth cross country meet for the mountain area.

Brooke Veater and Nichole Joice tied for second. Brooke was awarded recognition for her reading and youth project, and Nichole raised money for the Marjorie Mason Center with the focus on aiding victims of domestic abuse.

Hardison explains how the senior projects fit into the overall curriculum and, perhaps more importantly, how the assignments continue to sway the student zeitgeist year after year.

“The elements of the senior project itself are worth so many points in the context of English and History classes that, if a student did not complete these, they wouldn’t pass these classes, and therefore wouldn’t graduate — since these are required classes to graduate.

Senior Projects 2016 Mariah Garcia

Mariah Garcia

“The fair itself is a project reinforced by so many teachers and has been established as being important, so it has become part of our school culture.”

Organizers calculated the community service time students have expended on their senior projects — it’s an impressive minimum of at least 3,000 hours.

“The highlight is in the lessons along the way. Almost every student will encounter some challenges they have to work through. There are several teachers willing to be there to help and to hold them accountable along the way and then, when they push through these challenges, it is such a blessing to have been a part of that experience.”

When the students gather for the senior project review night, Hardison says it’s really fun to see them find out what their classmates have done.

“It really brings the whole senior class together with the shared experience of service,” she adds.

Senior Projects 2016 Gianna DeFelice

Gianna DeFelice

“One highlight this year is a student who did their project on helping the homeless. The judge she had at first was against helping the homeless but, after talking to her for awhile, the judge said ‘thank you — you have really changed my mind about helping the homeless.’

“This made an impact on this student, that she could impact an adult like that. There is so much power in service and in love and I enjoy it when my students get to experience this feeling.”

Another high point is the change in students who have never done community service before, says Hardison.

“Their reaction is really special in their reflection papers. Lastly, I enjoy how all the little details work themselves out and everyone fits in where they were meant to be. I enjoy working with other teachers on this project. It is very rewarding and inspirational.”

Senior Projects 2016 ws roomjpg“It is wonderful to hear the juniors already talking about and getting excited about which projects they will do next year. They always want to ‘out do’ each other every year and, when we are talking about service based projects, what could be better?”

The event is open to the public. Minarets also has a program called Senior Legacy Project. If you’ve never been to the senior community service display nights and you’re looking for a greater understanding of our local youth and a big boost of positivity — stop by. You will be so happy that you did.


Senior Projects 2016 Elizabeth Savage

Elizabeth Savage

Senior Projects 2016 Deangelo Coffee

Deangelo Coffee

Senior Projects 2016 Clara Briley, Will Boyer, Trevor Boardman

Clara Briley, Will Boyer, Trevor Boardman

Senior Projects 2016 Cole Melanson

Cole Melanson

Senior Projects 2016 Ciara Wilkeson

Ciara Wilkeson

Senior Projects 2016 Ashlee Harrell

Ashlee Harrell

Senior Projects 2016 Autumn Mitchell

Autumn Mitchell

Senior Projects 2016 Allie Donnell and Kent Byers

Allie Donnell with Kent Byers


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