Students in the Class of 2018 at Newark High School recently presented their Capstone projects to meet the required benchmark of their high school careers.
Ryan Wagner, assistant principal, oversees the Capstone program.
“I think it went really well,” Wagner said. “I saw several student presentations and talked with several staff members, and all made overwhelmingly positive comments about the experience.’’
Newark’s Class of 2018 is the second class required to complete Capstone projects in order to graduate. Projects include 20 volunteer community service hours, 20 healthy choice journal entries about involvement in extracurricular activities and things learned in health classes, a one-page paper in 10th grade supporting both sides of an argument and a conclusion, a three- to four-page senior research paper and a presentation in front of a faculty panel.
The eight- to 12-minute presentations on a Smart Board typically included pictures of the student, favorite quotes, insights about their high school experience, an explanation of and findings from their 12th-grade research paper and a discussion about their future plans.
Members of the panel — made up of NHS and Newark Middle School faculty and staff — asked students questions before evaluating their presentations in private, based on a rubric. After a few minutes, the presenting student was called back into the classroom and informed by panelists if they passed or if revisions to their presentations were required.
Approximately 160 students made presentations during 30-minute sessions in classrooms throughout the high school. Students attended school for a half-day, since all faculty and staff served as panelists in the presentations. Pizza and snacks were available in the cafeteria.
“Completing the Capstone Project requirements is a pretty nice accomplishment — a good feather in students’ caps that provides them with some nice college and career readiness that they wouldn’t get from just the traditional classroom experience,’’ Wagner said.
Wagner said credit for the projects’ success is due to ongoing work by coordinator Katie Ganter, who teaches 12th-grade English; Amy Lannon, who teaches Finger Lakes Community College’s Gemini English 101 and 103 courses at NHS; John Dalton, who teaches Advanced Placement English courses at NHS; Danielle Ohlson, who teaches ninth- and 12th-grade English; and Debora Barry, a teacher assistant who provides support for the Capstone and NHS work experience programs.
“I feel the day went very well,” Ganter said. “The students spent a lot of time preparing and practicing. There was a lot of nervous energy in the morning, quickly followed by relief, pride and smiles as they completed their presentations. My role was to handle the logistics of the day, such as scheduling for students and panelists, creating and distributing materials, setting up rooms, inviting students and parents, tracking student completion, etc. Deb Barry also played a huge role in all of that preparation.
“I worked with my three English 12 classes to help them prepare. The students spent several weeks developing their presentations in class, and also practicing their public speaking skills. Danielle Ohlson and Amy Lannon also worked with their seniors to prepare them.”
Seniors Nick Cepulo and Nicole Garritano both received outstanding reviews of their presentations from panelists.
Cepulo, who will attend FLCC in the fall to study mathematics, explained his research paper on how the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. can be honored in daily lives.
“By showing the same level of respect to others that allowed King’s civil rights movement to triumph, we are doing our part to honor King and his lasting legacy,” he said.
Cepulo views the Capstone Project requirements as challenging yet fair ways of encouraging students to improve their habits and build their confidence.
“I was relieved to know that I had passed,” Cepula said. “Creating the presentation was an enjoyable experience, since it provided a chance to reflect on my progress as a high school student.”
Garritano, who will major in human services at Monroe Community College, said she enjoyed developing and making her presentation, in which she revealed how, in recent years, she overcame yearslong struggles with insecurities, environmental abuse and depression. She told panelists how a diving accident in 2014 that caused her to undergo facial reconstruction helped propel her into a life “reeking of positivity.”
“I got involved with humanitarianism, and realized how it can benefit the world,” Garritano said. “My experiences led me to get involved in the BOCES criminal justice program in order to pursue my dream job in child protective services, and always being happy, so that I can help others feel happy and let them know they should always feel supported and loved.”
Garritano said the Capstone Project requirements, particularly the presentation, are fair.
“Some kids may feel uneasy at the thought of sharing personal things, but the project overall makes us step out of our comfort zones and I think everyone needs to be pushed a little in life,” she said. “It helps us feel OK with sharing our opinions. It makes us feel like we have a voice.”
Principal Tom Roote said he was pleased with the Capstone presentation day outcomes.
“Our Capstone presentation day is fast becoming one of the most looked forward to rituals at Newark High School,” he said. “I attended as many presentations as I could fit in my schedule, and learned a great deal from our students. One student discussed how his active lifestyle with high school athletics is replacing his need to take ADHD medication. Also, I learned about how NHS courses in mathematics and architecture, paired with a love of drawing, is leading a student to pursue college plans in outer space habitat design. I really enjoyed listening to the panelists at this presentation asking great questions. The group was truly yearning to learn more from this student. She became the teacher, and the staff became the students. Most memorable were student stories of personal growth that included healthy choices that increased their level of resilience, which included overcoming bullying and forgiving a classmate that may have once been less than friendly.
“Special thanks to the middle school staff, Mr. Wagner, the Capstone Office and the NHS English Department, all who went above and beyond to ready our students to meet this college and career ready benchmark in its second year of full implementation.”
Superintendent Matt Cook joined others in commending students on their presentations.
“To witness the hard work of these students come to fruition as they stand in front of a group of adults and reflect on their high school experience is inspiring and humbling,” he said.