Projecting through projects
Steamboat's crop of mid-year graduates use Senior Projects to help clarify futures
Steamboat Springs — Five Steamboat Springs High School seniors presented their Senior Projects to school district staff Friday, displaying a quality of work that overshadowed recent public debate about the Senior Odyssey program.
The presentations were one of the final steps needed for the students to graduate mid-year. Career counselor Gayle Dudley said the biggest focus of the presentations was not the projects but what the students learned in completing them.
Senior Greg Jansen, who showed the staff panel part of a film he made about stunt bicycle riders in Steamboat Springs — including himself, said he learned quite a bit.
“I never thought I could be creative, until this project,” he said. “Now I’m trying to graduate at mid-year so I can get ahead and go directly to film school. I’m glad I did this project to figure out what the next step in my life is going to be.”
Jansen said creative techniques learned in his Film Expression class helped him improve the film, which he shot mostly on a tripod camera and edited on a computer through trial and error.
Senior Laura Brees presented her photography project of numerous matted photos, mostly of preschoolers at the Kids Kabin Preschool in Steamboat that she once attended.
“You did a great job — I loved your photographs,” Superintendent Donna Howell said to Brees after her presentation, with a squeeze on the arm for encouragement.
The staff panel included Howell, Dudley, high school Principal Mike Knezevich, assistant principal Kevin Taulman and Steamboat Springs School Board members Tom Miller-Freutel, Denise Connelly and John DeVincentis.
Brees works at Creekside Cafe & Grill and Riggio’s Ristorante. She said that during her Senior Project, she went through “a complete turnaround” about her future plans and now hopes to attend college.
“Senior Odyssey has worked out really well for me,” she said.
The yearlong Odyssey program, composed of a classroom semester and a project semester, has been a subject of heated debate among both the public and school district staff this fall. On the morning of Nov. 10, about 150 high school students walked out of school in the middle of classes to protest the program’s status as a mandatory graduation requirement. At a meeting Dec. 20, the district’s Graduation Requirements Committee recommended, based on a statement read by Knezevich, that Senior Odyssey become optional beginning next September.
The School Board will act on that recommendation — one way or another — in upcoming meetings, likely this month.
Knezevich said although the recommendation is the best option for Odyssey given all the debate, his support of the program is unwavering.
“There is no better testimonial for the program than these projects,” he said.
On Friday, students Alex Berger, Augusta Nelson and Jason Powell also presented their projects. Berger’s project included the production of two cooking shows — one called “Burgers with Berger” — that will air on Steamboat’s local Channel 6.
For her project, Nelson explored back injuries by teaching a one-day class at the high school and creating a brochure about back exercises and injury prevention. She will conduct a work-study with local physical therapists before graduating in spring.
Powell curated an art show, “Senior Art Showcase 2005,” at the Depot Art Center on Dec. 20. He said Friday that the experience taught him a great deal about all aspects of the art business, including economics and salesmanship.
“It solidified in me that this is the career I want to go into,” Powell said. He plans to attend the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
For the students, the presentation and pending early graduation signifies the end of one era and the beginning of another — along with all the uncertainty that change brings.
“I don’t know where I’ll end up,” Brees said. “I really want to see where life takes me.”
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