Londonderry senior service projects show the power of passion

LONDONDERRY — Many of this year’s graduating seniors have dreams of publishing a novel, designing their own video game, starting a business or recording an album.

A select few have already met such goals.

On Monday evening, 19 members of Londonderry High School’s Class of 2012 showed off the fruits of their labor during a public showcase of this year’s senior service projects.

Now in its second year, the elective program allows students to pursue a topic or idea of their choice throughout their senior year under the guidance of a staff mentor. Special talents and skills developed during their high school years are emphasized, with the end result being an in-depth community service or volunteer experience, a job shadow or internship, a performance or creative project, or finished product like a rebuilt engine, a completed novel or an art portfolio.

“Each student began with a proposal outlining an estimated timeline and project plan,” Superintendent Nathan Greenberg said this week. “It was quite a challenge since it required research skills, independent thinking and creativity — all vital skills they’ll use in the workplace someday.”

Principal Jason Parent called the program “one of the most exciting electives a senior can embark upon.”

Parent lauded the participating students for keeping the new tradition alive at Londonderry High School.

“Hopefully these projects will leave lasting impressions — not just in the school but also within the entire community,” he said.

Assistant Principal Paul Dutton, who oversees the program, said he was impressed with the quality of this year’s projects.

“All 19 of these students are true leaders,” he said.

Classmates Susana Arciniegas and Caroline Case teamed up to help Manchester-based charity Families In Transition.

“We set the goal of volunteering 100 hours this year, but we ended up volunteering 145 hours,” said Case.

A craft sale and clothing drive further assisted their mission, with the girls encouraging peers to donate their unwanted clothing.

“We learned there was a real shortage of clothing for teenagers in need,” Arciniegas said.

Working with staff mentor Steve Juster, student Alyssa Boccia devised a way for classmates to give back while earning school credit.

The end result, known as the Red Cord program, allows students to earn up to 25 points for community service. Starting next year, those who complete those credits will wear red cords on their graduation gowns at commencement.

Bringing their high school alive on the computer screen via a “Virtual LHS” program was the mission of students Matt Mayer, Schuyler Martin, Anthony DiMarco and Nick Hilton, while students Scott Murphy and Tyler Brouillard wrote novels.

“I wrote over 100 pages last summer and just kept on going,” said Murphy, who is currently in the process of finding a publisher. “So far, I’ve gotten three ‘no’s,’ which is actually a great encouragement,” he said with a laugh.

Student Briana Stanley’s Police Explorer program, which encourages teens to pursue policing careers, is now in full swing.

“We’ve already got five students in the program,” she said. “It’s a chance to get firsthand experience in law enforcement.”

As he set to task penning his classical music composition, Tony Gonder’s experience was rife with challenges.

“I soon realized it was going to be much more difficult than I thought, given my lack of composing experience,” Gonder said. “But (music director Andy Soucy) kept encouraging me. Since I play clarinet, I did the only thing I could do: I taught myself to play piano.”

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