BELMONT — Thursday afternoon in the Belmont High School Library, teachers and parents watched as 12 seniors defended the validity of their individual community service projects as they worked their way to earning a "diploma with distinction".
Each student presented to a jury that consisted of School Board member Heidi Chaney, N.H. Department of Employment Security Commissioner Carol Aubut, Superintendent Maria Dreyer, and Lakes Region Community College President Scott Kalicki.
After each presentation the students were asked questions by the jury about the research methods, results and what each learned from their projects.
A 25-hour project and presentation is but one portion of the requirements for graduating from Belmont High School with a diploma with distinction. The students must also complete 35 credits, have a grade point average (GPA) of greater than 92 on a scale of 100 and use their project for some kind of community benefit.
Colton Cadarette of Canterbury developed and created a Website for N.H. musician Mike Morris, a Berklee College of Music Graduate Mike Morris — an acoustic guitarist.
Cadarette plans on attending Elon University in North Carolina to major in business and marketing.
Paige Norkiewicz is a Continuing Catholic Development (CCD) instructor for St. Joseph Church in Belmont. She created a rosary project whereby her first graders made rosaries that were given to parishioners.
Norkiewicz project was titled, CCD – God and Me and during the time she worked with the first graders, they completed 19 sets of rosaries or prayer beads and all of them were given away.
She will be attending UMass Amherst and studying civil engineering.
Karl Wieck's project was building a fence to keep the critters out of the vegetable gardens at the Canterbury Elementary School. He also built two additional raised beds for the students who have been growing some of their own vegetables for a few years.
His project required fund raising, budgeting and purchasing and construction. Nearly an Eagle Scout, he used some of his fellow scouts for labor during the construction.
Wieck will be attending the University of New Hampshire to study engineering.
Shannon Conway created a Website for the High School that will assist students in the 40-plus steps they must take to apply for college and scholarships. She said it includes links to scholarship programs, links to digital copies needed for all the documents and links to help students pick the right school for them.
Conway will be attending Southern New Hampshire University to study elementary education and psychology.
Nikolai Fernandez used the High School's Power Hour (an hour a day set aside for extra help from teachers or study time) to offer tutorial services for mathematics and biology in the library. His sessions met once a week and he had 10 regular students whose grades improved appreciably because of his help.
Fernandez will be attending the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine, where he will major in biochemistry.
Danny Iacopucci, an Eagle Scout, built a picnic site along the Laconia WOW Trail, complete with a garden. He said he understood how much effort had gone into the trail system and wanted to contribute.
He is in the process of making a plaque for the donors and volunteers and made some books about the project using the computer program Shutterfly.
Iacopucci will be attending Brigham Young University in Utah and has not yet decided on a major.
Chayleigh Cadarette and Alexandra Lugar worked together on building a footbridge in a remote section of the Jeff Marden Town Forest.
Cadarette gave her presentation about the planning, measuring, and approval processes required by the town's Conservation Commission while Lugar gave her presentation about the actual construction.
Lugar set up a demonstration about how to use a cordless drill and a cordless impact drill and the difference between the two of them.
Cadarette will be attending the University of New Hampshire and has yet to determine her major. Lugar will be attending the Plymouth State University were she will double major in psychology and criminal justice.
Zoe Zellar went to Belmont Elementary School once a week and tutored first and third graders in mathematics. As part of her weekly curriculum, she created games to help the children with their memories and with their addition skills in first grade and their multiplication skills in third grade.
Zellar will be attending the University of New Hampshire and has not yet decided on a major.
Andrew Spaulding participated all year in the Unified basketball program. He said he loved playing basketball as a kid but took up lacrosse as his sport in high school.
Spaulding said when the program ended he really missed it. He said he loved making friends with all of the people who participated and helped them and himself earn a measure of pride and belonging.
Spaulding will be attending Clarkson University in New York State to study mechanical engineering.
Alexa Silakka organized a childrens' book drive after she realized that there were very few books at the Belmont Early Learning Center.
She said her goal was to get donations of 50 books but she actually collected 475. She sorted through them and the Early Learning Center took 203, 162 went to a program for refugees and the homeless, 55 went to Weeping Willow Day Care in Tilton and 55 went to the Pines Community Center in Northfield.
Silakka will attend Walsh University in Ohio and study nursing.
Caitlyn Keville tutored at the Belmont Elementary School. She noted that some of the students were shy at first and bringing them out of their shells was part of her challenge. She noted the third graders went "off-track" a lot.
Although the students were being tutored because the need the help, she said she felt like they knew what they were doing but may have had some challenges with attention and learning skills.
Keville will be attending the University of Tampa where she will study nursing.
Guidance Councilor Brenda Seiferth shepherded the 12 students through their projects.