Students virtually present senior projects to teachers, community members

Published 11:20 am Thursday, April 30, 2020

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Though the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted life for many, classes are still in session for students at Gray Stone Day School, albeit virtually.

And for the 94 seniors in the class of 2020, aside from continuing classes online, they have been working on their senior projects, which is a graduation requirement at Gray Stone.

“The project is to help the student learn to support their community through their volunteerism,” said Helen Nance, chief administrative officer at the school. “It is hoped that this experience teaches them how they are an integral part of the world around them and how they can impact others going forward.”

“For our senior projects, we have worked since our freshman or sophomore year on a service project in the community,” Emma Nantz said.

She said each senior compiled the requisite number of service hours (at least 20 hours), photos and reflections into a portfolio earlier in the year.

In-person presentations, in front of a panel of teachers and community members at the school, were scheduled for the end of the year. However, due to the pandemic, the school had to modify the presentation format.

“This year, students were required to share their presentations online, which is extremely different from a face-to-face presentation,” said English teacher Melissa Eudy. “However, the students excelled in the online format and presented their amazing work with ease, poise and pride. Being witness to the students’ service to the community and hearing their enthusiasm for these efforts and reflections on how the work impacted them personally was truly astounding.”

Mia Taggart volunteered her time at Stanly Manor in Albemarle. She had already formed bonds with residents at the retirement home as part of her work towards becoming a certified nursing assistant.

“I think that the older generations are really interesting…in how they think compared to younger generations,” said Taggart, who volunteered each Sunday from August to January.

She enjoyed talking with residents and learning about their stories and unique perspectives. One of the residents she formed a close bond with was legendary Pfeiffer University baseball coach Joe Ferebee, who died March 18 at 101. She was even around to help him celebrate his 101st birthday with his family and nurses.

She learned that unfortunately some residents don’t have families who come to visit them “which is really sad.”

Taggart plans to study biology at UNC Charlotte in the fall.

Olivia Burke volunteered twice a week for several months at Rowan Helping Ministries’ food bank. She chose the organization because it allowed her to help make a tangible difference for the people in her community.

“I wanted to volunteer here because I grew up in a very fortunate environment, I always had a roof over my head and food on my plate,” she said.

She said she had never been exposed to the struggles many people encounter to make sure they have adequate food for themselves and their family.

She learned how to better talk with strangers and gained a deeper knowledge that “not everybody is born with the same opportunities.”

Though she would like to pursue a career in science, Burke has not ruled out working at a place similar to Rowan Helping Ministries.

Jordan Randall decided to go back to her old middle school, South Stanly, to volunteer as a teacher assistant for one of her favorite teachers, Angela Stevens.

She credits her success as a student to the many teachers she’s had over the years, especially Stevens, who teaches seventh grade English.

“She’s such a selfless person that I wanted to give back to not only her, but the community that she’s surrounded by and the best way I thought to do that was to do service with her,” Randall said about her former teacher.

Randall spent seven months volunteering each Thursday morning in Stevens’ classroom, helping with lessons, grading assignments and taking over when Stevens had to temporarily step out of the room. She enjoyed the connections she fostered with the students.

From studying Stevens and her ability to connect with her students, Randall learned that in order to be a good leader, you have to be a good follower.

Reflecting on her time at Gray Stone, Randall said she has come to appreciate that “education is not just about you, it’s about everyone.”

She plans to attend Appalachian State University in the fall and major in history.

Other projects included Will Almond restoring a Baptist church cemetery in Norwood; Marshall Overcash helping elementary-age students during basketball camps; Nick Irving installing reflective markers along a Morrow Mountain State Park trail; and Emma Nantz teaching sign language and Spanish to students at Park Ridge Christian School.

“We are proud of them and they are proud of themselves,” Nance said about the seniors completing their projects. “It is a very rewarding experience.”

Emma Nantz contributed to this story. 


About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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