Above: From left, EGHS Ceramics Teacher Stacey Munzert, Supt. Brian Ricca, TCM Caryn Corenthal, Lead Judge Frank Lennox – Panel #22, minus Stephen Susi, the photographer.
Imagine for a second being a high school senior. Now imagine being a high school senior and presenting an important project in front of a panel of judges. Ok, now imagine that panel consisting of the school superintendent, a town councilor, two teachers, and a representative from East Greenwich News (me). That was us, Panel #22. Supt. Brian Ricca, Town Councilor Caryn Corenthal, ceramics teacher Stacey Munzert, and our lead judge, Frank Lennox … and me. We had what some would say was a “stacked” panel and I will admit, I was slightly anxious for the students who’d be presenting to us.
Turns out, I didn’t need to worry.
Tuesday, Jan. 24, was the day that I learned not to underestimate the seniors of East Greenwich High. The students’ efforts and dedication to their projects was on full display. Their politeness and confidence was impressive. Those young adults were determined and ready to succeed.
I had learned about judging from an email earlier in January, asking for additional community volunteers to help judge the senior projects at EGHS. Karen Lockhart, program coordinator, was a great help to all the judges. We received an email informing us of our panel and fellow judges, along with the student process portfolios. The portfolios gave us a chance to read a bit about the presentations ahead of time. As part of the package, each student included a letter addressed to the judges, personalizing the project a bit beforehand. In our judges orientation, Ms. Lockhart reminded us to maintain a sense of high expectations for quality work.
At 12:30 p.m. the judges dispersed into 22 different classrooms, listening to 70 different senior project presentations. The students had three primary pathways to choose from: Career Exploration, New Skill, or Community Service. They were required to have 20+ hours of fieldwork with a mentor, turn in four journals about the experience as well as that letter to the judges. Lastly, they were to give an oral presentation in front of a panel of community judges.
One of the students who came before us was Allison Kazmier, presenting her project Bee Smart. It’s a program designed to help the youth understand their feelings and emotions, while also generating the proper emotional responses. In Allison’s case that meant working with third graders in EG. It appeared that Allison had just as much fun working with the third graders as they did.
We then heard another fantastic presentation from Griffin Clark, about his time spent at Northwestern University over the summer learning from professors and mentors at Medill-Northwestern Journalism Institute. Griffin had won a writing contest while he was younger for Sports Illustrated Kids. He was SI’s kid reporter for a year and was able to follow around PC Head Basketball Coach Ed Cooley. I think it was at this point in the presentation that the superintendent had to pick his jaw up off the table. Griffin was humble about his accomplishments, but clearly determined to succeed in what is an extremely demanding and competitive career.
As a father of two young children living in East Greenwich, I couldn’t help but imagine them presenting their senior projects to a panel of judges. I’m beyond excited for them when they get to that point, because I was able to see firsthand just how deeply these projects meant to the students. Parents, teachers, administrators, and most of all the seniors, you should be proud. Well done, EGHS Class of ‘23.
Stephen Susi is Social Media and Business Editor for EG News.