Tupelo seniors present their final projects

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Tupelo High School senior Hamp Hughes has collected some 20 guitars over the years.
He has a new favorite – the one that he made himself as part of his senior project.
Hughes displayed his work Tuesday, when 362 seniors at the school presented their senior projects during Culmination Day at BancorpSouth Arena.
Following the presentation came the relief of finishing a major component of senior year.
“It felt good,” senior Sadie Houin, whose project focused on teaching a group of eighth-graders about drug awareness and peer pressure. “I was so nervous. Once I got it done, it was great.”
This was the sixth year that Tupelo High School’s seniors completed the projects, and it was the first time they did so using school-issued MacBooks.
The arena floor was covered with rows of tables holding poster-board presentations. In front of many of them sat open laptops displaying videos or photo slideshows of students in the field.
“For a lot of kids who didn’t have computers at home, it opened their world,” said Tupelo High School senior AP English teacher Debbie Milton. “It helped them see new components they could do with their projects.”
Work on the senior project begins with a research paper written during the student’s junior year.
The following year, the seniors complete a product, write a paper, design a poster board, put together a portfolio and present to their classmates.
On Culmination Day, they describe the project to community volunteers who serve as evaluators. Volunteers from the Association for Excellence in Education also help coordinate the event.
The project counts for multiple grades in senior English classes and is a requirement for graduation. It also contains an element of community service.
First-year Tupelo Superintendent Randy Shaver said he would like to see the district expand it, perhaps having students in other grades complete smaller projects.
“I think it is the most important single piece of learning they do in their whole high school career,” Shaver said. “I would never get rid of it. I want to expand it, not contract it.”
In making his guitar, Hughes soldered wires, adjusted the frame to give it the proper sound and shaped and added frets. He then used his new guitar to perform a concert on the roof of Park Heights that raised $800 for the Structure Band that performs with Wave Connection and Soundwave.
Hughes, who also did research on the effect of music upon the brain, said that using a laptop made the project much more convenient because he could work on it in small chunks as he had spare time throughout the day.
Project topics varied. Adarius Dilworth examined the effects of discipline upon youth, while Sam Gilleylen and Jonathan Doles each hosted camps for youth.
Gilleylen held basketball camps to teach children about the importance of after-school activities, while Doles ran a tennis camp to demonstrate the importance of exercise.
Ashley Ledlow wrote a children’s book about wolves and read it to a class of students, Tessa Willoughby researched the impact of advertising ploys, and Kadeem Riley focused on the importance of using art to express yourself. Carson Fletcher built his own guitar amplifier.
“It was a lot easier using the computer,” said Gilleylen, who also made a video with highlights of himself playing basketball. “I learned I can do anything if I can sit down and work on a project.
“It took a long time, but I was proud I got it done, especially the video.”
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.