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TOWNSEND — After just 45 minutes, Alicia Heymann knew her project was a success.

The North Middlesex Regional High School student set out to raise between $100 and $200 for Townsend Ecumenical Outreach.

With the assistance of other students, Heymann held an ice cream social in the cafeteria as part of her senior project.

Ice cream eaters used handmade ceramic bowls instead of the usual plastic-foam containers. Patrons could even bring the colorful bowls home with them.

Heymann’s project focused on why charities are in trouble. She researched charities in general and then picked her choice as the beneficiary of her fundraiser.

Ray Kane, drama teacher at the high school, was her project mentor. He suggested approaching the art department to ask for “bowls for hunger.” The art department donated the student-made bowls.

Heymann learned to be flexible in setting her goals.

“I was going to do soup, until I realized it was May,” she said.

Heymann chose Ecumenical Outreach because it is familiar to her from her United Methodist Church. She has done work for the group before.

The senior project is part of a curriculum developed by Kathy Penney, a teacher in the Social Studies Department at North Middlesex. This is the second year the class has run at the school.

Penney said the purpose of the projects is so the students can “hit college running.”

Each senior in the course chooses a topic. After researching it, students do something to become involved with their interests. Then each student creates a presentation.

Heymann had a PowerPoint presentation on hunger in America playing during the ice-cream social.

Thirty students did a senior project this year. In addition to Heymann’s fundraiser, members of this year’s class have chosen such diverse topics as screenwriting, occupational therapy, training for the Marines and building a kayak.

“It promotes independent learning,” Penney explained. The students check in with her daily and keep a log of their progress. Each student also has a project mentor.

“As seniors they have to learn they’re going to be out in the big wide world,” she said. One of the most important lessons the students learn is how to manage time.

Students also develop skills in self-motivation and learn to be professional in their approach to tasks.

The course meets the needs of both college and non college-bound students, Penney said. By learning to work independently, students can adjust from the close supervision they receive in high school to working on their own initiative.

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