SVHS teens tackle Senior Projects

Posted on May 13, 2019 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Completing a Senior Project is a ritual, and a graduation requirement, for every senior at Sonoma Valley High School. As part of the semester-long assignment, students are expected to write a related research paper and present a public presentation about the project. So how’s it going? The Sun’s Sarah Ford checks in.


Isaac Rodriguez

The activity for my project was to conduct a support group for those who are currently fighting through breast cancer and those who have already faced it. I chose this because of my mom’s experience with cancer. The main purpose of the activity is for those who are struggling to join a group that all know the hardships of cancer, and allow the people in the group to gain trust in each other and face their struggles together instead of facing them alone. The group talked to each other and helped one another and it seemed to help a lot. My mentor was someone experienced in the field. My research paper was about the high cost of health care; it was called “A disease not a business opportunity.”


Mia Benstead

I have been working with my mentor to learn how to write food reviews as a real food critic would. My hours have been spent learning how to write these, going to restaurants photographing and trying food, and creating a blog to post my photos and reviews on. My mentor is Sara Deseran, who has worked as a Senior Editor at San Francisco Magazine and has published four cookbooks including Tacolicious. She has also contributed to magazines such as Sunset and Saveur. My research paper topic explained that although there is an abundance of food that advertises itself as being natural or organic, the reality is that if we truly wish to live a healthy life in a healthy community, we need to eat locally grown food as much as possible, embracing the “locavore” philosophy.


Ava Rognlien

In my project I am creating a magazine that addresses empowerment for teen girls. I have been working with Valley of the Moon magazine and photography teacher Andy Mitchell to create a full-length magazine with pictures, articles, and more, all about self-empowerment, feminism, stereotypes, body image, and other topics along those lines. I’m featuring student artists, photographers, and writers in the magazine. My mentor is Renata Virk; she is on the Valley of the Moon staff and is an SVHS parent. For this project I have spent hours writing, photographing, and doing graphic design using InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, and photoshop. My research paper was on how the media makes women feel self conscious in order to buy products.


Jose Valdivia

(And anonymous partner) Our project focuses on modernizing the SVHS curriculum so that it reflects the diversity of the student body. In order to gauge the needs of our school, we sent a survey to all SVHS students asking about their race and ethnicity, sexual identity and orientation, native language, and disability. We really want all students to be reflected in what is being taught. At the start of our project, we wanted to focus solely on the English, History, and Living Skills departments; we then expanded to include the World Languages department as well. We believe that the greatest need for our project is in the English department, as it is fairly simple to add books of literary merit with diverse authors and characters. Even if our project is not completely successful in creating changes for the next year, it is definitely the start of a needed conversation.

Fatima Gutierrez

For my Senior Project I hosted and performed in an open mic poetry night at the high school’s Little Theatre. I designed posters to advertise the event, asking students of any grade level who wished to participate to submit their work to me. After finalizing the group I established dates where we all met to write, revise, and practice our work. About 30 people attended including student poets and their families. About 20 poems were read, all on different topics, from global warming to simply wanting to be accepted. My mentor was drama teacher Jane Martin. My research paper was on how modern poetry should be taught in schools instead of just old age poetry.


Greg Valavanis

I made a portable mural painting for my senior project. My painting is showing how art can heal you mentally. I painted a brain, which shows the mental aspect; the fact that I painted it shows art; and since music is a very healing art form, that’s why I painted musical notes inside the brain. The idea for the brain came from the research paper that I wrote for my project. It was about why art classes should be implemented more heavily in schools to help reduce stress and depression among teens. You can see my piece in the art gallery at Art Escape for their “May the 4th Be With You” show.


Isabella Albano

The activity I chose to partake in for my Senior Project was a teen mural project, which was completed last summer. It’s painted on the side of the Republic of Thrift store in Boyes. I filmed its creation by a professional spray paint artist, and am creating a documentary about it. The Art Museum sponsored the mural, along with La Luz and Art Escape. I got involved as a video arts student to film the whole process from start to finish. Twenty-five other teens got involved in the planning, sketching, and painting. My research paper was about the importance of art in schools.


Jack Pier

I dove head first into the mysterious world of building a fully-functional Pinhole Camera; it exposes onto medium format film. I had done some minor research on what it would take to accomplish my goal, but I had never done anything in this area of photography. I found a local photographer, Robert Brown, who regularly uses pinhole cameras and has a deep understanding of film photography. My other mentor was my grandfather Will Pier, who is a master carpenter and helped me construct the camera. I took sample photos along the California coast. The inspiration for the pinhole camera came from my constant, nagging curiosity of new things and I felt that traditional analog photography would be a place to satisfy this. The specific choice for the pinhole was a recommendation by my respected photography teacher Andy Mitchell. My research paper topic was “Analog Photography in a Digital Age.” It basically shows how film is not obsolete even in this world where innovation of technology is so abundant. Film will always have a place in photography as a whole because of how unique and hands-on it can be.


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