FARMINGTON — Sweaty hands and nervous laughter filled the hallways of Piedra Vista High School Tuesday evening as students prepared for the final night of senior project presentations.

Dressed in their formal wear, 125 seniors brought together more than 30 hours of work represented by their senior exhibition projects Monday and Tuesday nights.

U.S. History Teacher Dawn Mankiewicz said the project requirement is unique to Piedra Vista and accounts for the 25th class credit, which is needed to graduate.

It takes 12 classrooms with three teachers in each classroom to evaluate the 125 students split across the two nights. Mankiewicz helped coordinate the effort and helped mentor about eight to nine students of her own with their projects.

Students had a choice between three types of projects with community service and job/career investigation being the most popular. Also possible are research projects.

The seniors work with a mentor and, after spending 30 hours with the mentor, conduct research to answer three questions that piqued their interest.

"They research three things they are curious about," Mankiewicz said. "Which might be salary, job expectations, job availability and if they worked in fundraising, the organization they worked with."

Mankiewicz said the projects help students investigate possible careers and learn to conduct projects independently of classroom work.

"Sometimes they realize it's something they don't want to do," Mankiewicz said.


"Like if they wanted to be a kindergarten teacher and learned they have no patience."

Project covered a wide range of topics, including shadowing a medical office manager, researching equine and dog therapy and more.

Erin Smathers was one of the first students to present Tuesday night. She shadowed a local Sunday school teacher.

Smathers learned what it takes to work with young children on a large scale.

"I gained a lot of confidence working with young children," Smathers said. "My teacher helped me learn how to teach kids and to be able to step back and be slower and calm to help them understand."

Tory Summerill chose to research a career as a Luthier — a person who makes and repairs string instruments — after seeing a video from the H√∂fner musical instrument company.

Summerill walked the teachers through his process of building a guitar, from the design phase to construction. As part of the presentation, Summerill showed the electric guitar he built and demonstrated it for the teachers evaluating him.

"I saw the process of how they made it and I thought, Cool,'" Summerill said. "Ever since then, I wanted to make something that someone else would enjoy."

While working on the project, Summerill learned he was the first student to research the career and hopes to expose more students to the possibilities of constructing guitars.

Mankiewicz said no student has failed to graduate due to their senior project, which she said helps prepare them for life after high school.

"Our biggest thing is self-awareness for their future plans," Mankiewicz said. "By doing this, they are being independent."