Capstone Presentation Day - The Crowning Achievement

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Just one day short of a month before graduation, Newark High School seniors achieved an important milestone May 24th when they made their Digital Media presentations for their NHS Capstone Project requirements to graduate.

My favorite part of the day is seeing how proud the students are after they are done. Public speaking is difficult; allowing yourself to be vulnerable is difficult. The pride they have after they walk out of the room with their cap and gown makes me tear up. I just love watching them realize that they can do hard things” said Capstone Coordinator Katie Ganter, who also teaches English, Marketing and Publications and is the NHS Yearbook advisor.

Capstone Day continues to be my favorite day of the school year,” said Capstone Co-Coordinator Danielle Ohlson who teaches English and Multicultural Studies. “ It encapsulates the essence of authentic teaching and learning. It's all about growth, collaboration, self-reflection, process, curiosity, joy, community, and celebration. We center the students on this day and allow them to let their individuality and brilliance shine. Days like today remind me of why I became an educator.”

The Capstone Project is made up of several required components and the Class of 2023 was the seventh class to be required to successfully complete all of them to graduate including:

• Healthy choice journal entries about involvement in various extra-curricular activities and about things they learned in health classes or three-page essay

• A three-to-four-page research paper in 10th grade espousing both sides of an argument and a conclusion.

• A five-to-six-page senior research paper.

• And finally, presenting their Digital Media Presentation in front of a 4 or 5-person NHS or Newark Middle School faculty panel.

The 8-12-minute presentations on a smart board typically included pictures of the student; a favorite quote reflective of their personality; insights about their high school experience; an explanation of and findings of their 12th grade research paper; sharing about something they are proud of and discussion about their future plans.

After the presentations May 24th, members of the panel asked questions of students before evaluating their presentation, based on a rubric, in private. Students received one of the following scores:


-Pass with distinction which means they have above and beyond the requirements and delivered an outstanding presentation.

-Revisions required

After a few minutes, the presenting student was called back into the classroom and informed by panelists if they had passed. If so, they were also given the caps and gowns they will wear at graduation June 23rd. Presentations were made by 129 NHS students during several 30-minute sessions in classrooms throughout the high school.

After their presentations, Newark Central School District Workforce Coordinator Debora Barry, who provides support for the Capstone program, provided students with pizza and cake.

This is the second year Ohlson has worked as a co-coordinator with Ganter.

As coordinators, we help students with finding community service opportunities and tracking their hours from 9th - 12th grade,” Ganter said. “We also review the Healthy Choices assignment and track that with the help of our Health Teacher Karen Cline. We oversee the requirements for the senior paper and we plan and execute Capstone Presentation Day. The English Department at NHS is instrumental in ensuring that our students complete a senior paper and a Capstone Presentation.

Two seniors, who were among 57 receiving glowing reviews from faculty panelists and passed their presentations with distinction, were Noah Garland and Jocelyn Hinks.

•Garland will attend SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music in the fall and major in Music Education.

I chose Music Education as my major because of all the fun I had with my music teachers at Newark high school. It made me want to pass that down to kids who share the same love for music. That is why I am so happy I went to Newark. Thank you, Mr. Humphrey and Mrs. Flock,” he said.

Garland did his senior research paper on “Music Therapy and Its Benefits.” The artifacts he had with him were his Boy Scout merit badge and Order of the Arrow sashes and his French horn.

• Hinks will attend Ithaca College in the fall and will major in Theater Production and Design.

“The Newark Drama Club introduced me to the possibility of costume design as a career. Through the Club's support I decided on Ithaca College to get my BFA in Theater Production and Design with a concentration in Costume Design,” she said.

Hinks did her senior research paper on “Saving the Arts.” The artifact she had with her was the elegant dress she made for the recent Junior-Senior Prom.

The Senior Artifact component gave students the chance to show off something they are proud of from the past four years of high school,” Ganter said. “Often it is participation in some kind of sport or other extracurricular activity. This year we really saw students push the envelope with their artifacts. For the first time ever, we had a student bring a horse onto campus for her artifact. We also had students share self-made music videos, crochet work, a homemade prom dress, sectional trophies, culinary creations such as vanilla buttercream cupcakes and musical instruments.”

After the event, NHS Principal Kelly A. Zielke said she was very pleased with the outcome.

I was thrilled to be able to sit in on some of the Capstone presentations. To see students who have worked so hard and grown so much, proudly and confidently present in front of a panel of adults was just amazing. Students were vulnerable and honest about their high school experiences with lessons learned, thoughtful and passionate about their research paper and excited to share their future plans. I was so happy to see our seniors who have accomplished so much walk out of the rooms with their caps and gowns today. I am so proud to be a part of this community of students!”

Lastly, Superintendent Susan Hasenauer, who enjoyed participating with some other faculty panelists in evaluating some of the seniors Digital Media Presentations May 24th, commended all the participants on their accomplishments.

“The Capstone Presentations were so much more than a student sharing their journey, it was an opportunity for them to affirm who they are and showcase the confidence they have developed throughout the years. Each presentation was unique, defined by personal interests, individualism and creative flair. This is a true opportunity for seniors to not only demonstrate their knowledge and skills in a culminating project, but to also send a message of who they are as they move toward the next chapter of their lives.”