On Dec. 13, 15 students gathered at Richmond Early College High School to showcase their graduation projects. This marked the second year the students have done a graduation project.
For the projects, students were divided into separate rooms where they explained their research and product to members of the community and area schools. Afterward, they were required to answer any questions panel members had in regard to their research. Students explored a topic of their choice through personal study and sometimes internships or other field studies.
Brooke Walker, a graduating senior at the Early College, spoke to her panel about vegetarianism. The topic came to her, she said, out of a lifelong interest and curiosity.
“There are three astronomical reasons why you should be a vegetarian or at least consider Meatless Mondays,” Walker said. “The first is that it’s better for your wallet … second is that it’s better for animals … and finally because it’s better for yourself.”
As part of her study, Walker said she and her mother decided to live the lifestyle of a vegetarian during the month of October. The study involved researching meals that were plentiful in protein and keeping a vegetarian food journal.
“Everything was going good until the Wendy’s chicken sandwich cravings started,” Walker said during the presentation. Eventually, she discovered alternatives such as vegetarian bacon and tofu to supplement her diet.
Walker added that she could not have pulled through without the help and support of her mentor, a vegetarian for more than 16 years.
“For a few days I was very tired … ,” she said. “(My mom and I are) both now semi-vegetarians because of how the month inspired us.”
Walker told the panel she learned a lot about vegetarian diets — that they didn’t just consist of salads, but were successful through proper nutrition.
“My advice to you,” Walker said, “would be to take a step back from the baby back ribs and consider at least one vegetarian meal … you might just like it.”
After graduation, Walker said she planned to study pre-biology at UNC Charlotte.
Just across the hall at the Early College campus, senior Jesse Laney addressed his own panel about the process of blood donations.
Laney started by displaying two vials of blood to the judges, claiming that one vial contained blood that was entirely safe for donation and one in which HIV was present.
“Many people require blood transfusions,” he said, “and need to know that the blood is safe.”
Laney explained that there are a series of safety precautions taken by phlebotomists to determine whether or not donated blood could harm others.
As part of his research, Laney volunteered with phlebotomists and observed the process of giving blood at several different locations through the American Red Cross.
He explained that there are generally four different areas within a donation center — and that his involvement was predominantly at sign-in and refreshment areas where patients went before starting and finishing the donation process.
“While I was volunteering, I witnessed two types of donations,” Laney said. He then described the differences between Whole Blood donations and Double Red Cell donations, in which red blood cells are collected, but plasma and platelets are returned to the donor.
Laney told the panel he got the opportunity to volunteer at five different blood drives during his research.
“It was a way for me to plan for something I want to continue doing in the future,” he said.
Following the panel sessions, Laney and Walker, along with 13 others, displayed tri-fold project boards in the school’s cafeteria, allowing visitors the opportunity to explore the hard work and dedication that each student put into their final memory of senior year.
At a recent reception, Early College Principal Michael Chapman and Superintendent George Norris expressed their pride in the students’ achievements.