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Annual Bruin Senior Projects Rite Of Passage
With Declaration or 'D Day' already past, Riverbank High seniors are picking up the pace to complete their research and hone their speeches describing both the theoretical paper and the practical exercise they will present to their judges on May 16.

Called Senior Projects, they cover a wide field ranging from something as simple as physical exercise classes and cake making to complicated subjects like post-traumatic stress disorder and teenage pregnancy.

Started in 2000 as a guide to future careers, they have now become an essential component to graduation and an introduction for students to the adult world where making presentations are a common part of most jobs.

"It requires students to move out of their comfort zone, do something extraordinary, think deeply and then explain themselves clearly and forcibly," said teacher Nancy Garcia, who is coordinating Senior Projects this year.

The process starts each time with D-Day when students declare their projects in front of their peers, moves onto composing a research paper of six to 10 pages, incorporates 15 to 30 hours spent on a practical project and finishes with the presentation made before judges drawn from the community.

The school is already recruiting judges. Volunteers are invited to contact Pam Miller at the school.

Giving a sampling of the wide variety of themes the Senior Projects embrace, students Adriana Rosales, Miguel Guzman and Megan Larson briefly explained the projects on which they were working.

Rosales has taken as her subject the prevention of teen pregnancy. Both a cousin at the age of 15 and a friend at 17 became pregnant, carried their babies to birth and are now in home schooling.

Rosales has talked to them of their experiences as teen mothers, visited medical offices with a mentor to learn more and given a verbal presentation at the Riverbank Teen Center. She has printed one brochure on the numerous practical methods of preventing conception ranging from condoms to spermicides and another pamphlet on how parents should talk to their children about the physical, social and emotional drawbacks of premature child bearing.

Rosales hopes to become a medical assistant or registered nurse after attending college.

Guzman, a varsity basketball player at RHS, is preparing a presentation on the basketball clinic he designed and gave for junior high students with the help of fellow cager Dan Mercado.

He recruited students during the Riverbank Youth League and held his clinic right after their Saturday morning games.

"I devised an obstacle course, tried to make it fun and held it in the new gym," he said. "In teaching younger kids, I discovered an instructor had to slow down, speak loudly and demonstrate things over and over again."

Guzman taught the Cardozo Middle School students various high school maneuvers and drills such as those called Duke, Oregon and Fresno .In his written paper, he stressed the importance of maintaining general health through good nutrition, adequate sleep and regular exercise.

Larson took interior decorating for her Senior Project .A friend recently moved and Larson had the opportunity of redecorating her bedroom.

"My friend is kind of sloppy and had stuff all over her room," she said. "I took before and after pictures to convince the judges I'd improved the room."

In her written paper, she commented on subjects like how colors affect the human brain. Researchers have found students learn better in red colored surroundings, she said, whereas blue brings out the creative side in people.

While Larson originally considered interior decorating as a future career, she is now inclining toward becoming an FBI agent. She plans on attending Sacramento State University because it has one of the best criminal justice programs.