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RHS Senior Projects Students Display Talents
Wearing an American Indian dance costume she made herself, Riverbank High senior Josi Appling talked about her family's origins and native American cultures; pianist Will Perkins described the evolution of jazz and the benefit concert he staged for a four-year-old friend who suffers from a rare, regressive disorder and Air Force Academy-bound Ben Hodges displayed a model airplane he flew during his research into unmanned surveillance and attack aircraft like the drones used in Afghanistan.

Riverbank High students once again demonstrated the variety and depth of their intellectual and practical interests on May 18 as they presented their senior project before judges drawn from community volunteers. As the last part of their graduation requirements, all seniors each year must complete a written report involving research and carry out a physical project requiring contact with the community.

Being part Cherokee, Appling plans to organize a pow wow at Cardozo Middle School in mid-June to honor her uncle Rick Meyers and the late Charlie Johnson. She and family members will demonstrate American Indian dances including the "jingle" dance for which her grandfather J.J. Meyers fashioned the metal bells or "jingles" on her skirt. They will also perform the "women's northern traditional dance" which teaches the do's and don'ts of life and is so slow and rhythmic the women hardly seem to move, she said.

Perkins was judged the best of four students competing for an "Excellence in Senior Project Scholarship" and awarded the $500 scholarship donated by the local Community Trust Credit Union. He is an expert in playing a form of jazz called "ragtime," raised $7,000 toward Bryce Clayton's medical expenses with a piano concert at a Modesto church during February and plans another benefit performance next month.

Other students competing for the scholarship included Amanda Cagle who wrote her research project on women and breast cancer and for a physical project assisted in the recent Riverbank Relay For Life at the RHS stadium. Eliseo Raya Hernandez looked into requirements for running a successful business practice and helped at the local library in preparing tax return forms for senior citizens. Ashley Tristao studied the treatment of cancer among children, became a Locks of Love volunteer and held a workshop at the Scout Hall for people to have their hair cut and donate their locks to make wigs for those who become bald during cancer treatment.

Due to enter the Air Force this fall, Hodges researched the history of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and built radio-controlled model airplanes as a practical experiment.

UAVs date back to the Civil War when soldiers sent up cameras attached to kites and jerked a string to operate the shutter, he said. By World War II, officers were using electrically powered "drones" for surveillance of the battlefield. Now in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. unmanned aircraft have been armed with rockets to destroy enemy bases and personnel on radio command them from distant bases.

The miniature planes, bearing names like Predator and Global Hawk, are relatively inexpensive to build, he said. Their costs lies in the sophisticated guidance, surveillance equipment and weapons they carry.

Among other presentations before the judges, Miguel Cebreros discussed becoming a diesel engine technician - he has been taking classes in fuel systems and heavy equipment at Modesto Junior College.

Laura Lares had the judges sample a cake she made herself. It was a yellow cake with white frosting, chocolate swirls and a strawberry on top. All her family cooks well, she said, and she would like to become a culinary arts teacher.

Katie Ayers in her project compared cow and goat milk and donated a round of goat cheese to the judges. Cow milk has a higher fat content, she said, but newborn babies or adults who have digestive problems can assimilate goat milk better. She is a member of Future Farmers of America, keeps both cows and goats on her family's ranch and plans to study agriculture at MJC.