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Seneca middle schoolers present purposeful projects

Danny Kearney, a Ryan Gloyer Middle School seventh-grader in the school's purpose program, displays his project, “Angling for the Future.” Submitted Photo

JACKSON TWP — When people think of state grants, small-business solutions, producing songs, and authors, they don’t normally think of middle school students.

At the beginning of each school year, sixth- and seventh-grade students in Ryan Gloyer Middle School’s purpose program must select a single project to work on all year. Each project is presented at year’s end.

The gym at RGMS on Thursday, May 9, was packed with 150 slightly nervous young teenagers who were practicing their presentations for Thursday night, when 500 family members would come to see and hear about the projects.

Ezekiel Stroupe, who teaches gifted students in seventh grade at RGMS, said the students have a 40-minute period per week throughout the school year, to work on the project with the goal of creating a human-centered design for the presentation.

Students also work on the projects on their own time.

“They are not only experts in the field they are studying, but there’s a whole layer of soft skills they’re learning,” Stroupe said.

Seventh-grader Danny Kearney created the project “Angling for the Future.”

The project saw Danny apply for and receive grants from Trout Unlimited and the Seneca Valley Foundation to the tune of $2,250.

“I learned you have to persuade the people you’re talking to,” Danny said of asking the organizations for the grants.

He enlisted his friends to help stock 300 fish into the Little Connoquenessing Creek, which runs through the Seneca Valley secondary campus, in two stocking sessions.

Danny said his friends got a mini ecology lesson while learning how to handle the fish before stocking them in the creek.

He also held fishing lessons, which were led by a Trout Unlimited guide who taught the students how to handle a fly rod. Danny, who has been fishing with his family since age 2, said 22 students signed up for lessons.

“I feel this (project) was a great choice, because it didn’t just affect me, but all the kids who were involved,” he said. “I think they will be impacted throughout their lives.”

Danny’s classmate, Mimi Skowronski, created the project “Giana’s Field of Dreams Football Camp.”

Mimi Skowronski, a seventh-grader in the Ryan Gloyer Middle School purpose program, presents her project, “Giana's Field of Dreams.” Submitted Photo

The upcoming camp, which will welcome youths with Down syndrome, will be held May 25 and 26 at NexTier Stadium on the Seneca Valley secondary campus.

Mimi explained that her older sister, Giana, was stillborn when her mother was seven months pregnant. Giana had Down syndrome.

“I played football for six years, so I though this would be a great way to connect my football and my sister,” Mimi said.

The Seneca Valley Raiders varsity football players will assist at the camp, which will be directed by Mimi.

She worked with Meredith Peterson, executive director of the Down Syndrome Association of Pittsburgh during her project, as the association has held similar events in the past.

“My mom has really helped a lot, and she thinks it’s really great,” Mimi said. “My brother, Jake, is on the (Raiders) varsity team, and he’s going to volunteer at the camp.”

Mimi is shooting for 25 campers age 14 and older. Interested footballers can sign up at

Megan Gates, an eighth-grader in the purpose program, formerly known as the gifted program, created a project called “Escape House.”

The project is made up of five miniature escape rooms that resemble dioramas.

The steps to navigate through the escape rooms are pinned to the side of the project.

“You use these clues and clues around the room to find the location of a key,” Megan explained. “It’s fully functional. You can play it.”

The bedroom contains an enigma, which is a cipher device used extensively by the Nazis during World War II to protect commercial, diplomatic and military communication.

The kitchen has a Caesar cipher and the entryway a vigenére cipher.

For her project, Monique Polas, a seventh grader, analyzed 50 colleges and universities in the region to determine which 10 would be the easiest to pay off regarding student debt.

She said if a graduate making the average wage spent every single dollar he or she made paying off the debt, they could pay Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 3.3 years.

“This is just a theoretical analysis,” Monique said.

She used the interface CollegeSimply, plus a formula and the average cost of living to come up with her top 10 schools.

Monique hopes to attend the University of Pennsylvania to study law after she graduates from Seneca Valley Senior High in a few years.

“It’s close to home and No. 4 on my list,” she said.

Ainsley Fabe, also a seventh-grader, completed the project “My Musical Journey.”

Ainsley wrote two original songs titled “Dear Santa” and “I Don’t Love You,” which she recorded in the school’s music studio.

Although she is not an instrumental musician, Ainsley used a keyboard and special software to create the songs’ backing tracks.

“I didn’t have to play the keyboard,” she explained. “It has buttons I could use.”

At her display, Ainsley provided a pair of headphones so those in attendance could listen to her songs.

In “Dear Santa,” Ainsley sings about the reasons she should be on the naughty list, but says Santa is aware she is really a good kid at heart.

“Is being bored really a crime?” she asks in her impressive singing voice.

The annual projects have been completed by middle school students at Seneca Valley for almost 20 years.

Monique Polas, a seventh-grader in the Ryan Gloyer Middle School purpose program, created the project “What is College Really Worth?” Submitted Photo
Ainsley Fabe, a Ryan Gloyer Middle School seventh-grader in the purpose program, created the project “My Musical Journey.” Submitted Photo
Megan Gates, an eighth-grader in the Ryan Gloyer Middle School purpose program, created “Escape House” for her project. Submitted Photo

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