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Herriman Journal

Enhanced diploma projects enhance lives

Jun 04, 2024 10:02AM ● By Jet Burnham

Adelyn Gilham (left) and Savanna Wassom (right) created a Little Library at Foothills Elementary school to encourage students to explore new books and develop a love for reading. (Photo courtesy Adelyn Gilham)

High school graduates left their graduation ceremonies inspired to make the world a better place, but at Mountain Ridge High School, 83 graduates had already begun by completing 155 self-improvement and service projects in their community.

The projects were one of the requirements to earn an enhanced diploma and the privilege to wear a special honor cord at graduation. Additional requirements were taking a certain number of classes in one of 19 areas of study and maintaining a minimum grade point average.

 “It’s a great way to get out in the world and learn something new, as well as create something that you’re proud of,” Adelyn Gilham said. She completed projects for both English and social science by hosting a podcast to educate local teens about mental health, scholarship opportunities, civic engagement and dating/relationships, and also organizing a book drive to create a Little Library book exchange at Foothills Elementary School.

Gilham said the projects look good on a resume or scholarship applications, but they were also valuable opportunities to develop new skills and focus on topics she cares about.

“I love that it’s an open-ended project because I was able to think of something creative that matters,” she said.

MRHS’s Enhanced Diploma Coordinator Shauna Robertson was impressed by the meaningful projects students developed this year.

 “I’ve been impressed by how Addy’s projects are community-focused to make a broader impact,” she said.

Robertson said students let their personal strengths and extracurricular interests guide their projects, which is why many complete more than one.

Because of his interest in math, science, marketing and biking, Alex Lords was one of six students who completed four enhanced diploma projects. He tutored his peers in math and science, organized a 100-mile bike ride and competed at a DECA business club competition.

“The point of the program is just to kind of enrich your high school experience,” Lords said. “I figured why not try and do all I can to prepare for my future. So anything I see that I’m like, yeah, I can do that, and that’ll help me stand out, I feel like it’s good for me to do. So that’s what I’ve been trying to do.”

Lords said if it were not for the enhanced diploma requirements, he wouldn’t have taken an entrepreneurial marketing class his senior year or elected to develop a business plan for an optional competition project. He said those experiences have created a unique option for him to pay for his college degree in astrophysics.

 “I’m thinking about maybe potentially starting an actual business, which wouldn’t be something I would have considered without this project,” Lords said. 

For Erik Savage, earning an enhanced diploma just made sense. He had already taken the required courses to earn honor cords, so he completed the 20-hour projects to bump them up to enhanced diplomas and be rewarded for the hard work he’d put into advanced courses over the past few years.

Savage said he gained a deeper understanding of his skills and interests while working on his projects in math, science and especially athletics, for which he volunteered as a personal trainer and taught some friends how to fish.

“I found out that sharing a skill that I have is fun,” he said. “I get to see the excitement of the people I helped catch their first fish/species of fish.” λ

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