Steamboat Springs High School senior Morgan Cox sets up a shot during a photo shoot Friday as part of her senior project.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Steamboat Springs High School senior Morgan Cox sets up a shot during a photo shoot Friday as part of her senior project.

Senior projects put students’ passions, career interests on display

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Steamboat Springs High School senior Morgan Cox photographs Vanessa Hoff as part of her senior project.

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Steamboat Springs High School senior Andrew O'Leary-Brennan is restoring a '66 Ford Mustang coupe for his senior project.

If you go

What: Chandler Kim’s Art for Cancer

When: 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday, 3 to 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Library Hall at Bud Werner Memorial Library

If you go

What: Matthia Duryea’s “Welcome to Our World” Christmas cantata

When: 10:30 a.m. Sunday

Where: Concordia Lutheran Church, 755 Concordia Lane

— Steamboat Springs High School senior Chandler Kim lost her mother to cancer in September 2006.

Her senior project, an art show to display her paintings, is more than an opportunity to raise money for Northwest Colorado Aid and Support group, which assists people who can’t afford cancer treatment. Kim said painting helps her reach her “happy place.”

“When I’m sad, I can paint and forget about why I’m sad,” she said. “Or I can paint something that reminds me of my mom.”

Kim’s art show, featuring her acrylic and watercolor paintings, is from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday and 3 to 7 p.m. Friday at Library Hall at Bud Werner Memorial Library. Donations will be accepted, and some of Kim’s work will be for sale.

Julie Brownell, who teaches the senior project class — an elective with 12 students — said students work on their projects with a mentor of their choosing.

But she said the students are responsible for all aspects of putting together a portfolio and presentation, which includes a visual component and is given to a group of community members.

“I think it’s great preparation because it’s hands-on and they are truly learning to problem solve and manage their time,” Brownell said about the projects. “They’re learning all the soft skills that they’ll need going into work and college. It also teaches them how to be successful.”

Passion

Brownell said projects could reflect a passion, such as Andrew O’Leary-Brennan’s restoration of a 1966 Mustang coupe.

O’Leary-Brennan said he discovered his love for cars — old cars — after his godfather, Patrick Browning, took him to a hotrod show in Denver a couple of years ago.

“I was driving on (Routt) County Road 44, and I saw it sitting there with a ‘for sale’ sign on it,” he said. “I called the guy up and bought it for $2,900.”

O’Leary-Brennan said the car ran, but that wasn’t good enough for him. So far, he’s spent 70 hours working on the Mustang with help from Browning; his father, John Brennan; and The Industrial Company mechanic David Stone. He’s taken out the interior and cut out the floor and metal inside.

O’Leary-Brennan said the engine and transmission are fine. By the time he’s done, O’Leary-Brennan said, the Mustang will have new seats and upholstery, new fenders, and it will be painted midnight blue.

O’Leary-Brennan said he hopes restoring old cars will be a hobby for the rest of his life.

Senior Morgan Cox likes photography. But instead of just doing what she knows, Cox decided to step out of her comfort zone by studying two types of photography she wasn’t familiar with for her senior project.

This semester, she’s learning portrait photography. Cox hopes to get an action photography internship with a local photographer next semester. Cox said she realized she needed to learn different aspects of photography.

For the portrait photography portion of her project, Cox said, she’s learning composition, background and lighting by taking photos of people from age 4 to 50, indoors and outdoors. And she’s also learning about the business of photography from her mentor, Gerald Hardage, who has let Cox use his studio.

Cox, the daughter of photographer Kyle Kim, said her mom didn’t get her into photography. People tell her photography is in her blood. She’s not sure about that but may be changing her mind. She’s thinking about making photography her career.

“I definitely feel like I’ve grown,” she said. “I feel like I have the eye to take this somewhere.”

Career interest

Brownell said senior projects also can reflect a career interest, such as Matthia Duryea’s.

Duryea chose to direct a Christmas cantata, “Welcome to our World” at her church, Concordia Lutheran, as her senior project.

“Music is what I love to do more than anything else,” she said. “Next year, I’m hoping to go to Concordia University in Irvine (Calif.) to study (the field of) director of parish music. Because of my interest in that major, I wanted to try to direct something.”

She described the cantata as a musical without acting, put together with narration. She’s using the traditional Christmas story with newer, more contemporary songs.

Duryea said directing “Wel­come to our World,” which will be held at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at Concordia Lutheran Church, is a way for her to give back to the church for its support of her.

Senior Jake Supple is also hoping his senior project is the first step in his career.

He’s been working with Steve Boynton, who owns First String Music, to record his band’s first full-length original album, for free.

Supple said his band, Knock on Wood, went into the studio one day with about $90. An hour of recording costs $60, he said. Supple said Boynton liked the band’s acoustic, alternative style, with a reggae influence, so much that he cut them a deal.

Knock on Wood has recorded some singles but not in a studio the caliber of Boynton’s — Supple said it’s new and has “killer sound.” Supple said he’s excited, and getting the album done is all he thinks about.

Supple wants to attend college to study music. But he won’t be behind the scenes. He wants to be a performer.

“It’s just a big rush,” he said. “Getting a positive response out of the crowd is like the best feeling in the world.”

Brownell said many students are taking their projects past what’s required for class.

Kim, for instance, is teaching an art class and mentoring Steamboat Springs Middle School students who’ve also lost family members to cancer.

Kim said painting allows her to express her creativity, which she hopes to talk to people about during the show. But she said it’s also therapeutic. She hopes maybe it will help others.

“It’s been really beneficial for me at a young age to see people happy who’ve lost” family, she said.

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