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Students examine AIDS, genocide in state projects

By Carolina Astrain
April 22, 2014 at 9 p.m.
Updated April 22, 2014 at 11:23 p.m.

Skylar Jones, 14, poses with the poster from her Texas Performance Standards Project about genocide in North Korea, which won first place in the ninth grade in  district this year. The Victoria East High School freshman wanted the project to raise awareness of the issue. "I figured that if I didn't know about it, other people wouldn't," she said about choosing her topic for the project.

Step into the garage at Skylar Jones' home, and you will find what she refers to as her "TPSP graveyard."

"This is my third year to win first place," Skylar, 14, said. "I really enjoy doing them; sometimes, I feel like I'm the only one."

The Victoria East High School freshman was one of 42 Texas Performance Standard Project entries that placed in the top three of the 176 projects submitted from Victoria school district campuses.

Texas Performance Standard Project entries were a part of the graduation requirements for the Distinguished Achievement Program, but under the new graduation guidelines set by the state, they will only be required for students in the Gifted and Talented program, said Meredith Hairell, Victoria school district advanced academics coordinator.

"VISD students will still participate in the projects because it is required by law," Hairell said. "We have it included as part of our independent study courses or Advanced Academic Skills course."

The projects entail developing an abstract summary of the project and its components and eventually a public presentation with a question-and-answer session at the end.

Skylar's project, "Beyond the 38th Parallel: The Reality of Genocide in North Korea," won first place in her grade level.

"I've always been a history buff, and that was the only genocide I was interested in," Skylar said. "I didn't know that all of the killing there was intentional and that they were actually killing other people because of their beliefs."

Skylar worked on her project for half of the school year and through the process fanned her love for video editing.

"I really love video editing, which is why I did a documentary," Skylar said.

Victoria West High School senior Kate Klimist also produced a video for her first-place entry, "It Could Be You."

"I'm an extremely hands-on and visual person," Kate, 18, said. "For this, I wanted people to not only see but also jump into the issue."

Kate, who played the role of Belle in last year's "Beauty and Beast" production, recruited student actors to create a vignette of people with AIDS.

"I just kept getting 'wows' from everybody that saw it," Kate said. "I wanted it to be sort of similar to the movie 'Rent,' which I love."

Hairell said she hopes to see more students attend the program's showcase next year to gain some inspiration from other projects.

"The main goal is to provide students with the opportunity to engage in independent research in an area about which they are passionate," Hairell said. "It's authentic engagement with something they actually care about."

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