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School Notes: Students From Grantham, Sunapee and Lebanon High Recognized For Service Projects

Grantham Village School’s long run of success in a series of imaginative challenges continued this year, as a pair of teams qualified for the global finals of Destination Imagination.

Five teams of Grantham students, and a sixth from Lebanon High School, advanced to the state finals. Of those, one of the Grantham teams and the Lebanon High team earned the right to represent New Hampshire at the global contest in Knoxville, Tenn. A team from Sunapee Central School also won at the state finals and plans to go to Knoxville next month.

In Vermont, relatively few area schools compete in what participants call DI, but Randolph Elementary School qualified two teams for the global finals.

The Grantham Village School team that won at the state finals consists of students Thomas Belk, Alex Felix, Sam Hanks, Logan Sanchez, Ryan Tanski and Max Workman, all 11, and is managed by parents Laurie Hanks and Wendy Sanchez.

Destination Imagination is a creativity contest that breaks down into challenges — technical, scientific, fine arts, improvisational, structural and service learning. Adult team managers are there only to guide the participating kids, not to coach or instruct them.

The Grantham Village School team won the improvisational challenge, which required them to create an original, five-minute skit with randomly selected characters and in response to a particular “pandemonium,” a social disruption on the order of the disappearance of all cars or cellphones.

“I’m really proud of our kids,” said Susanne Tanski, a parent. The students have been practicing their improvisational, communication and teamwork skills since the fall, and many of them have been in the program for several years.

This year’s results continues a long run of DI success for Grantham students. The school’s five teams at the state finals were exceeded only by schools in Bedford and Bow, which are much larger.

Last year, a team of students from Lebanon High School, all but one of them graduates of Grantham Village School, brought home first prize from the global finals after making it to the finals the previous four years. This year, that same team, with one new member, won the state competition in its category, service learning, but isn’t planning to go to Knoxville.

The high school team had in the past been focused on the improv challenge, but after last year’s win decided to take on a service learning project. With funding from the Upper Valley Rotary Club and training from counselors at West Central Behavioral Health, the team ran the state’s first youth Mental Health First Aid program. That entailed developing a screening process for teens who could become Mental Health First Aid counselors who could talk to peers in a nonjudgmental way and refer them to professional counseling. In February, the team partnered with West Central to train and certify 20 Upper Valley teens, who now have a three-year certification to aid schoolmates.

For this, the team won not only a state title but the Torchbearer Award, which “honors teams and/or individuals whose solutions have had extraordinary impact in and beyond their local communities,” the award citation says. “This project was so remarkable that not only did they screen and then train peers, but they also created a model for the process that could be used in the future.”

The Sunapee Central School team also won a special award in addition to finishing first in the service learning category.

“This elementary team wowed us with their elegant simplicity,” the judges wrote in conferring a DaVinci Award for outstanding creativity. “With a performance filled with baseball puns, they delivered their project pitch at a level beyond what we would expect from an elementary team. It included a homemade live action camera.”

“It was really exciting,” said Lesley Scheele, a fifth-grade teacher at Sunapee Central who co-manages the DI team with colleague Danielle King. “We knew they had done a really good job.”

The Sunapee students, Meredith Blewitt, Jonah Flint, Saylor Garland, Lilliana Gurney, Emma McNally, Molly Reed and Jackson Scheele, who are in grades three through five, crafted a public service project to benefit two local food shelves. They were concerned about children who might be going hungry, Lesley Scheele said. They came up with a program to give out reusable bags in exchange for a commitment to give to the food shelves. They collected more than 2,000 food items and $500 for food purchases. The team is raising money to go to Knoxville, but has pledged to give half of what it raises to the food shelves, Scheele said.

The trip to the global finals isn’t cheap. The Grantham Village School team is trying to raise $9,600 and is hoping to sell flowers, coffee and snacks at the Five Colleges Book Sale this weekend.

New Leadership

Hanover resident Suzanne Cronkite was elected earlier this month to the board of directors of the Stern Center for Language and Learning, a nonprofit learning center with locations in West Lebanon and Williston, Vt. Cronkite is co-founder of Cronkite Metals, a manufacturer’s representative for the steel industry. Also named to the board was Chris Economou, a financial advisor for Morgan Stanley, the investment bank. He lives in Colchester, Vt.

Scholarship Help

The Upper Valley Music Center has established the Edward Doughtie Viola Fellowship in honor of Edward Doughtie, who died March 26. The fellowship was started by an anonymous donation and further donations in his name can be made to UVMC. The fellowship, a $1,000 tuition credit at the music center, will be awarded anually to a student who demonstrates commitment to studying the viola. Candidates may apply or be nominated by a UVMC faculty member, and applications and nominations are due by Aug. 1.

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