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wingspan • june 11, 2010

Live and Learn

Seniors complete unique activities as component of graduation project

Thai orphans receive portraits of themselves


Diane Gromelski Staff Writer

oke rose from his seat and proudly walked forward, smiling at the thunderous applause he received as his name was called. He was handed a piece of canvas and stared in wonder at the portrait that reflected his features. Foke, a young orphan from Thailand, had just received a portrait painted for him by an American teenager. Senior Bethany Humberg painted portraits of four Thai orphans for her graduation project. She is just one of 25,000 high school art students that have participated in a service organization called The Memory Project. Created in 2004, it presents orphaned and underprivileged children worldwide with portraits of themselves. Thailand is a country in Southeast Asia with widespread poverty and child neglect. Many orphans are left with nothing tangible to help them remember their childhood. Humberg’s aspirations to become an art teacher prompted her to explore service projects that incorporated art. “In order to major in art in college, I knew that I would need to have as much experience as possible because I’ve never taken an art class at West,” Humberg said. “I needed to do things that I could put on

my resume, and I thought it would be a good idea to take lessons.” The graduation project was Humberg’s first experience with painting portraits. She had only painted murals and watercolors before the project she completed in her English IV class. “The only experience I’d had was just doing art on my own, like watercolors and wall murals in different places, mostly children’s buildings and churches,” Humberg said. “I’d never done anything with portrait painting.” Betsy Hendrix, Humberg’s mentor, helped her with the portraits by teaching her techniques and providing an example of how a professional artist works. “My mentor was an art major at North Greenville University. She showed me portrait paintings that she has done, and she told me about the different facial proportions that most people have,” Humberg said. “She also painted with me while I was painting; that helped a lot because I could see what she was doing and make sure I was doing the same things.” Humberg painted the portraits with acrylic paints on 8 x 12 canvases. She said that it was helpful to sketch out a portrait first and then paint over it. “The first thing you do is lightly

sketch it out; you don’t draw everything because you’re going to paint over it, but you get the idea of what the portrait is going to look like. That helps when you’re painting,” Humberg said. “Then you paint over it with just one color, slowly adding in other colors and blending them.” Humberg, new to the world of portrait painting, initially doubted her abilities. However, she became more confident over the course of her project. “Starting off was the hardest because I was always worried that my portrait didn’t actually look like a person, and that made me timid to paint,” Humberg said. “By the end, it looked like a person, but the whole process I thought ‘This is really bad; this doesn’t look real.’ I discovered that I need to be confident.” The most gratifying part of the project for Humberg was hearing back from the Thai children. She received pictures of them holding their portraits. “The rewarding part was definitely getting pictures of the kids with the portraits back because they’re all smiling, and I got to hear the story of the party where they got the portraits,” Humberg said. “That was rewarding to know that

A Thai orphan (above) holds up the portrait of herself painted by senior Bethany Humberg. Humberg (left) shows off her finished portraits of four Thai orphans for her graduation project.

Memorial created in honor of student


Rachel Shoemaker Staff Writer

blivious to the devastating news to come, senior Jack Stewart packed for a week at D.A.R.E. Camp where he would be working as a counselor. That night, he received the shocking news that freshman Jordan Hodges, senior J.J. Jarvis and junior Jarrett Carland had been in a serious car accident. Hodges did not survive. “It tore me up. I had seen her the day before, and I went fishing with J.J. the day before,” Stewart said. “I didn’t leave D.A.R.E. Camp because I figured I couldn’t do anything. The kids at Dare Camp helped keep my mind off it, but as soon as I left, I went over to their (the Hodges’) house.” When school began, Stewart worked to turn Hodges’ death into something meaningful through his graduation project. He welded a memorial that he dedicated to Hodges. “It ended up being 3 x 5 feet, and it took me 72 hours. I was working every day, trying to get something done,” Stewart said. “The wings themselves took 26 hours.” According to Stewart, the wings on the memorial are sheet metal and took 26 hours to make as a result of the intricate detailing involved. Each little mark on the wings was created using a hammering technique. “It was hard. My mentor (Brian Barnwell) would help me get started,” Stewart said, “but we had to take a hammer and hit them (the wings) probably 2,000 times, so he said, ‘I’m not doing it, you can.’” Stewart was originally planning to do a graduation project on the banjo, but he had already learned how to play the previous year. He even-

tually picked up welding, and after giving it a lot of thought, decided to dedicate a memorial to Hodges. “It took me a couple of weeks to figure out what I wanted to do because every time I thought about doing the memorial, it hit me hard,” Stewart said. “I didn’t know if I could go through with it or not.” As a result of Stewart’s hard work, his final project grade was 100. According to Stewart, he was not nervous about his presentation because he knew a lot about his project. “Most kids do their 15 hours and they’re done with it. But after 72 hours you learn a lot, so I wasn’t really nervous,” Stewart said. “Halfway through the presentation, I started breaking down a little bit trying to talk about her (Hodges). I took an 8 x 10 photo of her in; I said, ‘This is who I did it for’ and that broke me down a little bit.” English teacher Jason Rhodes watched Stewart’s project evolve. Rhodes said he was proud of Stewart’s determination and accomplishment. “Jack worked really hard. I saw his project in pictures, and I was impressed, but it did not have the impact it had on me as when I saw it in person,” Rhodes said. “It was beautiful, and he embraced the project like few I have ever seen.” Hodges’ parents did not know about Stewart’s projects during the 72 hours he worked on the memorial. According to Stewart, he presented the final product to the parents on the night of his presentation at West. “It’s in her living room, and when you walk in the door, you see it,” Stewart said. “Her mom put it in front of a big window so every morning when the sun comes up it shines right through it; it’s a reminder that she is in heaven.”

Senior Jack Stewart (above) stands with his finished memorial dedicated to Jordan Hodges. Stewart did metal welding for his project. A close-up of the dedication to Hodges (left).

Senior Morgan Lancaster (above) performs her free fall skydive as part of her graduation project. She jumped with an instructor on either side. Lancaster (right) jumped with a company called Skydive Carolina in Chester, S.C.

Senior skydives as graduation project


Marissa Treible Staff Writer

housands of feet in the air, senior Morgan Lancaster prepared for the most daring moment of her life. Trying to remember all the right procedures, she had no time to change her mind. Hours of training had led up to this moment. With an instructor on either side of her, she jumped out of the airplane and into the clouds. “Your mind goes blank; you can’t think of anything else,” Lancaster said. “You’re so nervous and you’re just trying to remember all the things you’re supposed to do.” Brenda Gorsuch, Lancaster’s English teacher, said she was somewhat apprehensive about Lancaster’s choice for her graduation project. However, Lancaster remained insistent on skydiving. “I was a little nervous when Morgan told me what she wanted to do for her project, but she was very adamant,” Gorsuch said. “When my English class watched the video of her jump, we all cheered.” Lancaster, who has always wanted to try skydiving, said that some people discouraged the idea. Her family told her it was too risky. “My grandmother and parents thought it was too dangerous and couldn’t believe I was doing it,” Lancaster said. “But the actual sport is safe if you have plenty of training.” Although skydiving is often viewed as dangerous and risky, in reality the sport is relatively safe. According to, most skydiving accidents are not caused by faulty equipment, but by failure to follow basic procedures. Safety in skydiving is generally determined by the person who is jumping. Lancaster’s mentor was David Todd, who is a certified skydiving instructor. Lancaster received most of her training during the hours spent with Todd.

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“The first few hours were just learning the basics and learning the different processes you go through,” Lancaster said. “Then I was taught how to pack a parachute. It’s good to know exactly what your parachute is supposed to do and how it’s supposed to look.” Lancaster jumped with a group called Skydive Carolina. The group has sites in Chester, S.C. and Asheville. “I went to Skydive Carolina in Chester, S.C. It has different sites, and pretty much the same skydivers go there every weekend,” Lancaster said. “It’s kind of like a big family. They all know each other and do different jumps together.” For their first jump, most people do a tandem jump, which is when the first-time jumper is strapped to an instructor. However, Lancaster decided against it. “I didn’t do the tandem jump where you’re strapped to someone. I jumped with someone on my right and someone on my left and did a free fall,” Lancaster said. “Once it’s time to pull your chute, they let go. I was in free fall for about 55 seconds.” Lancaster said that the free fall was the scariest part of the entire jump. However, she also said it was the most exciting part of the whole experience. “It just feels like you’re floating with a lot of air pressure coming at your body. It’s scary the whole time,” Lancaster said. “I couldn’t hear anything, but I imagine that I was probably screaming.” Lancaster said that she would definitely go skydiving again. She also said it was something she wanted to do before she died. “You always hear about it being on people’s ‘bucket list’ because they want to try it before they die. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Lancaster said. “There’s no other experience you can compare to it.”

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(828) 890-3507 Email: Website: Diane Gromelski Staff Writer Marissa Treible Staff Writer Go Falcon Basketball! win...


(828) 890-3507 Email: Website: Diane Gromelski Staff Writer Marissa Treible Staff Writer Go Falcon Basketball! win...