This is an excerpt of On Assignment, education writer Theresa Harrington's blog on Contra Costa County schools. Read more and post comments at IBABuzz.com/onassignment. Follow her at Twitter.com/tunedtotheresa or Facebook.com/TheresaHarringtonBANG.

June 13

After reading about group research projects presented by eighth-graders at Foothill Middle School in Walnut Creek, Northgate High parent Mark Hearn contacted me to spread the word about intensive senior projects presented each year by students at that Mt. Diablo district school.

Here is what he wrote in an e-mail:

"As a local parent of three kids all in the Mt. Diablo system, Valle Verde, Foothill and Northgate, I cannot begin to express how valuable and special the Northgate Senior project is. For the past 15 years (as I understand) Northgate seniors have been required in their second semester to participate in this event as part of their English class.

"Not only have all three of my kids participated but thousands of other students and yes, us parents get sucked into this amazing process. Each student is required to ask a question, and then over the course of the semester write a paper and develop a project around their question with a final conclusion. These range from how to raise awareness of human sex trafficking in young girls to why do doctors only want to medicate kids with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) versus using cognitive psychology.


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"I am proud that our son Kyle raised over $4,750 for the Agape International Mission, whose charter is to prevent, rescue, restore and re-integrate those affected by sex trafficking. He not only spoke at the local St. Matthew church, but also Walnut Creek Presbyterian, and was recognized at Industrial Light and Magic's (Lucas Films) recent screening of 'The Pink Room' -- an Emmy-nominated documentary about this horrific yet huge issue.

'Right in our own backyard on Monument Boulevard is one of the largest hubs in Northern California and California is one of the largest regions in the U.S.,' Kyle stated during his presentation to the congregation.

"I mention all of this because for the fourth year in a row I judged with other parents, businessmen and even (Walnut Creek) Councilman Bob Simmons to hear some great presentations and thought you might want to raise awareness of this great program."

More information about Agape International and The Pink Room is at agapewebsite.org.

I have previously written about Northgate senior Anna Waletzko, whose senior project was to put on a benefit concert to raise money for the Mt. Diablo Music Education Foundation. She and other music advocates spoke passionately to the school board about the need to reinstate elementary music, which was cut several years ago.

Based partially on this advocacy, the school board has decided to bring back instrumental music instruction in the fifth grade.

I also attended a benefit concert put on by another senior to raise money for The Eliminate Project, sponsored by Kiwanis International, to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus worldwide by providing vaccines. The sale of concert tickets and related merchandise raised $1,806.

"That ends up being a total of 1,000 mothers and their future children that we've saved," said the student, while the audience stood and cheered.

A Kiwanis rep said UNICEF started Project Eliminate in 2000, when 59 countries were facing epidemics of neonatal tetanus.

"A baby is dying every nine minutes from this dreaded disease," the rep said. "We don't hear about it in the United States."

He thanked the Northgate High community for helping to solve this global problem.

"Tonight, all of you who are here and bought a ticket saved three-and-a-half or four-and-a-half lives," he said. "And as a Kiwanian, I salute all of you."