Archive for Thursday, March 24, 2011

BHS seniors taking presidential longshot

March 24, 2011

For two Baldwin High School seniors, an idea quickly turned into an opportunity to bring President Barack Obama to speak at the high school commencement ceremony.

While a discussion about getting a commencement speaker arose during the government class seniors Alex Daffern and Ann Wallsmith attend, a counselor joked Obama should speak to the senior class. Daffern liked the idea and searched to see if this was a possibility.

One week later, Daffern and Wallsmith entered Baldwin in the Race to the Top Commencement Challenge, with Obama taking on the role of graduation speaker for the winning school. The two seniors made a video, with the help of a variety of students, explaining why Baldwin is a deserving choice. The video was shot, edited and submitted in one week, meeting the deadline, which was set for the end of February.

“I think that people understood that just having the president, whether or not they like him, would be a huge honor,” Wallsmith said. “It was easy to get people in and get them to cooperate, and it turned out really well.”

Daffern and Wallsmith worked for two to three hours a day during the week, before being told the deadline had been extended two weeks. The two seniors also wrote three essays and will need to submit statistics for the high school.

“We discussed ideas on Friday, I wrote the script over the weekend and then we filmed and edited and put it all together throughout the week,” Daffern said about making the video.

A committee will narrow the field to six schools in April, and then those schools will be included in a weeklong national vote. The three schools with the highest number of votes will move to the final round, where the winning school will be handpicked by Obama.

Wallsmith thinks this opportunity would be great for the Baldwin City community, and even if Baldwin isn’t selected, she would like to see future students attempt to win the challenge.

“If we don’t get it, if we were a catalyst, that would be just as cool,” Wallsmith said.

Daffern has not let the fact that she lives in a small town keep her from wanting to accomplish this goal.

“I think a lot of people, since they’re from a small town, they think that nobody will notice us, that what we do doesn’t mean a whole lot,” Daffern said, “and I’d love to prove them wrong and show them that it doesn’t matter where you’re from, you can accomplish anything.”

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