Class of 2015 Completes Senior Projects

Done with college applications and the stresses of the fall semester, seniors have enjoyed less classes and work this winter and spring. Many capitalized on this free time to try something new and embark on a project, whether it be music, literature, or art, that challenges them in non-academic setting to accomplish one more great feat before graduation. Here are three great senior projects completed by members of the Class of 2015.

This Time Tomorrow – A novel by Mack Rush

Mack Rush doubts that he ever picked up a book before senior year. Now, he’s an author.

For an independant study, Mack set his sights on writing a full length novel to be completed before he graduates from Belmont Hill. He explained how Mr. Leo’s non-fiction writing class inspired him to pick up the pen, saying: “It’s kind of funny that nonfiction writing led me to literary fiction, but writing is writing.” The class read a memoir from Stephen King, “He said, ‘to be a good writer, you have to read a lot and write a lot,’ so I followed that advice”. Mack dove into the writing of Ernest Hemingway, reading most of the author’s works. After finishing To Have and Have Not, Mack decided to write his own story. “I set it down and said to myself ‘I could do that’. And I did it.”

This Time Tomorrow centers on a Jimmy Leary, a charter fisherman in his late 20’s  living on the Florida Gulf Coast. Two simultaneous plots create the storyline – one focuses on a moral tug-of-war in the Leary family between Jimmy and his brother, Mike; the other, more personal, deals with Jimmy in an early mid-life crisis state, as he deals with his high-achieving parents’ disappointment in his simple life. “The concept of the novel was based on my love of traveling, and events that have happened in my family,” says Rush. “It deals with dynamics in relationships, and debates on whether being neutral in a situation is good or bad. You have to take sides and not be neutral.”

The novel clocks in at eighty-thousand words (roughly the length of The Catcher in the Rye), a worthy outcome of a year’s hard work for Rush.

As he finishes his fifth draft, Mack is taking a break from the writing, letting others read his work as he waits for reviews and feedback. He is currently sitting on the idea of publishing the completed story.

Mack was awarded the Willey Sextant Prize for Creative Writing on Prize Day, and plans to continue his love of writing at college.

Charlie Blank

At Belmont Hill, Charlie Blank has thrived on the football field and baseball diamond. Now, he has the opportunity to write about his favorite sports with ESPN NFL Insider and Belmont Hill alumnus, Field Yates. Blank first contacted Yates over Twitter in January to chat about football and Belmont Hill. After the conversation turned to writing, Blank mentioned that he was interested in sports journalism; Yates was enthusiastic to help Blank on his project. Charlie’s work has featured all of the major Boston sports teams, and he writes an article or two every month, emailing them to Yates for edits and feedback. Although he does not have any current plans to have them published, Charlie has enjoyed writing and learning about the business of sports journalism. He has taken a special interest in covering the national championship-winning basketball team of Duke University. “I most liked writing about Duke basketball, as I feel like I genuinely know a lot about the team and college basketball as a whole,” he says.

For Charlie, this six-month project is hopefully just the beginning. “This is a dream job,” he says. “Being able to fly to all sorts of places and meet a lot of people, watching sports and writing about it for a living would be amazing.”

Alex Santangelo and Quillen Bradlee

For years, Alex Santangelo and Quillen Bradlee have played lacrosse with metal sticks. This fall, they decided to make their own. These two seniors had the opportunity to handcraft traditional Iroquois-style lacrosse sticks under the guidance of Alf Jacques, whom many consider to be the last great stickmaker in the world. “I’ve always wanted to carve my own stick,” says Alex.

A member of the Onondaga Nation, part of the Iroquois Confederacy, Jacques is the latest in a long line of legendary stickmakers in his family. Bestowed with the honorary title of Stick Maker in the Iroquois, his work is world-renowned. Jacques was appointed to carve sticks for the Iroquois National Team for last summer’s World Lacrosse Championship. Masses of buyers seek out his work every year, and view the year-long waiting list a wait worth the handcrafted stick.

The boys received contact info from an alum who completed the same project several years ago, and called up Jacques asking for assistance. Quillen says that Jacques was extremely helpful over the phone, inviting the two to come to his workshop on the Onondaga Reservation, just outside of Syracuse, NY. On a Saturday afternoon in February, Alex and Quillen drove west to the university, attending the Duke-Syracuse basketball game at the Carrier Dome that night. They spent the entirety of the next day at Jacques’ workshop, which was inherited from his father. The boys picked out their own blocks of ash, and studied how to properly sculpt the wood. The two have spent the last few months carving in the Belmont Hill woodshop with Mr. Kaplan, occasionally calling Jacques for questions and help. The precise and laborious work involved cutting, steaming, bending, fashioning a wooden block into a lacrosse stick.

“This was the hardest thing I have done at Belmont Hill,” remarks Alex. “What takes him a day to do took us four months.”

The two put the finishing touches on their sticks and, with the help of Mack Rush, strung them traditional-style with leathers. Both boys plan to feature their work at school and at home. “I’ll go out and rip a few shots with it, then hang it up in my house,” says Quillen.

Alex and Quillen are extremely proud of their work, while humbled to learn from a legendary stickmaker. Both will take home a hard-earned token of their personal attachment to the game along with their diploma.

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