The Cassia County School District’s February recipient of the district’s SWAG (Students Who Accomplish Great Things) award is John Tran, left, shown with district nurse Kyle Hodges and Heber Loughmiller, school board member.


When I ask schools for suggestions of accomplished students to feature in a story I get flooded with responses.

That happened this week while working on a story about high school senior projects. I planned to highlight a few students — maybe three or four — with particularly ambitious projects.

I ended up interviewing eight.

For the sake of space, we couldn’t include all of them in the print story published in the Times-News and at Magicvalley.com.

But here are their stories:

Blankets for newborn babies

Annabelle Callaway, 17 (Wendell High School)

For her senior project, Annabelle made 30 baby blankets — 10 quilts and 20 fleece blankets — and delivered them on Christmas Eve to St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center in Twin Falls.

She had never quilted or done sewing before. She decided to try it out for her senior project.

Students are required to put in 40 hours of hands-on work, but Annabelle logged more than 60.

A woman at her mother’s church taught her how to sew and served as her mentor.

The biggest lesson Annabelle learned: “Quilting is a long process,” she said. She started the project in March 2016 and continued working on it into her senior year.

For her research paper, she wrote about why children hide under blankets when they’re scared.

Annabelle said she hopes to use her newfound sewing skills again, but probably not for a career.

She plans to attend the College of Southern Idaho, and is interested in pursuing degrees in culinary arts and business management.

Vaccination awareness

John Tran, 18 (Burley High School)

“I’m interested into getting myself into the medical field,” Tran said, and he wanted to do something health-related for his senior project.

“Immunizations is something that is just so important, but the community overlooks it so many times, year after year.”

During his junior year of high school, Tran noticed many students were absent across the Cassia County School District due to illnesses. He wanted to get the word out about vaccinations and decrease the number of absences among students.

His senior project mentor was school district nurse Kyle Hodges and he also reached out to Lisa Klamm with South Central Public Health District for help.

“Those two ladies helped me tremendously,” he said.

Tran decided to focus on boosting immunization awareness at middle and high schools throughout Cassia County.

He made posters with information about immunization requirements and recommended vaccines for seventh-graders, and high school juniors and seniors about college-recommended immunizations.

He gave fliers about immunizations from SCPHD to schools over the summer to put on tables during registrations. Then, in August, he helped with a health department vaccination clinic.

“That was pretty neat,” he said.

Tran said he’s on track to earn his associate’s degree from the College of Southern Idaho this year, as well as his high school diploma.

Tran’s interest in medicine started after watching the television show “Grey’s Anatomy.” He wants to become a cardiothoracic surgeon.

Video documentary

Julian Wert, 18 (Wendell High School)

Wert wanted her senior project to leave a legacy beyond this year. She created a four-hour documentary about her grandparents’ life stories.

She recorded interviews with her grandparents — who live in Wendell — about their childhoods, when they met and their lives together.

The teenager wanted to capture video footage instead of doing a written history. She wanted it to feel like her grandparents were “telling you the story,” she said.

Wert learned how to edit video, which she described as a “long, hard process.” She tried four different video editing programs, but ran into technical difficulties.

She ended up combining work she did in two different programs.

Wert said she has grown even closer to her grandparents as a result of the project. “The relationship that grew with them is unbelievably strong.”

As for video production, she learned she doesn’t want to go into the film industry. She’s interested in studying interior design at the University of Idaho.


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