CHAZY - When Chris Brewster was first presented with a task to face his biggest challenge, he was a student. In the end, he was a student author.
The Chazy Central Rural School senior was among 37 students who recently completed a senior class project assigned by teacher Kathryn Brown which asked students to present themselves with a challenge, then meet that challenge.
Brewster and his fellow students began their projects in September, first deciding what they would like to accomplish, then following through with a plan on how to make it happen. Having always had an interest in writing, Brewster decided to write a book.
It was quite the learning experience, he said.
"There's a huge difference between a five-page paper and a 200-page book," said Brewster. "There's whole aspects of writing that you don't think of before."
The conclusion of the 10-month project resulted in Brewster's first book, Cornelian Blue, a fiction piece about a teenager vacationing with his family on a tropical island, based loosely off the Carribean island of Tobago. The story centers on a main character who is "conceited and arrogant," said Brewster, but who reveals his character through his experiences on the island.
"It gave me an opportunity to do something I might have not otherwise done," Brewster said of the project.
Senior Olivia Guay agreed. She has been a fan of the Chazy Music Theatre, watching performances put on at the school for years. However, it wasn't until she was presented with the class project she decided to audition for the group's most recent production of "Beauty and the Beast."
"I've always wanted to do it, but I never thought I would have enough time," she said. "It was the perfect opportunity for me to finally do it."
Olivia Guay's dream came true when she landed the roles of a saloon girl and a fork in the play - an experience she said she'll never forget.
"I couldn't believe how much goes into a show," she said. "You have no idea how many hours these people practice, what goes into the actual making of it."
"It was one of the best experiences I've had in school and I think I would definitely like to try theatre in college," she continued. "I'm so glad I got the chance to do it."
Through the project, senior Madelaine Guay was able to live out a desire to swim with dolphins. It's something she's wanted to do since she visited Sea World as a young girl, she said.
"When Mrs. Brown told us about doing a project, I was thinking like a term paper or a speech, a PowerPoint - something along those lines," she said. "But, when she told us we got to choose something challenging that we've always wanted to do, I knew right away what I wanted to do."
The same day she learned of the challenge, Madelaine Guay called her aunt in Florida, who helped arrange a trip to Sea World's Discovery Cove in Orlando. When she got to complete her challenge, it was something she said she would never forget.
"It seemed so surreal," said Madelaine Guay. "I'll always look back on it and remember it."
When senior Stephanie Pepper looks back on the challenge she faced, she'll remember the bird's-eye view of Vermont she got when flying high over the Green Mountain State in a hot air balloon. That was the challenge Pepper presented herself and what she was able to make happen through a contact she made at U-Ken-Do Ballooning in Swanton, Vt.
"I had tons of crazy ideas and hot air ballooning was just one of them," said Pepper. "I e-mailed the pilot about my challenge and he was all for it."
Through the project, Pepper was not only able to soar the skies in hot air balloon, she also learned how the balloons operate and the amount of preparation that goes into getting them off the ground.
"I learned how to set up the balloon, take it down, about what kind of weather and safety conditions there have to be to fly," said Pepper. "I was only afraid for like the first 30 seconds, but by the time we flew, I had learned how the pilot controls the balloon and had a lot of trust in him."
"Once I actually got to fly, all my work paid off," she added. "I don't think I would've ever thought of doing or been able to do it without this project."
"Some of the best education occurs when someone goes outside their comfort zone. That's really what this project did," said Brewster. "It wasn't the same old assignment. It was something different and I think a lot of learning happened."
When the students gave presentations about their projects at the school April 28, Brown said she was proud of the effort student put into turning their dreams into realities.
"They've done amazing things ... I will say I'm terribly impressed with all of them," said Brown. "They have very much to be proud of. They are an amazing group of young people who are going to go very, very far."