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Marissa Russell, a senior at Londonderry High, showed off one of her “Music Heals” bracelets during the school’s Senior Project Showcase Monday night. Russell, who will graduate this Friday, spent a good part of this past school year researching and designing a music therapy program that she’s hoping will help many of the district’s special needs students. (April Guilmet/Union Leader Correspondent)

LHS seniors make lasting impacts through senior projects

LONDONDERRY — With college applications and academics galore, senior year is a hectic time for many.

But that didn’t discourage 16 Londonderry High seniors from taking on an additional project this school year.

For the last four years, seniors have had the option of pursuing a yearlong service project during their final year in Londonderry. On Monday night, this year’s program participants showed off the fruits of their labor. Some published novels or recorded albums, while others laid foundations for new programs they hope will find a permanent place in the school community. Marissa Russell said she decided to embark on a senior project after learning there was no music therapy program in the Londonderry district.

Working closely with her staff mentor, Ann MacLean, Russell, a volunteer with Special Olympics and the school’s integrated sports programs, began researching the topic at the Manchester Music School.

“I noticed that many of the nonverbal kids I was working with would relax when I’d sing to them,” said Russell, who plays guitar, piano and ukulele.


Using some of her newfound knowledge, Russell began working closely with Theo Keller, a special education student at her high school. With her fledgling program receiving rave reviews from Keller’s teachers and parents, Russell is selling rubber “Music Heals” bracelets to help fund music therapy services in the district.

Danielle Johnson created a film documentary about 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. “For those of my generation, both of these dates are just historical events in a textbook,” Johnson said. “But I wanted to recognize the people who lived these events — the people that risked their lives to save strangers.”


Maria Gagliardi, who plans to pursue a nursing degree next fall, said she decided to research risky teenage behavior after seeing some of her peers spiral down the wrong path.


“I’ve noticed many parents simply ignored what was going on,” Gagliardi said. “But that’s not the solution.”

A survey of Londonderry’s freshmen health and wellness classes revealed concerning results. Gagliardi said 66 percent of the students she surveyed admitted to consuming alcohol, while 17 percent had tried illegal drugs.

Combining her research with state and national statistics, Gagliardi created an informational brochure for parents aimed at helping them identify and prevent potential problems.

Principal Jason Parent said he’s impressed with this year’s senior projects.

“Many of them will stand the test of time,” Parent said.

Program organizer Paul Dutton said 25 students had expressed interest in doing senior projects this year, but just 16 were able to see those projects through.

Dutton said each student was required to complete a research report and a portfolio of their work as part of their project. “These are students that exhibited great school pride,” Dutton said. “They’re making their community a better place.”

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