A decade ago, Pennsylvania began its grand experiment to require high school students to complete culiminating projects prior to graduation.
Over that period, there has been ample reason to debate and criticize the state of education generally and the performance of local schools in particular.
The graduation project concept has been an unqualified success though.
Students are expected to devote much of their high school careers planning and implementing the projects, ending with a final report and presentation to a faculty panel. The faculty judges rate the projects: below average, average or commendable. Over the years, students have identified a wide range of ambitious initiatives, many geared toward raising money or awareness for one good cause or another. Many have been commendable.
It is difficult to imagine that any other students have gone as far and as fast as Devon Blair.
Sixteen-year-old Devon initially planned to run a marathon, a feat his father state police Trooper Rick Blair has completed five times. After a little consideration, they opted for a more modest goal -- rather than run 26 miles, Devon would settle for 23 miles, the distance between Selinsgrove and Knoebel's Grove Amusement Resort.
Completing the run would have been daunting enough. Devon resolved to help a worthy cause along the way.
He selected the Wounded Warrior Project, an iniatitive that aims to help veterans who have been injured in the service of their country. By doing so, his graduation project resonated with local members of the Army National Guard who helped publicize the run and provided an escort for Devon and his father on the run.
They completed the run in 4-and-a-half hours, fighting through cramps along the way. The run was interrupted by several grateful residents who met them on the road and donated cash to the charity.
By the time they set out on Wednesday, Devon had already raised three-times his initial goal of $1,000. By Wednesday morning, additional donations had pushed his total to $3,500.
It may be a long time before someone goes to greater lengths to complete a graduation project. There are many other ways that students can tap into their personal strengths in a meaningful way. Devon's fund-raising run is a laudable example of how schools and parents together can help young people examine the world around them and find ways to make that world a better place.
If you admire Devon's achievement, he is still accepting donations at http://support.woundedwarriorproject.org/individual-fundraising/devonblair.