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CCA Seniors Present Capstone Projects

Five graduating seniors pursue their personal passions through Senior Capstone Projects.

11 May 2017 – North Fort Myers, Fla. – Five graduating seniors at Classical Christian Academy recently presented their Senior Capstone projects to CCA administrators, family members and 11th graders (who may pursue their own Capstone projects next year). The goal of the Senior Capstone Project is to integrate a student’s Biblical worldview with an area of significant personal interest. The project requirements also include enlisting a mentor and putting a minimum of 15 hours into the project.

All the seniors who have completed a Capstone Project have pursued a passion of their own.

Emily Dillehay: Lunch(ism)


For her Senior Capstone, Emily founded the “Lunch(ism)” club, an art appreciation club for grades 3-5. The club met during lunch period at CCA. The idea sprouted from a visit to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City, which Emily visited while on her Sweet 16 trip. “I absolutely fell in love,” she said.

Through this experience, Emily realized she had only seen a small amount of art, and she quickly became passionate about learning more. “When you become passionate about something, you want to share it,” Emily added.

Thus was born the Lunch(ism) Club, which started meeting every other Friday during lunch to discuss the “isms” of art. First, the club would learn about an artist and his/her “ism” of art; then the next week, students would attempt to recreate the “ism” through their own artwork. An example would be when the club discussed Pablo Picasso and Cubism. Emily used the kids’ descriptions of a painting to define this type of art. During spring break, Emily also set up a field trip to Baker Museum at Artis-Naples.

Emily’s mentor for her project was Mrs. Cathy Saboda, her former art and Odyssey of the Mind teacher. Emily does not intent to become a professional artist, but she learned things through the Lunch(ism) Club that she will take with her into adulthood. And she loved working with the kids. Emily plans to attend Palm Beach Atlantic University and major in Biology with a concentration in Pre-Med, possibly working in pediatric medicine someday.

Jessica DeFrance: Little Gifts Big Hearts


For her Capstone Project, Jessica decided to research what it would take to turn her charity, Little Gifts Big Hearts (LGBH), into a registered nonprofit organization. She founded LGBH in 2014, when she was a sophomore at CCA. The charity provides care baskets to families with babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Christmastime. To date, LGBH has given away 30 baskets to families at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. Her mentor for this Capstone Project was CCA History Teacher Mrs. Shannon Schram.

To start, Jessica created a mission statement for LGBH: Providing families with hope and love during a difficult time. After researching everything it would take to become a nonprofit, Jessica discovered there would be a lot of paperwork, time and money involved. She estimated it would cost $1,000 for LGBH to become a nonprofit. With LGBH only spending $1,500 a year, she decided it is not feasible to pursue nonprofit status at this time. Her plans now are to find donors and board members and to save money for future growth.

She hopes LGBH will become a nonprofit in three to five years. Her future plans are to become a pediatric nurse and possibly work in the NICU with infants.

Maggie Eckert:  Teacher Training


Maggie plans to become a teacher, so she decided to observe both public and private school classrooms for her Capstone Project while at the same time taking an Intro to Teaching class at Florida SouthWestern State College (FSW) through dual enrollment. Her mentor was Mrs. Shawna Christenson, CCA English teacher.

The first school Maggie visited was Tortuga Elementary. The teacher of this second grade class had formerly taught at a Christian school, where Maggie was her student in third grade. “I could feel the presence of Jesus in that classroom,” Maggie said.

At Gulf Middle School, Maggie discovered public school teachers can talk about Christianity and Jesus but only in a historical or factual way. At Treeline Elementary, Maggie noted that the teacher had a plaque on her desk stating: “The Joy of the Lord is my Strength.” At Sunshine Elementary, the teacher was very strict, but she rewarded good behavior. At Southwest Florida Christian Academy, Maggie learned about the Accelerated Reading program.

“You can take stuff from public school and put it in Christian school, and you can take stuff from Christian school and put it in public school,” Maggie concluded.

When visiting Riverdale High School, where Maggie attended before coming to CCA three years ago, she decided to give thank you letters to all her former teachers. While she was there, Maggie heard a teacher misuse the name of Jesus in a cursing manner, and it made her angry that teachers could do that but not give Jesus praise.

Maggie plans to continue pursuing her Elementary Education degree at FSW and then teach at the 2nd-5th grade level somewhere in Lee County, making a difference in her hometown.

Naomi Ingram: Music for Make-A-Wish


Naomi has been a professional musician in Southwest Florida since she was 14. She is also part of the Youth Leadership Committee for Make-A-Wish (MAW) Southern Florida. She sought to combine both of these passions for her Capstone Project, so she decided to put on a fundraiser and awareness event for MAW.  “I love music and children,” Naomi said.

Her “Music Madness” fundraiser lasted four days. During the first three days, Naomi played music at her typical gigs but explained that she was raising money for MAW and collected donations. The fourth day was a Family Fun Day which she organized at Bistro 41 in Bell Tower Shops. Naomi enlisted the help of her musical family for this event, playing with her brother’s band, Melting Clockwork. She raised money through restaurant specials and raffles. “The restaurant was so generous to us.” Naomi stated.

Through the four-day event, she raised $1,505 and a lot of awareness. Naomi’s mentor was Mrs. Alison Cotarelo, CCA science teacher. After graduation, Naomi intends to travel to California and intern with her aunt, who is a lawyer. Then she plans to pursue a degree in Business Management.

Richie Rowe: Fire Department Internship


For his Capstone Project, Richie did an internship with the Punta Gorda Fire Department. Richie’s mentor was Fire Chief Ray Briggs, a longtime family friend. On his first day, Richie changed batteries in a smoke detector, did CPR training, went on calls for service, and spoke with both the Fire Chief and the Fire Marshal. Richie learned there were multiple ways to do CPR. He also learned most of the calls for service were from elderly people who had fallen.

“They really want to be people friendly,” said Richie.

During his interview with Chief Briggs, he learned that time is everything and that a firefighter can jump to other medical/safety careers. When Richie interviewed the Fire Marshal, he learned that the fire marshal’s job is to make sure buildings are safe and to investigate fires to make sure they are not arson. On the second day of the internship, Richie cleaned the bay floor, which is a daily task. He also went on calls and participated in helicopter landing zone training on a landing pad in Punta Gorda. “It is pretty much just an airborne ambulance,” declared Richie.

Throughout his internship, Richie learned that firefighters mainly help the elderly, and you can share your faith with others while you are helping them.

Story written by CCA Student Journalist Elizabeth D.

About Classical Christian Academy:

Classical Christian Academy is the premier hybrid school in Southwest Florida. CCA offers families an academically rigorous and Christ-centered K-12 education option that blends the best aspects of private and homeschooling. Classical Christian Academy is a registered 501c(3) organization. For more information, visit and like CCA on


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