Byline: Melissa Ramsdell Daily Herald Staff Writer
Last November, Dundee-Crown High School student Pete Rodriguez spent his afternoons pounding election signs into the ground and handing out campaign literature.
During the fall election, Dundee Township voters had to decide whether they wanted to raise property taxes to buy and preserve $18 million in undeveloped land.
Environmental science teacher Gary Swick gave Rodriguez and his classmates an assignment: try to influence the outcome of the election.
"I was for the open space district because I like the outdoors," Rodriguez said.
When the open space issue passed by fewer than 50 votes, Rodriguez realized every ballot counts in a close election. "You can have an impact," Rodriguez said.
He also learned some early lessons about politics and democracy. "It took a lot more work than I expected," he said.
Whether they were canvassing for votes, organizing a homecoming parade or learning a new routine for the school musical, Dundee-Crown students poured a lot of energy into extracurricular activities in the community this year.
Looking back, they said the time they spent on outside projects taught them valuable lessons about time management, sticking with a goal and working as a team.
While the environmental science students were out on the campaign trail last fall, senior Julie Betts was hitting the books.
"I had AP (advanced placement) calculus, AP English and AP biology in the first six months," Betts said. To add to the challenge, Dundee-Crown started a new block scheduling plan, with longer class periods.
"Scholastically, it was pretty stressful," Betts said.
Betts also was an active member of student council this year. She helped organize the homecoming parade in September. Students also took over Main Street in West Dundee on a chilly fall night. They decorated store windows in a show of school spirit.
In March, a group of math wizards brought fame and honor to their school when they captured a science award at a University of Illinois competition.
Mike Arnold, Chris Chan, Matt McCrory, Derek Landgraf, Matt Vogel and David Holstius formed a team to design a Rube Goldberg machine. The intricate creation went through 109 steps to slowly pour a bottle of Snapple into a glass of ice.
Dundee-Crown was in the spotlight again this spring when theater students put on a sold-out performance of "Hello Dolly."
"I've heard people say it was the best show we ever did," Betts said. "We had a 20-piece orchestra and we worked on the choreography a lot."
Dancing and music are two talents senior Melissa Akers practiced throughout her high school career. She was part of the pompon squad that placed third in the state this March.
A few weeks ago, she also played French horn during a band competition in Myrtle Beach, S. …