Thunder Project

Teacher Debra Benedict (left) and Sue Han of The Thunder Project work on the public education research website at Desert Vista High School in Ahwatukee.

Submitted photo

For the past two years, Desert Vista High School teacher Debra Benedict has seen her students grow in writing, leadership and in their understanding of the issues within education.

With their online publication, The Thunder Project, students aim to shed light on the positives of public education through research articles, essays and opinion pieces. Students are responsible for writing, editing, choosing topics and working on building the website.

“It’s a whole student-centered process,” said Benedict. “It’s fun to watch them evolve and become better writers.”

After being frustrated with the negative issues trumping over the positive advancements of education, Benedict decided to have her students start the project after a conversation with her eldest son.

Benedict’s four class sections of students are each responsible for different roles like editing, public relations, being on the art or technology team, and of course, writing. The website features articles expanding on current bills regarding education, stories on health, guest commentaries, abstract articles and coverage of Desert Vista programs, clubs and multi-media features.

Though Benedict is not returning to her teaching position this fall, taking on the job as registrar at Corona del Sol High School in Tempe, she hopes the project can continue on in some form.

“I really do hope they continue it, it’s an awesome project and not something other schools do,” junior Mason Ford said.

Ford added that the rest of the student body caught wind of the project, so his fellow students make sure to utilize social media to share their work.

“I think it’s a unique opportunity to work with some authentic assessments in education,” Benedict said.

For more information about The Thunder Project, visit

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or Follow her on Twitter @dmartinezAFN.

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