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ROSSVILLE -- A new approach to school projects could land Ridgeland High School students' visions of the future on the streets of Rossville.

The Rossville landmark Roy's Grill, which closed about 10 years ago but whose building still stands, could be revived as a hot spot for food and nighttime entertainment with a touch of local history, Ridgeland freshmen Peyton Hise and Blake Parden told classmates last week during their practice presentation.

"People said this was a great restaurant, it was really friendly, it was socially friendly and it was great environment," Peyton said, describing remarks from former customers.

Classmates questioned the boys about potential problems with crime and parking while others commended the idea with their own experiences at the restaurant.

The exchange was part of Project Synergy, a way of combining education, community and government goals into a project that fits into the school curriculum, said Ridgeland academic coach Christy Evans.

Ms. Evans said Ridgeland principal Robert Smith and other officials checked out Dade County's Project Synergy program last August and decided to launch it in Walker.

"We have about 300 kids that are going to participate with about 20 teachers," she said.

Students drew some ideas from suggestions made by community members on how to revitalize Rossville. The Rossville Downtown Development Authority collected the suggestions during a town hall meeting last November, officials said.

Activities culminated Thursday when students presented their projects to the development authority and local Chamber of Commerce members for judging and possible implementation if local officials see something they like, said English II/journalism teacher Jennifer Hobbs.

Presentations consisted of "a six-part assignment where they orally present, do a written presentation and then they make it relevant ... by actually finding the property where the business would work," Ms. Hobbs said.

Sophomores Stormy Dooley and Miranda Ogle said their proposed "Rossville Recreational Extravaganza" business could answer the teenager complaint that "there's nothing to do" in Rossville.

"We have hunting, golf, basketball courts, a swimming pool and spa, rodeo and horseback riding, snack bars and an arcade," Stormy said as she and Miranda sprawled with their project in a hallway outside Ms. Hobbs' classroom.

Peyton and Blake's American government teacher, Jason Alspaugh, said Project Synergy's most important educational element is its connection to curriculum. Students use everything they learn in school to develop their projects, Mr. Alspaugh said.

Ron Wade, acting chairman of the Rossville Downtown Development Authority, said student presentations showed "they've got some really super ideas."

Mr. Wade said Project Synergy takes revitalization full circle because the students who are pitching plans will be the benefactors in the future.

COMMUNITY IMPROVEMENT IDEAS

Rossville residents submitted revitalization ideas last November that were used by Ridgeland High students for proposals in the school's Project Synergy program. Below are ideas that garnered 10 or more votes from community members last fall.

* Improve John Ross pond with green space, walking trails and elements to honor Native Americans. (65 votes)

* Improve and clean up store fronts; implement a "facade squad" (37 votes)

* Improve night life; upscale restaurants (30 votes)

* Annual festivals (24 votes)

* Make Rossville a "destination" (21 votes)

* Improve all signage, enforce present codes (20 votes)

* Improve productive use of abandoned buildings and lots (18 votes)

* Improve gateway into Georgia (16 votes)

* Water park (13 votes)

* Market to youth (13 votes)

* Attract larger business; more jobs (10 votes)

Source: Rossville Downtown Development Authority and Ridgeland High School

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