The 2011 Irondequoit High School Summer Institute wrapped up Aug. 12 with a presentation to the community.

Eight Irondequoit High School students got to know participants at the Irondequoit Senior Center this summer.

For five weeks, the students studied the use of the Irondequoit Senior and Community Center building at 154 Pinegrove Ave.

They ended up giving their final presentation the title: “Putting the community back in the Senior and Community Center.”

They shared their ideas with community leaders, seniors and school officials last Friday morning, Aug. 12, at the center.

The institute differs from “regular” school in that it has a real-life focus. Each year, working with the town of Irondequoit, teachers select a topic students can focus on while still learning the language arts and civics skills they need for success in school.

“I thought I’d be sitting in the (school) library doing school work,” said Sasha Lebron. “This was better.”

While students still had to write a paper, they also took multiple field trips to the center.

“We might see it as a senior center, but we tried to find ways to help turn it into a true community center, too,” said student Dan Ventura.

“This (institute) didn’t even feel like school,” added Liz Kane. “We learned a lot about the community, too ... It was easier to stay focused because you felt you were making a difference.”

The students first determined that, “the town is quite lacking in one major area: It has no proper community center.”

While their original assignment was to make suggestions about how to improve the physical building for the seniors who use it, they took it a step further, looking for ways the town could improve the buildings and grounds for both the seniors and the entire community.

Besides research, including gathering background information, the students surveyed 37 seniors who use the center and interviewed school and town personnel about the property.

They determined that “as a community center ... the facility is lacking.”

They came up with a dozen recommendations. Among them, the students suggested covering the “outdated” brick exterior of the building with siding, renovating the facility to incorporate accessibility for the handicapped, and adding a concession stand on the site.

Students also suggested adding a raised garden, so seniors could sit and tend it comfortably; building an outdoor pavilion or gazebo; and installing a playground and/or an outdoor basketball court.

One of their most well-received ideas was to create an eco-friendly walking trail around the existing fields directly north of the Pinegrove building.

Students said that relocating the Helmer Nature Center offices “to a more natural, rural area of the property” could also make land more available for both the center and the West Irondequoit School District.

Irondequoit Supervisor Mary Joyce D’Aurizio called the students’ presentation fantastic.

“I hope the town is listening now,” senior Rose Scherberger said after the students’ presentation. “Maybe what we need is for young people to come forward.”