(TNS) -- MIDDLETOWN - On Monday morning, Middletown High School sophomores Jannette Cartagena and Jasmine Blair applied their knowledge of Enlightenment-era philosophers with an unconventional assignment.
They used one of the high school's new technology labs during their Global 10 class to create memes with philosophical phrases.
Memes are images that convey a joke or cultural behavior and are typically shared on social media.
As they worked, school officials revealed technology upgrades and new classrooms created in its $22 million capital project, which came in below its initial $25 million price tag, according to Superintendent Ken Eastwood.
The project, funded through state aid and the district's fund balance, added a third floor to the high school and created collaborative classrooms.
The basement's large classroom now features 16-foot-long LCD panels with smart-glass technology.
There's also a lecture hall for video conferencing, a Cisco networking academy lab, TV-video classrooms and four completely renovated technology classrooms.
"People say we look like Apple, or we look like this," Eastwood said. "Well, yeah; what kinds of environments do we want them to go to?"
In the future, the district hopes to keep the lowest floor open until about 8 p.m., to give students space to study, according to Kevin Witt, the district's community liaison.
The new, 28,000-square-foot third floor includes 10 classrooms, a large collaborative classroom and three independent study areas that students can reserve.
Eastwood said Middletown is often considered a poor district, as the seventh most underfunded district in the state, according to the Income Wealth Index.
But this technology will give students an edge.
"We are big believers in erasing the look and feel of poverty," he said. "(Poor students) want the same things every other student wants in life. But they're taught early on they may not have access to that, stay away from it."
The new technology will help the district maintain its high level of achievement, according to Eastwood.
Fourteen years ago, the district had graduation rates in the 50s.
Today, the district's graduation rate is 89 percent, he said.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-Cold Spring, attended the dedication and called Middletown a model for other districts to follow.
"It's really exciting to watch what happens when you really believe in kids and prepare them for the future," he said. Middletown is "proving every kid can learn if we invest in them."
Blair said she is thankful for the renovations, and that it feels as though her school values her and her education.
"I appreciate it, because it's not something every high school has," she said.
But even with state-of-the-art technology coming from as far away as Poland, there is a downside, Eastwood said.
"When kids go to college visits," he said, "they don't see this technology."
©2017 The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.