One man: Three angles

“You have to be completely mad (to be a performer). You have to constantly be changing and evolving and have an open mind.”
-Eli Reynolds

By Savannah Walsh
He stands out in a crowd. His crisp black suit and larger than life presence makes itself known. He never shies away from speaking his mind or expressing his emotions. In fact, he does so on a weekly basis, juggling duties on Wildcat TV, the Forensics and Debate teams, and as a leading man in the fall play. He is Eli Reynolds, and his day is absolutely chaotic.
“You have to be completely mad (to be a performer). You have to constantly be changing and evolving and have an open mind. To see different aspects of life and be able to perform makes me different,” reasoned Reynolds.
As the National Forensics League President breaks down what it takes to be vulnerable on a grand scale and wear so many different hats, one gets the sense that his love of the spotlight is not newly discovered.
“My involvement in acting and performing…it really evolved when I was a really little kid. I always heard stories of my dad and mom being in theater. I just thought that was the family business. I thought they were professional actors.” Even after it was revealed that his parents’ participation was simply for fun, it was too late: “I already had the bug for it.”
The depth of passion Reynolds possesses for performance cannot be overstated. On any given day he can be seen in the hallways filming segments for Wildcat TV, in the forensics and debate classrooms assembling pieces or constructing arguments, or inside the Drama Den prepping for daily play practice.
Reynold’s biggest challenge, however, does not come in the form of scheduling nor stage fright.
“With forensics and debate, it’s definitely changing characters so quickly, because you’re working on several different pieces at the same time. You literally switch sometimes in mere seconds. That’s a weird thing to do to your head. There are so many voices jumbling around in there that it’s hard to distinguish who’s who and where you are in the midst of all that,” stated Reynolds.
Until Reynolds clutches his Academy Award years from now, he is content in continuing his numerous activities and watching all genres of film, television, and theater. Eli’s voice is one that leaves an indelible mark on the school, a mark never meant to blend in.

Africa: A safari similar to William’s own backyard

“I thought ordering a cheeseburger was the safe way out. It was an American food, and I thought it would be prepared the American way. I was instantly disgusted when I saw that the meat was more pink than it should have been, and decided to switch to a salad,” -Ashli Williams

By Katy Hamilton
Ashli Williams, junior, traveled to Africa this summer, along with her grandma and friends from church. For three weeks, she explored the forests and jungles of the southern parts of Africa and created memories that will last a lifetime. It’s hard to believe that, at first, she was less than excited to go.
“When I first found out about the trip,” Williams said, “I didn’t want to go. I was completely against the whole thing; three weeks just seemed too long to be away from the rest of my family. But when we showed up, I thought maybe this won’t be all that bad.” Williams was not excited about the adventure until she stepped foot in the desert. The many safaris she went on were the best part of her trip.
After the agonizing 18 hour flight, Williams realized Africa wasn’t at all what she had expected. “Africa is a lot more industrialized than I thought. It was more like Kansas City (Missouri). Yes, it was poor, but not nearly as poor as movies and TV shows make it look.”
Williams stayed in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and visited Krueger National Park. The dorms and hotels she stayed at were all very similar to the ones in America, except for the lack of washing machines.
Africa lacked another thing normalized in America: fully cooked meat. When Williams went out to eat, she got the surprise that when she ordered any meat that it would be served less than medium rare. One could practically hear the ostrich squawking from her cheeseburger. “I thought ordering a cheeseburger was the safe way out. It was an American food, and I thought it would be prepared the American way. I was instantly disgusted when I saw that the meat was more pink than it should have been, and decided to switch to a salad,” Williams said.
The most exciting thing Williams got to do on her trip was ride an elephant. “I knew I would never be able to do this in Missouri, so I made sure to do it before I left.” And, the scariest thing that happened was getting charged at by a rhino. “Some animals were nice, and some were not. I definitely won’t miss the rhino.”
A trip Williams didn’t initially want to go on rapidly became one she will never forget. “I am really happy that I got to go to Africa this summer. If my parents would have let me stay home when I had asked, then I would have missed out on something that I will never forget.”

Racing, family support propels Golden to bright future

“I love the adrenaline it gives me but I also love the racing community. We’re such a tight knit family, but everyone is always welcome. You hear and experience countless stories of competitors helping each other and loaning parts and tools to the person they have to race in the next round.”-Alexis Golden

By Margaret Stansell
Engines start, adrenaline pumps, lights turn from red to yellow to green. The racer shoots down the track at lightning speeds faster than a normal car. This isn’t an average car, or, for that matter, an average racer. BSHS senior Alexis Golden has been drag racing since the age of nine, and for her, it’s a family affair.
“My dad got me into it because I was always at the track with him when he was racing,” she said.
Since then, she’s competed in countless races in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois and Texas. Up until last year, she raced in the junior class for kids 8-16 in a Jr. Dragster. In the previous seasons, racing has taken Alexis to a variety of states such as Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, and Texas.
“The race in Texas was the biggest I’ve competed in and there were around 10,000 spectators.”
During the current race season, which spans April to the start of November, Alexis practices times and racing instead of competing. Since she has moved up to a new dragster and new class, she wants to get to know her car before competing again next year.
“Racing and school conflict quite a bit,” She said. “Which is another reason I’m waiting till next year to be competitive; my parents believe school comes first.” Racing has also sparked Alexis’s interest in engineering. She recalls taking her Jr. Dragster to the engineering class at Paul Kinder Middle School, then Sunny Vale.
“I’m still in the process of figuring out if it’s for me or not,” Alexis said regarding a career in engineering.
In her new car, a 91 Foxbody with a 414 SBF (small block Ford motor), Alexis can race in two different classes and reach speeds of about 130 miles per hour in 5.3 seconds on a 1/8 mile track.
“I love the adrenaline it gives me but I also love the racing community. We’re such a tight knit family, but everyone is always welcome. You hear and experience countless stories of competitors helping each other and loaning parts and tools to the person they have to race in the next round.”
Not only is her racing family close and supportive, her home family is, too.
“My family is definitely my support system as well as other racers I’ve become close with over the years,” Alexis said.
In the upcoming season, Alexis hopes to race in bigger races and continue to have fun with her racing community.

Problematic planes result in turbulent start to European adventure for Harrach and Kucharski

“Pack light. Stay open-minded. Watch out for pick-pocketers. And don’t fly United!”-Meredith Harrach and Carrie Kucharski

By Arianna Koch
While most students from BSHS were at The Blue, the Independence Mall, and Quick Trip, getting some sun and talking with friends, Meredith Harrach and Carrie Kucharski, along with about 15 other students, were touring the Notre Dame, the Love-Lock Bridge, and the Eiffel Tower. Kucharski and Harrach were part of a small group of students who got to go on the trip of a lifetime: a European expedition.
The experience was filled with adventures and laughter, but everything was NOT smooth sailing for these international travelers. The day that the great adventure to Europe was scheduled to start, their United Airlines plane got delayed. Kucharski’s eyes flashed when she talked about it. “I was so angry, I felt like I was going to explode.” They finally did get on their way, only to get stuck again in Washington D.C. They spent three days in America’s capital before being able to finally board the plane that would take them to their destination.
When they first touched down in London, Kucharski was prepared for what lie ahead. She had read her itinerary thoroughly, and was ready to finally start her travel. Harrach, however, was very surprised and in awe of London, as she “never expected such pretty architecture.”
As they started on their journey, they noticed a few things that might be considered quite strange in the U.S. “You had to pay to use public toilets on the streets,” Kucharski explained. Another thing that was quite different in Europe was a Tapas Bar, a restaurant-like structure serving only different types of appetizers.
Both agreed that Europe was amazing, but, of course, they each had their favorite part of the trip. Kucharski’s eyes lit up when talking about London, and Harrach said with a smile that her favorite place was “anywhere in Paris. I just loved it.”
Harrach and Kucharski both said that they want to return to Europe and see more of it, especially because some of their favorite parts were cut out. “We really wanted to see Versailles and Oxford, but not everyone was feeling up for it, so the tour guides decided that we could live without seeing it,” said Kucharaski. Harrach shook her head sadly at this and said, “Yeah, we didn’t really get along with all of the tour groups, but at least all of our tour group were friends. It made the trip a lot more enjoyable.”
One of the most scary and exciting things that happened to the girls was experiencing a storm while in the Eiffel tower. Most of the group went down the stairs to exit the giant steel tower. Harrach, however, thought that it would be exciting and daring to stay in the tower.
“It was really cool,” she said and smiled.
It is a memory that both girls, and every person on that trip, will have for the rest of their lives.
Both girls said they would love to return. “Yes, absolutely, and definitely. It was amazing.”
The girls had some advice, though, for all who are thinking of going on an international adventure: “Pack light. Stay open-minded. Watch out for pick-pocketers. And, oh,” they both said with a small laugh, “Don’t fly United!”

Vietors, Wheelers teach, learn, bond at BSHS

By Margaret Stansell
Looking around an average classroom on the first day of school, one would guess that the teacher does not know most of the students and vice versa. However, the right class at the right time may have a student and teacher who know each other better than anyone else in the world. The student is the child and the teacher is the parent.
To a student, going to school where a parent works may sound awful, but for the Vietors and Wheelers, it is just part of the average day.
Michelle Vietor, English teacher, and her daughter Faith, senior, have always spent quality together in the morning on the drive to school and actually going to the same place every day isn’t much different. The extra time in the morning is something that has prompted their close relationship. “What’s going to be weird is NOT having her next year,” Vietor said.
Faith recalls being brought to BSHS when she was little, allowing her to get to know the teachers and campus early on. Not only does Faith know most teachers personally, she also knows which classes to take and can consult her mom for almost all school advice and questions. “Most people feel like they have to fend for themselves in high school, but that’s how I felt in middle school,” said Faith.
Zoe Wheeler, Algebra teacher whose daughter Zavia is a sophomore, says that the only weirdness she’s experienced was knowing Zavia’s friends before having them in class. Aside from that, the experience so far has been enjoyable and actually easier than previous years when Wheeler did not know her daughter’s teachers personally.
Wheeler has Zavia in class and Vietor has taught two of Faith’s classes. Some may worry that a student whose parent is the teacher might be given better grades unfairly, but Wheeler and Vietor confess they’re actually harder on their children. Even though she may grade her daughter’s work tougher, Wheeler enjoys having Zavia around so much before she goes to college.
“I don’t get to see my son Jon for almost ten hours a day,” Wheeler said. “I love having Zavia here.”
And perhaps that’s the secret to a great mother-daughter relationship. Both the Wheelers and Vietors agree they like being together so much. Even though it may sound nightmarish to some, being so close is a great advantage for these families.

Simcox, Surber: preserving culture, teaching language

“I came in 1964 and stayed for nine months, and did everything I could to get back. Then I met my husband here, and the rest is history.”
-Loida Surber

By Annie Crawford

Ana Simcox recalled a country where simmering beaches, chilly mountains, and pleasant valleys are all within two hours of one another. She can describe many memories like this one of her native country, Colombia, as well as her aspirations to come to the United States. Both Simcox and her fellow Spanish teacher, Loida Surber from Paraguay, have interesting stories to share about how they ended up in the US.

For Surber, coming to America was a dream that began developing when she was nine-years old. “I was totally fascinated with the United States,” described Surber. “I would get Life magazines so I could learn about the United States. I borrowed Time magazines from missionaries.” One day, a missionary offered Surber an exciting trip to America, an experience she could not refuse. “I came in 1964 and stayed for nine months, and did everything I could to get back. Then I met my husband here, and the rest is history,” explained Surber as she smiled reminiscently.

Simcox shared similar goals of coming to America as a young girl. When she came to the United States as a foreign exchange student, she faced many challenges. “I spoke English at what would be a Spanish II level, it was a complete immersion,” she described. Learning the language was tough, but she did have valuable social skills on her side. “My personality helped me a little bit to get along,” laughed Simcox. She makes a large effort to instill her Colombian culture into her children and continue celebrating Colombian holidays. Today, she is a member of a Colombian society in Kansas City that helps her meet with other Colombians and maintain cultural traditions.

Both work to teach language and culture to their students and find great joy and fulfillment in teaching students their native language. Simcox gushed, “Not only am I teaching a bit about my culture, but I love how my students start speaking with my Colombian accent!”

 

GEAR UP Act provides free ACT for BSHS students

By Kayla Lessenden

Thanks to the GEAR UP Act, Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, BSHS will have all juniors take the ACT for no cost in April of 2015. This grant program is designed to raise the number of low-income students who are preparing to go to college. Other goals of the program include increasing college attendance and success rate as well as raising expectations for all students.

Last year, senior Trent Turner paid to take the ACT. Turner wants to attend the University of Missouri, which requires an ACT score of 24.  If he wants to take the test until he gets a score of 24, he will have to pay every single time.

On the other hand, junior Bri Kim, who has not taken the test, will get a first-hand glimpse of what the ACT is like without emptying her pockets. Thanks to BSHS and the GEAR UP Act, Kim will take the test for free first, and then can make adjustments before paying for the test herself. To better her score, she, of course, will have to pay for the test next time, but will have some experience under her belt.

This opportunity could give students who were not considering college a push to test anyway. The GEAR UP Act gives BSHS students a chance to experience the demands associated with taking the ACT in a less stressful environment.

 

The Road to Interlochen: Puyear attends summer music academy

By Elliott Andrick

For most high school students, summer does not mean spending seven weeks in an unfamiliar place playing music every day. However, senior Walt Puyear did exactly that, spending June 14 to August 4 at Interlochen Center for the Arts in Interlochen, Michigan, where some of the world’s greatest young musicians and artists come together for the instruction of a lifetime.

Interlochen Center for the Arts was established in 1928 for young people and adults from around the world. Its participants come to share their passion for the arts. The many different activities offered give students an opportunity to gain a huge advantage on their peers in the arts. In fact, over 60% of the world’s professional orchestral musicians have attended Interlochen at some point since its establishment.

The process of getting accepted to Interlochen is pretty difficult. First, students are required to send in a written and a recorded audition of themselves months prior to the beginning of the summer institute. According to Puyear, one of the most stressful parts of the process is waiting for news of acceptance or denial into the institute.

Upon acceptance, Puyear began to prepare himself for the long summer ahead of him. “I tried to practice as much possible, especially sight reading,” he said. It is hard for students to know exactly what they will do while they are at Interlochen, so preparation is of upmost importance.

As a saxophonist, Puyear spent his first week at the Saxophone Institute and then spent six weeks at the World Youth Symphony Institute, which featured young musicians from all over the world. The Saxophone Institute is a group focused on instructing only saxophones. The World Youth Symphony, however, is a large and competitive ensemble, and Walt received one of only six spots available. “The instruction was the best in the world. Just the quality of the instruction can’t be beat,” Puyear said.

Puyear said that the greatest experience at Interlochen was not the playing or preforming, but meeting all of the talented people that were there. Puyear learned the skills he hoped to for his own future in music, and he hopes anyone who is extremely passionate about the arts looks into the fantastic instruction and experience at the Interlochen Center for the Arts.

 

The family that performs together stays together

By Savannah Walsh

“Honestly, forensics is so much more than competing. You get to find yourself and your best friends. . .we’re more than just a team, we’re a family.” – Drake Evans

Echoes of laughter and tears and voices can be heard from the PAC forensics classroom. The sounds are curious as much as they are fantastic. This tradition of excellence begins and ends with Jacci Young, who has led the program for 32 years. The activity has reached new heights of success under Young’s direction, who encourages students to face their insecurities and turn them into entertainment. This intense, almost athletic style of coaching has made staying in the program all four years difficult but highly rewarding for the remaining seniors in the class of 2015.

Four years ago, 57 fresh faced and eager novices tumbled through their first year as high school competitors. Today, nine slightly weathered but all the more wise seniors reflect on what it takes to put one’s soul into something that, four years later, is still often shrouded in mystery. Lauren Cronin, Alex David, Drake Evans, Ameres Groves, Jasmine Peterson, Elijah Reynolds, Davian Watson, Kezia Wesley, and Kelsy Wilkinson attempted to answer the question on everyone’s mind: what makes these students want to dedicate their high school careers to competitive performance, when over a third of their teammates opted to leave? “Honestly, forensics is so much more than competing. You get to find yourself and your best friends. . .we’re more than just a team, we’re a family”, duo and Humorous Acting performer Evans summed up. In fact, amongst such a varied group of individuals, one sentiment is unanimous: the team’s bond runs deeper than just being classmates. “What made me stay was the joy it brings for me when I just hang out with the people. Everyone is an upbeat, semi-positive person that you just want to be around all the time,” echoed duo actor, Watson. The sense of connection and shelter each senior has found in the other is admirable and rare in such a huge graduating class, but the high turnover rate indicates that the challenges facing the nine are daunting.

Duo and prose reading contestant Cronin notes that while competing on a weekly basis leaves her “fulfilled,” the rigorous ten or more competitions a year certainly take a toll. “You always have a passion for it but sometimes the passion burns out a little bit. I think finding the passion again to go out and compete and find a new piece and staying after school every day to rehearse is tiring.” The average tournament lasts Friday nights and all day Saturday with up to four rounds of hour and a half competing. For Evans, the biggest stress comes from within the classroom. “It’s not fair for anyone to have their grade based off of how well they can act, granted, you are going to have some weak links. It’s having these 1400 point assignments that have to be super in depth and super detailed that cause stress,” Evans said. Between the weekend competitions, after school practices, and major in-class assignments, one can see why the urge to participate in a less demanding activity is appealing. But for those willing to play what many referred to as the “mind game” that is forensics, leaving is simply not an option. “I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to a point where I really wanted to stop,” stated prose and poetry participant Wilkinson.

One gets the distinct feeling that the game would be quite different without the coach, who has fostered the talent of her seniors from the beginning. Most were at a loss for words when asked about their high-strung leader, and spoke of her as more of a mother and less of a mentor when the thoughts did come. Watson sees Young as a visionary of sorts: “She creates a bond that is close-knit. There are a lot of connections and a lot of hidden connections that we don’t know about and we still will wonder in the middle of the night—how does she get this done?” Wilkinson’s description was much more to the point: “She has this ‘Ms. Young’ vibe about her that everyone knows about, even if you only had her for a semester.”

For a team with such a familial atmosphere and celebrated teacher, forensics can be viewed as a sanctuary for those who don’t fit anywhere else. Some think it is just about memorizing lines for a few competitions. But most don’t think about it at all—at least not like they would if it took place on a field or in a band that has its own bumper stickers. For a program that placed three students in the top ten in the nation for their respective events this past summer, the lack of attention can be disheartening. “Of course I wish forensics got more recognition because if it’s not the most, it’s one of the most successful programs our school has ever had and people don’t realize that,” said poetry competitor Wesley. The frustration was especially evident in Evan and Cronin’s tone as they placed second in the state for their duo—and have heard little congratulations outside of their team and families. “We work just as hard (as athletic and music programs) in different ways. On big tournament weeks we will stay here after school until 8 at night practicing. We put just as much time in as band and football do. People don’t understand,” Cronin sighed. Evans chuckled, “We’ve had nervous breakdowns. The football team is so physical, but we are so mental. We shed real tears over things.” But this is not an opinion all seniors share. Watson doesn’t let others comments bother him and referred to the team’s anonymous nature as a special “melting pot.”

A quiet dust settles over the group, and a humorously melancholy thought ties everyone together: separating off and doing individual things. Cronin realizes, “This is all kind of bittersweet. The four years are coming to an end.” On cue, Evans smiles, “Are you breaking up with me?”

 

Students dive into George Caleb Bingham Academy

By Annie Crawford

“It’s learning in its purest form…We meet students where they are and help them grow from there.” – Sara Crump

Students from Blue Springs High School and surrounding districts attended George Caleb Bingham Academy of the Arts (GCB) this summer, where they specialized in Creative Writing, Music, Theatre, and Visual Art. GCB, which is the only school of its kind in the nation, takes place in a few Independence locations and provides an opportunity for students to learn from top instructors in their area of emphasis. They also have the opportunity to go on field trips and hear from esteemed guest speakers.

One of the accomplished instructors at George Caleb Bingham Academy of the Arts is Blue Springs High School’s own Sara Crump. She has been helping students develop their creative writing skills at the Academy for four years and finds the experience to be extraordinary. “It’s learning in its purest form,” said Crump. “We meet students where they are and help them grow from there.” The students never fail to impress, either. As Crump describes, her students “are willing to learn, interested in the subject matter, and are very bright.”

One of the talented Visual Arts students at George Caleb Bingham Academy was senior Alex Sirna.  She has been going back to the Academy for years because of her great experiences there. “My teachers have opened my eyes to art,” she said. “The teachers are so nice to me; they are like family.” Students like Sierna also have the opportunity to create new friendships with others from different cities, like Independence and Oak Grove, and participate in special projects and activities. “Every year we do outdoor painting and a still life. We also went to the National World War I Museum,” Alex explained.

Approximately one-fourth of students who attended GCB this summer came from BSHS.

 

The online news home of Blue Springs High School. Article contributors include BSHS journalism students. Letters to the editor are welcome. Contact kgrusing@bssd.net with questions.