Page 1


DISABILITY Students find ways to get involved in the face of challenges presented in their lives.





CONTENTS: THE EXPRESS STAFF Editor In Chief………..........................Megan Yates Print Editor……………............................Tessa Regan Online Editor…………..........................Liz LaHood





Senior Sebastian Meriano walks with his parents to be recognized as a 2021 Homecoming king candidate. Meriano is an involved student who maintains a 4.5 GPA.

Transitioning while in high school is an experience shared by some students in the community.

Managing Editor………..................Julia Moser Sports Editor……………......................Jack Nitz Photography Editor……..............Lindsey Farthing Design Editor…………….....................Sabrina San Agustin Business Manager…………….....Abbie Kratofil Online Chief Writer……….........….Rachel Hostetler Print Chief Writer…………..........….Elizabeth Caine Chief Photographer....................Bailey Thompson

Writers Quinn Brown • Jessica Toomay • Hannah Rakolta Anna Bailey • Alyssa Gagnon • Lizzie Lively Reagan Kauth • Lucy Halverson • Thomas Rose Reagan King • Lindsay Maresh • Libby Addison Payton Porter • Alex Cowdrey • Ashley Adams Photographers Laura Benteman • Anna Shaughnessy Norah Alasmar • Lila Vancrum • Maci Miller Remi Nuss



Designers Sophie Dellett • Regan Simeon • Avery Sigg Adviser Jim McCrossen

Assistant Adviser Amanda Ford

Students start a religious club to unite the Muslim community.



CONTENTS | 03 EDITORIAL Consent is Key


OPINION Behind Bars


OPINION Stay in Your Lane



DISABILITY Connections, an Intensive Resource class, provides seniors Ainsley Aadland, who has Down syndrome, and Regan Poppen, a peer mentor, the chance to learn more about each other. Aadland, Poppen and others highlight the accomplishments of students with disabilities and speak to the importance of cultivating an inclusive environment.





Sophomore Harper Latta was adopted as a newborn baby and lives with her parents and two siblings.

The Daily Flatbread is a popular appetizer served at The Brass Onion.

Pictures of student life throughout the past month.

Sports editor Jack Nitz shares some of the best sporting moments during the past month.






CONSENT IS KEY In recent months, there have been protests at several universities across the U.S. in response to sexual battery allegations at fraternity houses. At the University of Kansas, female students came forward with allegations against members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity; as it currently stands, the university opened an investigation after a fraternity member was accused of sexual battery. The university should have disbanded the chapter outright. College students are not the only ones impacted by rape and sexual battery. Nevertheless, if college students are expected to be held accountable for their actions, so should students of all academic levels. Knowing there are students within our high school who are victims of sexual battery and or rape -- and that their alleged abusers are walking the same halls as them -- sickens us. Rape is wrong. There should be no need to explain why forcing people into sexual acts or intercourse without their consent is not only illegal but incredibly cruel. No one should forcibly use someone else’s body for any reason. Often women are seen as the only victims of sexual battery. While women may be the most common, men are just as capable of being assaulted. Silencing a man’s voice and calling him too weak for “letting it happen” is just as bad as telling a woman she was “asking for it.” To prevent rape or sexual battery from occurring, it is imperative to know their legal definitions. While often misconstrued as the same concept, rape and sexual battery are two different things. Kansas Statute 21-5505 defines sexual battery as the touching of a victim without their consent to arouse the sexual desires of the offender. Rape, on the other hand, is defined by Kansas Statute 21-5503 as “knowingly engaging in sexual intercourse with a victim who does not consent to the sexual intercourse.” Along with educating oneself on what rape and sexual battery are, it is equally important to know how to prevent these actions. Preventing rape has nothing to do with what someone is wearing or how dark an alleyway is, but rather all to do with consent. Consent is a key aspect to preventing sexual battery, but Kansas does not have any laws regarding its definition. The closest neighboring state to have a consent definition is Arkansas. Arkansas Codes 5-14203 and 5-14-125 define a lack of consent as “if a person

engages in a sexual act with another person by forcible compulsion.” Additionally, in Arkansas, if one is intoxicated to the point of not being able to give consent, all sexual acts are considered sexual battery. If you do not have consent, you can not continue or begin with the attempted sexual act. Agreeing to go on a date with someone is not consent to physical intimacy, being in a romantic relationship with someone does not automatically guarantee consent and presenting a gift to someone does not mean they owe you a sexual favor in return. Furthermore, asking for and giving consent does not “kill the mood,” but rather solidifies each person’s willingness to participate in any sexual act. With the legal definitions of sexual battery, rape and consent now defined, ignorance is no longer an option. Hold yourself and your friends accountable for being part of the solution and not the problem. Dismissal of this issue only encourages and makes it easier for the abusers to continue their horrific acts.

#WhyIDidntReport This hashtag is used to highlight the stories of survivors of sexual battery. Write why you did not report below and tear this page out to share your story. The Express has arranged for a wall at school to be available for people to share their stories.

Read more about sexual battery in the editorial of this month’s edition of The Express. To read more stories of survivors, search @whyididntreport on Instagram. National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673




Written by Alyssa Gagnon, Design by Sophie Dellett Imagine living in a cage your whole life, doing the same thing every day over and over again. Your sole purpose in life is to look interesting for people who are paying to see you. No, you are not the one in the cage. Animals, with no control as to what happens to them, are. They are just useless animals though. Why should we care? When you see puppies and kittens at an adoption center, you immediately want to take every single one home. Yet, you will pay to see other animals trapped in the same captive environments, and stare at their suffering. Majority of animals seen at zoos are bred in captivity, meaning from the time they are born to the time they die, the only home they know is a cramped and gloomy cage. Do not try to tell me not all cages are bad. No cage, no matter the size, can compare to the Great Plains of Africa, the Amazon Rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef or the Sahara Desert. The Kansas City Zoo has seemingly below average exhibits that do not appear to cut it for their animals. Many animals at the Kansas City Zoo, to my eyes, have an inadequate amount of space to live, especially the elephants. According to a spokesperson from the Kansas City Zoo, Josh Hollingsworth, the elephant’s exhibit was recently renovated. Now, it is around a quarter mile long. Although the zoo is taking steps to improve conditions for some animals, a quarter of a mile is nothing compared to one of the elephant’s many natural habitats, the Serengeti National Park. This habitat covers over thirtyseven million acres, a significant increase from a quarter of a mile. Since almost all zoo animals are bred in captivity, they have never been given the chance to live outside of their cage, and so these beautiful creatures would fail

if they were to be put back into their natural habitat. It is not their fault they will not be able to adjust, but rather the zoo’s, for they have set these animals up for failure. I’ve always heard that zoos are trying to save endangered species, but for many zoos, their internal motive is questionable. If they really are “saving” the animals, then why are common animals being locked up when they could be in their natural environment, which has much more space to live in than any artificial living space a zoo can create? Hollingsworth said the Kansas City Zoo is home to 200 species of animals, but only 37 of those species are listed as endangered, critically endangered or extinct in the wild. This means 163 species are not in danger of extinction, so I ask the question, why do zoos even hold animals captive that are not endangered? They obviously are not saving them, so my guess is zoos just want money and do not care about the animals’ well-being. Instead of going to a zoo, go visit an animal rehabilitation center, where they take in injured, sick or orphaned animals. In Linwood, Kansas, Operation Wildlife is a rehabilitation center. Visitors are welcome during an open house in October and their Santa Claws event in December. Unlike zoos, animal rehabilitation centers like Operation Wildlife value their animals and want to help. Zoos are inhumane in every way. I believe they only care about the money-making aspect, not the animals themselves. Now just try to imagine these zoo animals running free in their rightful homes compared to their dark cages, better right?



STAY IN YOUR LANE Written by Liz LaHood, Design by Sophie Dellett “Call this number and Jesus will save you.” That was the message on a billboard I noticed while driving across I-70 to St. Louis several weeks ago. The sheer number of different signs I saw that all advertised Christianity was absurd. There is a fine line between trying to share religion and forcing it upon others, and it is a line some Christians love to cross. Religion is your own business. This country was built on the freedom of religion, so manipulating others based on the rules of your faith goes against what our Founding Fathers intended. A majority of the 117th Congress is made up of Christians, with the House of Representatives and Senate being 88 percent and 87 percent Christian, respectively. The U.S. population is 65 percent Christian and 26 percent unaffiliated; the other nine percent makes up an assortment of other religions. The religions other than Christianity have only a few representatives each. Although worded differently, the First Amendment calls for a separation of Church and State. Therefore, the involvement of religious bias in lawmaking violates the American people’s right to freedom of religion. Religion is a personal experience and has no business in politics. There should be no uncertainty when it comes to a country’s government, as those choices impact every single person living there. This imbalance is exhibited in the recent legislation passed in Texas, known as the “heartbeat bill,” which prohibits abortions as early as six weeks, which is before many women are even aware they are pregnant. The bill, which was greatly supported by many conservative Christians and religious leaders, will do very little to prevent abortion, but rather will cut off access to safe abortions. In the Gospel of Matthew 22:3739 Jesus said, “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Trying to dictate the rights of others based on your personal opinions or beliefs does not sound very loving to me. Yet another example of religion being harnessed as a weapon against

others is the sheer number of sexual assault allegations made against men working for the Catholic Church. An investigation concluded in October 2021 uncovered at least 216,000 child sex abuse victims at the hands of members of French clergy from 1950 to 2020. This included approximately 3,000 different abusers, two-thirds of whom were priests. These assaults have been documented all across the world, but seem to have only resulted in the dismissal of a few church officials, some lawsuits and only a handful of convictions. The fact that there are 1.3 billion Catholics in the world, indirectly supporting horrid acts like this, makes me sick. It is infuriating that these people can sit by while these heinous acts continue to happen and go unpunished. So no, I will not be calling the number on your billboard to seek counsel from Jesus, and no, I do not wish to go to church with you. Stop shoving this form of moral corruption down my throat. Nothing is perfect, even religion. If you have found faith in your life, I congratulate you, but I ask you to keep it to yourself. Just because you are so sound in your beliefs does not mean you have to push those beliefs onto others. Please, I “pray” of you, stay in your lane.



The academic excellence some students strive to achieve is a result of pressure from themselves and their families.


Written by Ashley Adams and Libby Addison, Photos by Lindsey Farthing, Design by Sabrina San Agustin

he Blue Valley School District sets a standard for success that has only gotten more competitive as the years pass, counselor Lauren Crouch said. She said students can undergo immense feelings of pressure from this, along with expectations set from parents, friends and themselves. Junior Ricki Li said he finds himself being one of these students. He said his

Nominated for Homecoming King, senior Sebastian Meriano walks onto the track during the Homecoming assembly, Sept. 30. “I was very excited and humbled by the fact that my peers nominated me,” Meriano said. (Photo by Remi Nuss)

parents play a large role inhis academic stress. Because of the sacrifices his parents have made, Li said he holds himself to an extremely high standard. “My parents didn’t work so hard to come to America, just for me to be unsuccessful,” Li said. Li takes on seven weighted classes, and through maintaining straight A’s, he has obtained a weighted GPA of 4.78. In addition, Li is the junior class president, participates in DECA, volunteers with Kay Club and plays varsity soccer. Li said he strives to be the best, this mindset presented itself after he received his ACT results. “I just took the ACT for the first time, and I would say my score was OK,” Li said. “I got a 33, [but] my brother got a perfect score on his first try, so I was hoping to do the same.” According to Crouch, Li’s test score was in the 99th percentile of composite scores, but Li said it was not enough to satisfy him. He said he plans to take the test again and hopes to get a perfect score. “The way my parents raised me, is to go for the top,” Li said. “I’m not satisfied with being mid-level at anything I do.” Blue Valley Northwest Social Worker Anyssa Wells said being academically obsessed can take a negative toll on one’s mental state. “I think students that push themselves academically and have high standards for themselves are more likely to experience mental fatigue and

In her gifted class, freshman Sydney Barnett plays an educational game on her laptop, Oct. 8. “As a gifted student, people expect me to get all the answers right and understand what is going on,” Barnett said. (Photo by Lindsey Farthing) feelings of being overwhelmed,” Wells said. Li said he personally works so hard because his parents strive to raise academically, and overall thriving children. Li and his older brother both set a standard of excellence for themselves, according to Li. “Our parents just don’t want to see us fail,” Li said. Li’s mom, Hua Li, described the academic goals she has for her kids. “We worked hard to come [to America], so my husband and I want


At the Homecoming assembly, junior Ricki Li describes the Pie the President fundraiser, Sept. 30. “I feel like [Student Government] is a fun environment where I spend time with my friends,” Li said. (Photo by Lindsey Farthing) the best for our second generation,” Hua said. “Ricki has always said school is easy, and he didn’t have to study to get a good score, so I do want him to push himself [by taking harder courses].” Unlike Li, sophomore Saraphina Wambi said she attributes her need for academic validation to her internalized fear of failure, rather than the expectations of her parents. “I do get pushed by my parents, but most of my drive comes from myself,” Wambi said. Wambi plays tennis year-round, is the sophomore class president, is a member of the Black Student Union, Model UN, Kay Club and the BVNW orchestra. By taking four weighted classes, and more in previous years, Wambi has accumulated a 4.57 weighted GPA. Wambi said she hopes her hard work pays off in the form of getting admitted into a superior college. “I just want to succeed in life honestly, that’s why I work so hard,” Wambi said. “I really want to get into a school where I can continue to get a good education.” Senior Sebastian Meriano said, like Wambi, most of the pressure he feels academically comes from himself and goals he has for his future.

FEATURE | 09 “I put the pressure mostly on myself, myself than my family does,” Barnett I have made it my goal to go out of state said, “I have never gotten a B [as a for college, so ever since eighth grade semester grade] so in my head anything I have been focusing on my grades,” under a 95 percent is too close to a B so Meriano said. I always have to be above that.” Meriano maintains a 4.5 weighted Similar to Li, family acts as an GPA and is currently enrolled in five academic motivator in both Barnett Advanced Placement classes and an and Meriano’s lives. However, the honors elective class. Meriano also motivation for Meriano and Barnett plays varsity football, is a part of comes from competition with their investing club and is planning to join siblings rather than the expectations chess club. from their parents. Recently, Meriano “I like to show received the Great my sister that I can I’m not satisfied American Rivalry do better than her,” Series Scholarship on with being mid-level Meriano said. account of having the Meriano said he at anything I do. highest GPA on the wants to exceed football team. the standard made -RICKI LI “I wasn’t before him by his necessarily working sister, while Barnett for [the scholarship], but it feels good to hopes to set the standard for her get recognized,” Meriano said. siblings. Along with school work, Meriano Crouch said students such as Li, said football also has a lot of control Wambi, Meriano and Barnett are over his freetime. pressured to represent a standard of “I don’t really have a lot of free time, excellence that is prevalent within Blue I have football until 6:15 [at night], I go Valley. home, I have to eat, shower, and then “Blue Valley definitely has I do homework and study until late at established itself as a top school night,” Meriano said. “I have to sacrifice district, and the kids within [Blue a lot of things that I would like to do, I Valley] definitely are treated as if they can’t really hang out with my friends.” need to uphold those high standards,” He also said he likes to prove to Crouch said. people that athletes are capable of taking harder classes. “Sometimes when people look at me they don’t expect me to be in those kinds of classes,” Meriano said. Similarly to Meriano, freshman Sydney Barnett found herself appearing out of place in certain classes. Barnett began taking high school classes earlier than most of her peers as she was taking Honors Geometry while she was still in eighth grade. “I’m the oldest in my family, so there was no one to test the waters before me, and being in class around actual adults while I was still like 13 was pretty intimidating,” Barnett said. Now, as a freshman, Barnett is in three honors classes, including Honors Algebra II normally taken by sophomores. Barnett is also in the gifted program, which is a select Sophomore Saraphina Wambi hits a class for higher academically skilled tennis ball from the baseline, Sept. 9. students. “Tennis is a very stressful sport and Barnett said her pressure to succeed requires a lot of mental toughness,” came predominantly from herself. Wambi said. (Photo by Lila Vancrum) “I definitely put more pressure on



A HAPPY TRUTH Transitioning while in high school is a unique experience shared by transgender students within the Blue Valley Northwest community. Written by Lizzie Lively and Jessica Toomay, Photos by Bailey Thompson and Laura Benteman, Design by Julia Moser

Editors’ note: The Express used Spencer Mohn’s preferred pronouns (they/them) in this story.


enior Aaron Avery said he was standing in the middle of Hy-Vee when he finally realized he was transgender. “I remember one specific day… [my family and I] were shopping for school supplies for fun, freshman or sophomore year…I thought about stubble, and how bad I wanted stubble. And I started crying in the middle of Hy-Vee,” Avery said. In contrast, junior Spencer Mohn said they did not have a defining moment in realizing they were transgender. “I always knew something was different. I don’t remember when I first realized, ‘this is because I’m transgender.’ I just think I slowly [was] like, ‘maybe I could be transgender’ and then just slowly became more like, ‘this is who I am,’” Mohn said. Mohn mentioned they had doubts about being transgender at first and that stopped them from coming out to their friends and family. “I decided [to come out] because I knew that the friends that I had would be accepting of me. The only thing that was stopping me was

[thinking], ‘is this right? Am I going to tell them that I’m transgender and then have to go back on my word?’” Mohn said. “I was just so uncomfortable with how I was being perceived or how I was going out into the world that I came out because I wanted that to change.” Mohn also said their parents were very accepting of their transition. “I’m very lucky with my parents, even if they might not understand everything, they’re always there for me, no matter what,” Mohn said. Mohn’s dad, biology teacher Jeremy Mohn, declined to comment because of personal reasons, he said. Unlike Mohn, Avery said his parents were not initially welcoming, but they eventually grew to accept him. Avery’s mother, Gina Avery, said she knew from a young age that Avery did not fit into gender stereotypes. “He’s always been kind of gendernonconforming ever since he discovered free will with clothes at about age three,” Gina said. One of the more difficult parts for his parents to accept, Avery said, was his name change. “Because our names are so tied to our identities…they think that you’re going to change your whole entire identity and obviously, that doesn’t happen. I’m still the same person,” Avery said. “They’re sort of mourning who they thought you were going to be and not seeing it as a natural progression of things.” Avery also said it took a while before his parents let him actively transition. “[My parents] were very hesitant to move forward at all,

Junior Spencer Mohn is President of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance Club. “It’s very important that we have a place where different people can go and be accepted regardless of orientation,” Mohn said. (Photo by Laura Benteman) just because even though it’s something that I had been thinking about for a long time, they have not been thinking about it for a long time,” Avery said. Avery has been on testosterone for two years, and Gina said getting him started on testosterone was a relatively easy process. “It was easy for us because it was clear that [testosterone] was something Aaron needed,” Gina said. When it came time to legally change his name, Avery said his parents and the law firm he used made the process happen as smoothly as possible. “[The Shook, Hardy and Bacon law firm] did it for free. I worked with them last year, but it was pretty easy,” Avery said. “You have to sign that you have been going by [your name] for however long and that this is what people know you by.” Avery said a struggle he faced before legally changing his name was



substitute teachers using his dead somewhat feminine, name instead of his real name. I feel like I won’t be “Before [each] school year started, I viewed as truly emailed all my teachers like ‘hey, just transgender or as so you know, I go by [Aaron], please truly non-binary. change that on your roster,’ and it I feel pressured never worked with a sub,” Avery said. to dress In contrast, Mohn said even completely though they have not changed their masculine all the name legally, the school was very time,” Mohn said. accommodating in using their name. Avery agreed “[Mrs. Keller, my counselor,] emailed saying it has been all my teachers at the beginning of the challenging to present year, saying [Spencer] is the name that the way he wants to because I want to use. of this All my teachers pressure. have been using “It’s sort of I’m very lucky with the right name. a really long my parents, even There has not waiting game if they might not been any issue because I am with that,” Mohn not a hundred understand everything, said. percent masculine they’re always there for Despite this, person, but I have me, no matter what. Mohn mentioned to adapt to what it has been works best in this -SPENCER MOHN challenging to present moment get teachers to for my own mental use their correct pronouns. health,” Avery said. “[Cisgender] guys “Some of my teachers are very can present themselves however they accepting and I can tell they’re want to, but it changes when you’re definitely doing their best to use the trans.” correct pronouns. And I think that’s With all of that in mind, Avery what matters, but some of them do not said he is excited to go to college and use them,” Mohn said. try different things with his gender Another difficult aspect, Avery expression. He added that a college he said, has been connecting with his is looking into attending, Oregon State classmates. University, offers to cover the cost of “I’m constantly fighting this gender-affirming surgeries. stigma of being the anti-social, nerdy “There’s a lot of steps that I want to transgender student who’s super weird be able to take in the future, when I’m and nobody wants to talk to him,” Avery going to college and I’m surrounded by said. “[There are] people in our school a bunch of people that I don’t know,” who are just going to be cruel no matter Avery said. “There’s a lot of fun stuff what.” that you can try [in college] because Mohn added they feel like they will you haven’t known these people since not be seen as truly non-binary without elementary school and it’s freeing dressing in a masculine way. to be able to try new things with “I feel even if I want to present testosterone.”

Senior Aaron Avery began transitioning at age 14. “There are a lot of trans people who feel very stuck because their family and friends don’t support them,” Avery said. (Photo by Bailey Thompson)

LGBTQ+ TERMINOLOGY CISGENDER: Someone who feels comfortable in the gender they were assigned at birth. TRANSGENDER: Someone who does not feel comfortable in the gender they were assigned.

Someone who looks or dresses in a masculine way.


NON-BINARY: An umbrella term for people whose gender identity does not fit into the gender binary.



Someone who looks or dresses in a feminine way.

A gender expression that indicates a non-traditional gender presentation.



HELP WANTED The ongoing labor shortage is impacting students’ lives both during and after work. Written by Abbie Kratofil and Quinn Brown, Photos by Anna Shaughnessy, Design by Avery Sigg


unior Emily Farley said she has noticed how the labor shortage has affected her job at Raising Cane’s. One problem she noticed was many of her coworkers not attending their assigned shifts. “We have scheduled about seven [employees] but usually only four people show up,” Farley said. “[My coworkers] don’t feel appreciated for the work that they’re putting in. So, they don’t know why they bother going in.” Junior Nicole Ouyang said the labor shortage has affected her job, as well. Ouyang is a server and backup host at Magic Noodle. “We have enough staff when

Junior Ainsley Novak takes an order from a customer at Jinkies! Coffee, Oct. 17. “ I love my job, the hours are flexible and consistent so I can always plan my life around my work,” Novak said. (Photo by Anna Shaughnessy)

scheduled, but if someone were to be the different locations, everybody was sick, we would not be able to [find a quitting,” Farley said. “Anybody could replacement],” Ouyang said. go and find another job in the same Even with the current U.S. area that is paying more.” unemployment rate of 4.8 percent, Magic Noodle has tried a different management at Raising Cane's said strategy. Ouyang said the labor they are not experiencing any kind of shortage has made her work stay open labor shortage at the moment. later in order to accomodate a greater Despite her number of customers manager's claims, with fewer employees. Farley said she has While Ouyang has There’s so noticed the impact noticed an increase of the labor shortage in customers, Novak many homework through the fewer said she has noticed a assignments I’ve options for when decrease in customers missed because and how customers at Jinkies! Coffee due to I was so tired can order food at her the labor shortage. Novak from work. work. said orders cannot be “We had to close completed as quickly [the lobby] because as they should be, and -NICOLE OUYANG we don’t have any customers do not want staff,” Farley said. “We to return to a place with now open an hour later and close an slow service. hour earlier.” “My first day working, it was a crazy Because of the new decrease in rush,” Novak said. “The most recent workers, junior Ainsley Novak’s time I went into work, there was almost workplace, Jinkies! Coffee, considered no one there. I was pretty much sitting shutting down, but ultimately found a around for my entire shift.” solution. Despite having a busy schedule “[The management has been] taking with school and soccer, Farley said the on a ton of new hires, and increasing labor shortage has made her feel more our hours,” Novak said. pressured to show up to her shifts. Farley’s workplace tried an opposite “I now feel obligated to show up to approach toward getting through the work because I don’t want one crew labor shortage. member doing everything because I “Our hours changed. On weekends know how awful that is,” Farley said. they used to be from 11 to 11, and now Along with academic pressure, Farley they’re 12 to 8,” Farley said. “Monday said the labor shortage has affected her through Friday, they changed from 11 to mental health. 10 and now they’re 11 to 9.” “[The labor shortage] has negatively In addition to decreased hours, impacted my stress and anxiety toward Farley said the labor shortage caused getting all of my work done, especially the starting pay at her work to rise for school,” Farley said. from $11 to $15 an hour. Additionally, Farley said her “In the Kansas City area, at all of management has put more stress on



the staff, and simple work tasks are becoming prolonged. “You’re expected to do a lot more than you should; [order to delivery time] should take under two minutes and 15 seconds [and] now the average time is five to six minutes,” Farley said. Novak said Jinkies! Coffee has implemented a good scheduling system in an effort to entice employees to stay. “They have consistent hours, so you're not called in [the] day before the shift you have to work,” Novak said. Novak added she believes there is at least one positive to people not applying for jobs. “I think it’s kind of good, in a way, that people are choosing not to apply for jobs, specifically minimum wage jobs, until the pay and conditions are better and more fair,” Novak said. “A large reason for the labor shortage right now is that people are fed up [with] working for such low pay.” In addition to low pay, Ouyang said another challenge due to the labor shortage is that customers are not always understanding about the stress placed on employees. “I left the restaurant at 11:30 last night; the last group of customers wouldn’t leave until 10:45, and we closed at 10:30,” Ouyang said. “It’s so disrespectful.” The labor shortage extends beyond the food industry. Senior Lucas Devorak experienced the negative impacts of the labor shortage while working at Waterway Carwash. “It was pretty terrible,” Devorak said. “The [work] gets done slower, so the customers get more frustrated.” Devorak said having a smaller staff benefits the employees financially, but it has its downsides. “You get really good money because you’re doing more cars, but it’s a lot of

Junior Ainsley Novak hands a coffee to a customer at Jinkies! Coffee. “I actually got pretty lucky because Jinkies! is a family-owned small business,” Novak said. “Only [a few] people are on staff at one time.” (Photo by Anna Shaughnessy) work,” Devorak said. Novak has also experienced exhaustion. She said it is frustrating when she wants to relax, but has to come in for work. “Sometimes when I have a lot of other things to do, it can get kind of stressful,” Novak said. Ouyang agreed with Novak and said the exhaustion due to her job has impacted her grades. “There’s so many homework assignments I’ve missed because I was so tired from work,” Ouyang said. Devorak said he has also experienced



3.5% according to U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics

fatigue from the labor shortage, but he attributes it to fewer employees per shift. “[There were] about ten to twelve [employees] on a regular day,” Devorak said. “[After the labor shortage] they only had about four people working for each shift.” With all of this in mind, Novak said people looking for jobs should seek out struggling businesses. “Since a lot of places are understaffed, if someone is looking for a job they should apply for a place they know might need help,” Novak said.



4.8% according to U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics



GAME DAY GALLERY Senior Nicole Hiemenz chips the ball during a golf tournament, Sept. 27. “I had a lot of fun as a captain, and getting to know the girls and form connections allowed me to enjoy the sport more than ever,” Hiemenz said. (Photo by Anna Shaughnessy)

Sophomore Alex Cross runs at the Rim Rock invitational for the varsity boys cross country team, Sept. 25. “I felt like I was going to die,” Cross said. “I usually think about music and remind myself that pain is only temporary.” (Photo by Anna Shaughnesy)

Junior Emily Chiasson backhands the ball during her varsity tennis match against Blue Valley North, Sept. 20. “This season has been super fun, getting to build relationships with the team,” Chiasson said. (Photo by Norah Alasmar)


FEATURE | 15 Cheerleaders strike their ending pose during the Homecoming assembly, Sept. 30. Senior Ashley Clark said she enjoyed performing the routine at the assembly. “Performing in front of the school is a good way to show all the hard work we do,” Clark said. (Photo by Lindsey Farthing)

Senior Max Muehlberger catches a pass over a defender in the varsity football game against Blue Valley North, Oct. 8. “They were a really good team so to do everything we did was really impressive, and I’m super proud of our team,” Muehlberger said. The Huskies won the game, 3521. (Photo by Lila Vancrum)

During the varsity soccer game against Lee’s Summit High School, senior Ryan Masterson dribbles up the field, Oct. 6. “This season has been a little frustrating because of the results of the scoreboard after games we should have won,” Masterson said. “I am confident that this team has the potential to go far.” The Huskies and the Tigers tied, 3-3. (Photo by Norah Alasmar)



COVER | 17

Students find ways to involve themselves in high school despite the challenges presented in their lives. Written by Lindsay Maresh and Lucy Halverson, Photos by Laura Benteman, Design by Sabrina San Agustin


nder the Friday night lights, senior Ainsley Aadland dances for the cheering crowd, alongside the BVNW dance team,

team, her name is Regan,” Aadland said. Senior dance team captain Regan Poppen has known Aadland since the two were in elementary school. Poppen The Pack. explained how she has seen Aadland Aadland is involved in a variety of devote herself to performing well, school activities including Special alongside the dance team. Olympics, Unified Sports and the “Ainsley works really hard. She likes dance team. Aadland, who has Down to practice a lot on her own, and in her syndrome, has been a part of the dance garage; she loves performing for her team for four years. family and her friends, and it’s really Mandie Aadland, Ainsley’s mom, cool to see how involved and how much said The Pack she cares about the has been a dance team,” Poppen huge activity said. We aren’t any for Aadland Poppen is also less human just throughout high a peer mentor for school. Mandie the students in the because we have explained how Intensive Resource disabilities, so we this team has class. Peer mentors should be treated allowed Aadland are typical peers who to be a part assist students with like everyone else. of something disabilities during within her their classes. Poppen -ISABELLA SHEPKER school. shared her experience “I think that’s in peer-mentoring and a part of high school, to feel like you how it has impacted her. matter, that you get to be a part of a “I find a lot of joy in it. Not only group, and there is some identity there can I make an impact in their and some pride there,” Mandie said. lives and help them out but they Aadland shared her experience and definitely make an impact in my favorite parts of being on the dance life as well,” Poppen said. team. Peer mentoring, Poppen said, “It’s really fun to dance [with] my has impacted her by building friends. I have a best friend on the strong friendships with Aadland and other students with special needs, as well as Left: Juniors Elijah Henderson and educating Poppen on important Hudson Henzlik, along with seniors life lessons that she would not Ainsley Aadland and Regan Poppen, have otherwise learned. spend time together in Connections class. “Usually when someone has abilities that are different from Right: Aadland is a member of The Pack yours, your instinct is to handle them, dance team and stands for the National and just kind of give them whatever Anthem during a recent football game.

they want and bend the rules; but one of the lessons I’ve learned is that boundaries and saying ‘no’ is also really important,” Poppen said. Junior Hudson Henzlik is another peer tutor in rooms 101 and 102, the Intensive Resource classrooms. He helps out in the Connections class, which takes place during fifth hour, by helping students with disabilities improve their social skills. Henzlik has been a peer mentor since middle school and said he plans to continue peer-mentoring throughout high school. “One of my favorite parts about [peer-mentoring] is lunch or activities, getting to know [the students], and then introducing them to my friends, so

18 | COVER then everyone knows them and they get more involved,” Henzlik said. Intensive Resource teacher Robin Hodges works with students who have special needs. Hodges described the Intensive Resource classrooms as a place where students with disabilities learn how to be as independent as possible, by practicing functional life skills. “Every student in our program is capable and many of them will be able to live independently. So we try to foster that in everything we do as far as goals and lessons,” Hodges said. According to Hodges, the 26 students in Connections are like a family. Along with having a supportive environment, Hodges said rooms 101 and 102 are a joyful place to be. “We have the happiest room in the entire building,” Hodges said.“You come in and it’s filled with joy and our students are excited to learn.” Hodges described Aadland, who is a part of the Connections class, as an artistic and creative individual. “She’s quiet in the classroom, but if you give her any project [where] she can express herself with art, she loves it,” Hodges said. Junior Elijah Henderson is a student in room 102 as well. Henderson has Mosaic Trisomy 18 which is a rare chromosomal disorder, according to math and engineering teacher Karen Stohlmann, Elijah’s mom. She explained how her son experiences his surroundings. “Elijah experiences the world with the volume turned way up. So every emotion is bigger to him than it is to you or me. Every sound is bigger, every texture is bigger. I think

11.05.21 sometimes we forget that,” Stohlmann Elijah works on team goals with the said. band. Elijah does sometimes face a lack of “He works toward a common goal, he inclusion, Stohlmann said. works as a part of the team. He works “We’re pretty fortunate that no on goals outside of himself,” Kirk said. matter where Kirk also said Elijah is in the Henderson has world, people contributed to the are not mean band. Don’t underestimate to him, but “He brings this any of them and their sometimes sense of joy and abilities, because he is just spirit to [the band]. invisible,” He’s never in a foul they’re going to do Stohlmann mood, and there is great things, and they said. “No one something delightful have great jobs lined goes out of and refreshing about their way to that,” Kirk said. up, and they have be mean, but In addition to the great skills, and they nobody goes band, Henderson out of their has a job at Price bring joy to the world. way to make Chopper. Stohlmann eye contact, to shared her -ROBIN HODGES speak to him, concerns with the to ask or even employment options assume he has an opinion.” for her son. Despite the challenges he has “Just the opportunities I think faced, Henderson is an optimistic and typical people take for granted. You hardworking individual, Hodges said. know, like being able to have a job. “He has a really good sense of Ok, my typical kid turns 16, ‘go get a humor, and he’ll do something funny job,’ right? My disabled kid turns 16. and look at you like ‘are you gonna Well, can he have a job? Will somebody laugh or not?’” Hodges said. hire him? Will somebody help him?” Henderson participates in Special Stohlmann said. Olympics, Unified Sports and the Henderson got his job through the Howlin’ Husky Marching Band. He is Career Development Opportunities a percussionist in the front ensemble Program (CDOP). This program, and marches in the drumline Hodges said, allows students with for the band. Henderson special needs to have a foundation for shared his favorite school-to-work transition. Aadland aspect of being in the is also a part of CDOP, and works at band. Beauty Brands. “Well, I like “It’s so much fun; I organize and [put [playing] the on] stickers,” Aadland said. cymbals and Sophomore Isabella Shepker has the drums,” a physical, rather than intellectual, Henderson said. disability. Shepker is blind with little Daniel Kirk, vision remaining in her left eye. She the band has a condition called Peter’s Anomaly director, which causes thinning and clouding explained of the cornea. Shepker also has a how prosthetic right eye. Shepker said some of the things she does differently at school to accommodate her disability include using technology in order to see. Left: Aadland and Poppen have known each other since elementary school. Right: Henderson and Henzlik work together during Connections class.


COVER | 19

Sophomore Isabella Shepker works on her project in her Software Development and Game Design class. (Photo by Laura Benteman) “I have to work on technology instead of on paper, like everyone else does, and I have to read by audio or else my eyes would get really tired,” Shepker said. Shepker uses a cane for mobility. She said it allows her to navigate without running into obstructions. “If there’s a wall nearby, the tip [of the cane] will hit the wall and let me know, ‘hey, there’s a wall over here,’ or if there’s something on the floor, it’ll tell me there’s a thing on the floor and it definitely helps me with stairs,” Shepker said. Isabella’s dad, Matt Shepker, said he would like other students to know that unsolicited contact can be startling for someone who is blind. “Being grabbed or touched without any kind of knowledge that it’s coming is a big thing, because if they can’t see it coming, [and] all of a sudden they’re being grabbed, they’re going to freak out,” Matt said.

Shepker said being blind does not hold her back from doing the things she loves, such as coding and playing games on her electronics. The only thing that is different for her, Shepker said, is the need to have an oversized computer screen in order to see. Matt said Shepker is learning code as well as 3-D modeling on her computer. “She’s learning to

write in two different programming languages right now, which is a big undertaking for anybody,” Matt said. Shepker wants people to know students with disabilities are not different from their typical peers. “We aren’t any

20 | COVER

On percussion, junior Elijah Henderson plays with the rest of the BVNW Band during halftime of the football game, Oct. 22. (Photo by Bailey Thompson)

11.05.21 less human just because we have disabilities, so we should be treated like everyone else,” Shepker said. Agreeing with Shepker’s point, Stohlmann explained how students with intellectual disabilities are treated differently. “Sometimes it’s easy to make folks with disabilities more of a pet than a friend. And that’s kind of awful. So, knowing that other people treat them with friendship, versus as a token, is pretty important,” Stohlmann said. Stohlmann said she believes it is important to include everyone despite their differences. “I think [inclusion] is a concern we have with every one who’s different and that’s gender, sexuality, race and disability. Acknowledging that there needs to be inclusion, acknowledging that those differences are different, but not abnormal,” Stohlmann said. Henzlik added to this by encouraging all students to be kind to their peers who have disabilities. “All [the students] feel the same things we do, and I think it’s important to include them,” Henzlik said. Hodges agreed with Henzlik and shared her advice for how Northwest should view students with disabilities and their potential. “Don’t underestimate any of [the students] and their abilities, because they’re going to do great things and they have great jobs lined up and they have great skills and they bring joy to the world,” Hodges said.


ADS | 21





A Club Connecting a Community Five students start a new club to provide a safe community for Muslim students. Written by Elizabeth Caine, Photos by Norah Alasmar, Design by Rachel Hostetler


ophomore Wania Munir, a founder of the Muslim Students Association, said being a Muslim immigrant in a school with people that don’t look like you makes you feel really alone. Munir added that her experience as a Muslim immigrant has been difficult but it could be worse. “Most people are very accepting, but I have had some rude [or] ignorant comments said to me,” Munir said. There is a negative connotation around Muslims, according to Munir. “A lot of people think very negatively about Muslims and Islam in general,” Munir said. “I don’t think it’d hurt to educate students at Northwest about Islam.” Munir said students will be able to learn more about Muslim students through the MSA. “We plan to have the club be a place where people can come interact with Muslim students and get rid of their judgements,” Munir said. According to the President of MSA, senior Omar Mohammed, the MSA is a space for all students to meet and interact with Muslims while helping the Muslim community as a whole through a variety of volunteering events. Mohammed said four of the founding members had been friends since middle school but initially never felt the need to form a club as they were already immersed in the Muslim

community on their own, outside of it took about a week of planning to school. establish it. “Once we realized there were plenty “Everyone kind of got a role and then of others who wanted to do the same we were like, ‘let’s think of sponsors, but did not have a place to do so, we let’s think of potential events we want started working toward setting up the to do [and] how many people do we club and met others who had interest need to get, then after a week of us five in starting the club,” Mohammed said. planning, we took it to Mrs. Bakalar,” Mohammed said he wanted to start Munir said. an MSA club as a way for the small Activities Director Kelsey Bakalar minority of Muslims at Northwest to said she was thrilled when the students reach out to one another. first expressed interest in starting the “Obviously schools like Blue Valley MSA. West, that’s way more wide because “I want all of our students to feel there’s a lot more Muslim people, but connected and feel like they have a at our school there’s not as many of voice at school, and I knew this would us,” Mohammed be a great opportunity said. “So, having for more students in our [an] organization building,” Bakalar said. I want all of our in place makes Anyone interested in that a lot easier to starting a school club, students to feel navigate.” Bakalar said, needs to fill out connected and Munir said she a Google Form and provide feel like they had experiences information in advance, in the past where such as what the club’s have a voice at she found herself purpose will be, how they school. wishing she had a are going to invite students place like MSA to to join and how they are -Wania Munir go to in order to going to let other students meet other Muslim know their club exists. She students. added she will then have the founders “Whenever I had heard about the meet with her and discuss their vision. MSA at West or BVSW I kind of wanted “We just try to anticipate any to do something like that too or wished roadblocks to them getting off the I could have one here,” Munir said. ground so I can figure out how I can After expressing interest in starting help support them,” Bakalar said. the club to Mohammed, Munir said In addition to Bakalar, the founders

11.05.21 of MSA reached out to ELA teacher Amanda Witty and Biology teacher Brooke Belcher. Witty said she decided to sponsor the club to help provide a place where Muslim students can connect with each other. “I think students are looking for ways to connect with their peers, especially as we’ve been through the last year and a half kind of keeping to ourselves,” Witty said. “I wanted them to be able to get together, and that means they needed an adult who was willing to be there and kind of help and support.” Although they do not know what specific events they will be participating in yet, Witty said the main focus will be on serving the community. “There will probably be some types of community service events throughout the year, but we’re really in the very beginning stages, and some of that will depend on the interest of the students who show up and who participate,” Witty said. At the moment, Mohammed said they plan on working with the local mosques in Overland Park. He added that the mosques have intentions of working with the MSA to run and sponsor events. The MSA will work in tandem with the Islamic Center of Johnson County, according to Munir. “They always have volunteer events like blood drives and fundraisers and donation events. So we really want to work closely with that,” Munir said. According to Mohammed, they want to participate in events such as these due to the fact that the Muslim community grew which means many people do not know each other. “I think by giving a space and forum for us to kind of interact with each other and set up community based activity options like volunteering, things like that is kind of our goal as of right now,” Mohammed said. Mohammed said nobody in the Muslim community at BVNW consistantly interacts with each other


Sophomore Wania Munir is co-president of the Muslim Students Association. “I wanted to create an environment for Muslim students to feel safe and included, and to dispel the general stereotypes about Muslim students.” Munir said. (Photo by Norah Alasmar) that much, which is a bridge he’s trying to gap. He added because of COVID-19, there is a gap between the upperclassmen and underclassmen. “We’re trying to build a forum for sophomores and freshmen to interact with the seniors as well as build something that people will be able to come back to, and they’ll have a community to fall back on,” Mohammed said.

Similarly, Bakalar said she hopes the MSA will be a place where students can feel connected with others and find a home. “I just would like for each student to feel like they have a home somewhere, whether it’s a particular club or an activity or sport. And then I would love to see every club find longevity,” Bakalar said. “Not last for a short period of time but really to be able to transcend a year or a semester, to be a lasting influence.”



BONDED BY MORE THAN BLOOD Adoption has played a big role in the lives of BVNW students and teachers.

Written by Reagan King and Alyssa Gagnon, Photos by Lila Vancrum, Design by Regan Simeon


enior Jennifer Clarkson was three years old when she was adopted from China. As a single mother in her forties, Clarkson’s mom, Jan Clarkson, started looking into adoption after a divorce. She ended up adopting five children, all from China. Clarkson was born with a very minor cleft palate on the inside of her mouth. In China, people with minor differences are considered disabled, according to Jan. “Most of the kids available for adoption are what they call special needs,” Jan said. “But sometimes the thing that makes them special needs is very minor, like a cleft palate.” Jan flew to Clarkson’s orphanage in Guangdong Province, China, to take her home in 2007. “You just kind of remember that moment when they come into [your life] and you just feel like, ‘yeah everything’s right in the world,’” Jan said. Clarkson was the third child Jan adopted from China. Shortly after adopting Clarkson, Jan said a new Chinese adoption law impacted her ability to adopt more children. “Right after I adopted Jenni, they changed the law and said single women could no longer adopt,” Jan said. A few years later, Jan said she discovered an ad for a possibility to make an exception to this law. She

worked with an adoption agency to adopt two more boys. Jan said there are still requirements for who can adopt in China, but the law has been changed. Although Jan is a single mom, her ex-husband, Mike Williams, is a part of Clarkson’s life. Even though the two are not married anymore, Clarkson still considers him her dad. For the most part, Clarkson said people do not make negative assumptions about her adoption. However, as somebody who is Asian with Caucasian parents, Clarkson said she has gone through some very uncomfortable and eye-opening situations. “One experience that really stood out to me was when I was at the grocery store, and I was with my parents, who are white,” Clarkson said. “Someone came up to my parents and said ‘are you babysitting her?’ That was the first time that I remembered that my situation is different.” Although Clarkson is not biologically related to her parents, to her, they are her parents through and through. “They are my real parents, and I don’t think of them any different than just my real parents,” Clarkson said. For Clarkson, adoption has changed her life and given her something that makes her unique. “I think adoption is a really cool thing to talk about,” Clarkson said. “It definitely makes you stand out from the

crowd, I don’t know too many people that are adopted, so I think I have a unique story.” Sophomore Harper Latta was born at Menorah Hospital in Overland Park, Kan., to her biological mother and then raised in Overland Park by her adopted parents. As an African American who lives with two Caucasian parents, Latta said she faces many assumptions about her and her family. “People definitely make assumptions,” Latta said. “The first

Jan Clarkson adopted Jenni in 2007. “Being a parent, there’s nothing like it,” Jan said. (Photo by Lila Vancrum)

11.05.21 thing that comes to your mind is definitely not adoption. It’s normally something like, ‘oh they’re probably her friend’s parents.’” Latta has two siblings. Her younger sister, Waverly, was adopted from a different family. She also has a younger brother, Everett, who is biologically related to her adoptive parents. Molly Latta, Harper’s mom, commented on how her family may look different than some other families, but said they are still a family nonetheless. “We just stand out because our family looks different from what people expect to see,” Molly said. With a diverse family, Latta said people make unjustified comments about her that other people do not have to deal with, which leaves her in an awkward position. Latta said she faces racism, as well. Before adopting Latta, Molly said she had the privilege of not having to face topics relating to racism. Now, with two black daughters, Molly said it impacts how she feels about the subject. “Having someone you love experience racism changes the way you relate to the subject,” Molly said. “My girls experience the hurt of racism in a personal way, and as a mom, that pains me.” Although there are hardships Latta has to face because she is adopted, she said she views being adopted as a blessing. Latta said she has a strong relationship with her family, as well as a great relationship with her biological mom. “We have what is called an open adoption, where we have a relationship with Harper’s birth mom,” Molly said. “Her mom is one of the bravest and strongest


Harper poses with her family, Oct. 11. “I’ve known them my whole life. They’re my parents there’s nothing different about it,” Latta said. (Photo by Lila Vancrum) people I know, and I love that Harper we could create our family.” sees that and knows that too.” When living in Los Angeles, Calif., At the end of the day, it does not Richey-Sullivan fostered 15 kids over matter to Latta that her family is not the course of three years. She said she biologically related to her. fostered some kids for as short as five “I don’t think days, and some as long [people] understand as two and a half years. that it’s still a family “We had a little girl I mean, the at the end of the for a very long time first thing that day,” Latta said. “I who went back to her feel like people think biological family, and comes to your [being adopted is] a mind is definitely that was really hard,” lot different, but it’s Richey-Sullivan said. not adoption. really been the same.” “But knowing that we Choir teacher could be there for her in It’s normally Elizabeth Richeysomething like ‘oh those formative years of Sullivan adopted all her life, and provide her they’re probably love and safety, she will three of her kids, 15-year-old daughter always have a piece of her freind’s Iris, 10-year-old son my heart.” parents. Aiden and sevenRichey-Sullivan said year-old son Elijah, every kid’s journey after being a foster through the foster care -HARPER LATTA parent to the three system is different. children. “With my three children that we have Richey-Sullivan said she first started adopted, unfortunately their stories fostering kids because she and her ended where it was not safe for them to husband, Patrick Sullivan, were not return to their biological families, so we able to have kids. adopted them,” Richey-Sullivan said. “Our hearts were just kind of tugged Her daughter, freshman Iris Sullivan, to kids that needed a home, that their said she does not remember much of parents could not take care of them for her life before being adopted because whatever reason,” Richey-Sullivan said. she was so young, but said being “We decided to start fostering so that adopted made her tougher because of


26 | FEATURE how much she moved around. She said her adoptive parents seem like they have been her parents all her life. “My parents love me just the same as if I was biologically their child,” Iris said. “People say I look a lot like my adoptive mom, and I see the resemblance, which is crazy because we’re not biologically related at all.” Richey-Sullivan said it does not consciously come to her mind that her kids are adopted. “Even though my sons do not have the same skin color as me, I don’t even think about it 99 percent of the time,” Richey-Sullivan said. “The one percent is when somebody in public [does a] double take at our family.” When in public, Richey-Sullivan said she has faced difficult situations with ignorant people. “My sons are African American,” Richey-Sullivan said. “I had Aiden in the shopping cart, and I had [Elijah] on a baby sling on my body. This woman in the grocery store was like, ‘wow, your kids’ dad must be really dark.’ Like, what is the matter with you?”’ In addition to facing challenges with the confusion of others in public, Richey-Sullivan said she also faces questions from her children about their biological parents and what led them to the foster care system. “There are tough questions like, ‘why couldn’t my birth mom take care of

me,’” Richey-Sullivan said. “There are person, and the struggles I went big questions that are really hard to deal through that I don’t want any other kid with.” to go through,” Iris said. Richey-Sullivan said adopting kids Through the fostering and adoption changed her life, impacting who she is. process, Richey-Sullivan had to go “Before, I was just into my job, and through training about what happens now I am a mom,” Richey-Sullivan to kids when they go through traumatic said. “It’s my most situations. This, important job, being Richey-Sullivan said, a mom.” has helped her see Whether you’re Richey-Sullivan people’s behaviors biological or said she continues to differently and be involved with the have more empathy adopted, your foster care system toward others. story shapes who through Respite “It’s even helped you are, and I think Care, a care system me be a better for foster kids when teacher because I my kids all have a their foster families know my students beautiful story. are unable to take might be dealing with -ELIZABETH care of them for short their own trauma periods of time. in whatever way,” RICHEY-SULLIVAN “The nice thing Richey-Sullivan said. about Respite Care is you can have “So, seeing their behaviors through that someone who lives on the complete lens, instead of ‘they’re being bad,’ they other side of Kansas that could come might actually be hurting.” to your house and have a completely Along with her mom, Iris said she different culture, and you don’t know wants to help others who are struggling. their past,” Iris said. In the future, Iris said she plans to A few years ago, Iris helped raise translate that into her own experiences awareness for Developing Caring by fostering, and possibly adopting, kids Communities Committed to Action, or of her own. DCCCA, a foster care agency primarily “I can foster teens that are about to in Kansas. Iris said her goal was to age out of the system and say, ‘these are encourage people to become foster some tricks that worked for me,’” Iris parents. said. “I [talked about how] I was adopted While she said she could not and how that has shaped me as a personally speak for how her kids’ lives have changed, Richey-Sullivan said she hopes their lives are safe, happy and stable. “Whether you’re biological or adopted, your story shapes who you are, and I think my kids all have a beautiful story,” Richey-Sullivan said.

Richey-Sullivan with her family in Colorado, May, 2020. “Whether you are biological or adopted, your story shapes who you are, and I think my kids all have a beautiful story,” Richey-Sullivan said. (Photo courtesy of Richey-Sullivan)



HIDDEN GEMS Staff members review lesser-known restaurants in the community.

Written by Anna Bailey and Thomas Rose, Photos by Maci Miller, Design by Libby Addison

Brass Onion 5501 W 135th St. Overland Park, 66223 Mr. B’s Fried Chicken- When ordering Mr. B’s Fried Chicken, you get

exactly what you expect. The chicken is well-cooked with tender meat and a crispy crust. It has good flavor throughout, but could use more salt. The meal also comes with three sides: mashed potatoes, cornbread and mixed greens. The mashed potatoes are smooth and well-seasoned; the greens are refreshing, but lack seasoning. The cornbread is well baked and the melted butter on top seeps through, making the bread melt in your mouth.

Braised Beef Short Rib- This short rib is slow-cooked to

perfection and extremely tender. The texture is by far the best part; the flavor itself is on par, but is not superb. The texture is simply amazing and exceeds all expectations. The order came with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, which were delicious. Other side dishes include fried onion strips, which were a little soggy but still tasted good, and roasted vegetables, which were delicious. It was an excellent dish overall.

Magic Noodle 8013 W 159th St. Overland Park, 66223 Magic Pork- Despite being well-cooked, the intensity of flavor

in the pork is far below what is expected. The other ingredients in the bowl, such as shiitake mushrooms, bok choy, scallions and cilantro, compensate for the pork’s lack of flavor. The broth is wellseasoned and tastes like home. The hand-pulled noodles are perfectly cooked with a good texture.

Pork Dumpling- The Pork Dumpling bowl uses the same

ingredients as the Magic Pork, except this bowl features steamed pork dumplings. The way in which these dumplings are steamed leads to a delightful texture and wonderful flavor. The noodles are great, with an al dente texture that is also good. The noodle bowl also featured vegetables, like bok choy, which were well-cooked and delicious. The broth was also delectable.

Gert’s Grill 12018 College Blvd Overland Park, Smoke Stack- The Smoke Stack sandwich is a great

combination of sweet and spicy flavors. The flavors of the mustard, lettuce, turkey and roast beef blend to make an overall great taste. The bread is also very delicious, and toasted to perfection. The mustard is the main attraction of the sandwich; it combines with the crunchy lettuce and tender meat to provide a myriad of textures. It was very filling; half of a sandwich is big enough to be a lunch or dinner.



HUSKY HIGHLIGHTS Getting duct taped to a wall outside of the 700 hallway, freshman Pranith Surapaneni allows his second hour gifted class to use him for a problem solving experiment, Sept. 30. “I wasn’t going into the class that day planning on doing it, but things just happened, and I guess I was the best person to get taped up,” Surapaneni said. (Photo by Laura Benteman)

At the Homecoming assembly, senior Sophia Freimanis pies student body president senior Nick Wood in the face, Sept. 30. “My friends and I jokingly said I should pie Nick,” Freimanis said. “The joke ended up going so far that students were texting me saying that they bought tickets with my name on it.” (Photo by Lindsey Farthing)


FEATURE | 29 Missing a shot, freshman Roman Barnes putts a golf ball in the Dawg House during his lunch period in an attempt to earn a discount, Oct. 4. “[I was] messing around with my friends,” Barnes said. (Photo by Laura Benteman)

At the DAC, junior Joseph Serati acts out a skit for his class, Sept. 28. “[Spirit week] is rigged,” Serati said. “Our skits were ten times better than the seniors were.” The juniors lost spirit week to the seniors, 81-72. (Photo by Lindsey Farthing) Senior Chris Austin bench presses 225 pounds in his fifth hour strength and conditioning class, Sept. 20. “We basically just workout and have a lot of fun,” Austin said. (Photo by Laura Benteman)




Sports Editor Jack Nitz shares his choices for the best games of the past month Written by Jack Nitz, Design by Regan Simeon

Oct. 8: Huskies spoil Mustangs’ homecoming and senior night, winning, 35-21 Last season, the varsity football team’s lone regular season loss came at the hands of Blue Valley North. The Huskies came into this year’s contest against the Mustangs looking to get revenge from last year’s loss. Northwest held a commanding 14-0 lead at halftime. Head coach Clint Rider said he was proud of the team’s intensity and effort in the first half. “To see our kids come out and play the way they did, especially our defense, was incredible to see. The way they shut them out in the first half, that’s just something that nobody in the state expected them to do,” Rider said. The Huskies shut out the Huskies until North scored a touchdown with 6:44 remaining in the third quarter. However, the Huskies followed up with two touchdowns on passes from senior Mikey Pauley to seniors Nick Cusick and Max Muehlberger. Pauley said the offense fought hard and executed the game plan well. “With Grant [Stubblefield] and I, we just ran the ball right up the middle, got what we could take, and once they got relaxed and looking for a run, we hit them with a quick rout right behind them that led to some scores,” Pauley said. The Mustangs scored a touchdown with 3:59 remaining in the game, shrinking the Huskies’ lead to 28-14. The Huskies would respond with a touchdown of their own with just over a minute remaining in the game. North would go on to score a touchdown with nine seconds left, but it wasn’t enough as the Huskies won by a final score of 35-21. Senior cornerback Josh Cusick said it felt great to win the rivalry game as the Huskies had little success against North in the past. “North beat us a lot when we were younger, so it feels great coming out with a win tonight,” Cusick said. Senior quarterback Mikey Pauley runs the ball down the field in the football game against BVN, Oct. 8. “Nothing usually goes through my head after the snap,” Pauley said. “I think about doing my job and making sure I make the right reads to help my teammates.”(Photo by Lindsey Farthing)

To read more on BVNW sports, visit



Oct. 7: Huskies beat Stags, 3-1, on senior night

Coming into their senior night game against Bishop Miege, the Huskies had gone six straight games without a win. Prior to the game, the Huskies honored the ten seniors on the team. Head coach Brian Pollack said this year’s group of seniors had a different path to the varsity team, but they came together to be a hard-working and special team. “This is a group of ten people who have done things the right way and have represented Northwest soccer very well and helped build the program,” Pollack said. The Huskies defeated the Stags, 3-1, behind goals from senior Aidan Barnes and juniors Parker Million and Ricki Li. Pollack said the win was a great building block for the team as they neared playoffs. “I think the win will lighten the mood and people will re-buy in and it shows that our hard work will be rewarded if we keep grinding,” Pollack said. During the senior night soccer game against Bishop Miege, Oct. 7, senior Charlie Horn dribbles past a defender. “It felt great to win not only because we broke our losing streak but also because we won on the night that our class was being recognized,” Horn said. (Photo by Lindsay Farthing)

Oct. 8: Junior Emily Chiasson places first in singles at regionals Junior Emily Chiasson went into regionals, fresh off a first-place finish at the Eastern Kansas League tournament a week before. “Winning at EKLs gave me confidence building up to regionals,” Chiasson said. “[EKLs] was definitely easier than regionals, but it still helped me feel prepared and ready to play.” Chiasson followed up EKLs by becoming the regional champion in singles. Chiasson said the path to the championship wasn’t easy, but ultimately she felt great about winning. “It was really exciting to win regionals, and having all my teammates there to support me made it even better. There were many close matches, including the championship match, so it was very stressful toward the end,” Chiasson said. Behind Chiasson’s first place finish, the team placed second at regionals as a whole. With the win, Chiasson qualified for the 6A state tournament, Oct. 15, where she would place second in singles, Junior Emily Chiasson serves the ball during her match against North, Sept. 30. “Usually when I play tennis, I try to just stay focused and have a positive mindset.” Chiasson said. (Photo by Norah Alasmar)

Oct. 1: Huskies defeat Timberwolves, 55-8, in homecoming game Coming off back-to-back commanding road wins against St. Joseph Central (Mo.) and St. James Academy, the varsity football team returned to the DAC for their homecoming game against Blue Valley Southwest. Northwest dominated on both sides of the ball as they got off to a 34-0 lead by halftime. Senior linebacker Drew Kaufman said the team came into the game with a lot of energy after a strong week of practice. “We had a great week of practice. We were all watching film to get ready and we really wanted to win this game because it was Homecoming,” Kaufman said. The Huskies added three touchdowns in the second half on the way to a 55-8 victory over the Timberwolves. With the win, the Huskies improved to 5-0 on the season, their best record to start a season since 2001. Junior Grant Stubblefield scores a touchdown against Blue Valley Southwest during the homecoming football game, Oct. 1. “We were inside the 10, so I knew if I broke one tackle, I would score,” Stubblefield said. (Photo by Remi Nuss)

ABOUT THE EXPRESS CONTACT INFORMATION Mailing address: 13260 Switzer Rd, Overland Park, KS 66213 Phone: 913-239-3544 Website:

RESPONDING TO THE PUBLICATION Letters to the editor may be submitted electronically on our website at under the “Contact Us” tab. Letters may be published either on or in our print edition. Letters may be edited.

ABOUT US The Express is the official high school news publication of Blue Valley Northwest High School, an open forum distributed to all students seven times a year. This is the November Issue of Volume 29. Subscription rates are $10. The Express is printed by The Sedalia Democrat, 700 South Massachusetts, Sedalia Mo. 65301.

DISCLAIMER This is a student publication and may contain controversial matter. Blue Valley Unified School District No. 229 and its board members, officers and employees disclaim any responsibility for the content of this student publication; it is not an expression of School District Policy. Students and editors are solely responsible for the content of this student publication.

Blue Valley School District #229 Blue Valley Northwest H.S. 15020 Metcalf Avenue

Non-Profit Organization U.S. Postage PAID Stilwell,Ks Stilwell, KS 66085 Permit No. 38

Millions discover their favorite reads on issuu every month.

Give your content the digital home it deserves. Get it to any device in seconds.