PROGRESS QUALITY OF LIFE / YOUTH Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Taking the plunge into preschool By JASON GLENN Staff Writer
Scrolling through your Facebook friends list and seeing how many people’s profile pictures either include, or exclusively consist of, photos featuring their offspring is a pretty clear sign that pride and parenting are a package deal. From the first glimpse of that little smushed up, screaming scarlet face through all the landmark milestones of early development – grabbing, holding, rolling, sitting, standing, crawling, cruising, babbling and bobbling out into the upright world – a deep rush of excitement, wonder and fulfillment accompanies every new achievement. Then, one day far too soon, you’re looking through the lens of a camera on a sunny, late summer morning and you realize that
the little person with the oversized backpack awkwardly, anxiously smiling back at you is your kid, heading off on the first day of a decades-long adventure that ends in adulthood. [sniff] Excuse me [snuffle]…I’m sorry [snarf]…Okay, that’s better…where was I? Right, my kid’s first day of preschool… WAAAHHHH! MY BABY! DON’T TAKE HIM AWAY FROM ME YET!… (10 minutes later)…Ummm, apologies again. Kinda caught me by surprise there. Didn’t know that was going to happen, but it’s just been a bit of a whirlwind and I almost forgot what it was like on that first day. I know it was a bit hectic, like all the rest, but it did feature that moment of focus through the lens when my 4-year-old son somehow seemed like a newborn and a graduating senior all at the same time. They tell you to treasure these times – usually when you’ve got two handfuls of your own hair – but it’s hard to remind yourself in the midst of the chaos. Even in an image-soaked Facebook and YouTube kind of existence, though, there are some pictures that connect us with a universal and timeless experience and the nervous, excited and mildly confused “first day” photo might be top five on the list. Of course, there are plenty of moments leading up to that one where you find yourself, parent of potential preschooler, nervous, anxious and more than mildly confused at the process of sending your baby
[snerf] into the educational system. In fact, as the ink dries on this little missive, some of you might even be thoroughly ensconced in the opening salvo of this journey – the kindergarten roundup. I knew better, but there was a big part of me that envisioned it as a literal scenario – teachers, assistants, administrators, and janitors if need be, gently but purposefully herding all of our children away from us and into their respective kiddie corrals. “Hee, dogey, through the door, on the rug, whoa…ROPE THAT ONE, SHE’S GETTIN’ AWAY!” No, it was a lot tamer than that, but nonetheless intimidating and foreign to a greenhorn like me, with descriptions of what the kids would be learning, how the teachers taught and communicated with the kids and with the parents, and what the modern classroom environment contained, both technologically and psychologically. I remember nodding a lot. When it was over, though, we were officially enrolled and oriented with only five months left to find the perfect Elmo backpack. We (my wife) did with plenty of time to spare and spent much of the remaining time planning, worrying and wondering about our first child’s pre-matriculation. Despite the fact that we (my wife) are highly educated people who place love of learning only slightly below sense of humor on see PRESCHOOL, Page 2
Great quality of life in Page-Fremont Counties By TESS GRUBER-NELSON Staff Writer
Sure, living in the lower four counties of southwest Iowa can seem a bit mundane; boring if you will, but when you consider the quality of life we are provided here, it is a great area. Running late for work and worried if you will end up stuck in traffic? There is no traffic. Are crowds not your cup of tea? There are no crowds. Do you like to hunt or fish? There is plenty of that around here, whether it be for geese, coyotes or deer; channel catfish, bluegill, or crappie. Are you fond of steak, pork chops, bacon or sirloins? Look no further than the closest feedlot and in the summer time, you can fill your plate with enough farm fresh sweet corn, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, radishes and carrots to feed an army. Additionally, compared to other parts of the country, it is cheap to live here, especially when it comes to housing. And, believe it or not, there is diversity here; not a lot, but some. If you did want to escape the lull of a small town for the night or the weekend, we are an hour from Omaha, three hours from Kansas City, three hours from Des Moines and six hours from Minneapolis. Interstate 29 is just on the eastern fringe of Fremont County and can take you anywhere. But I think what I like best are the polite, honest, hardworking people that make up this area. People who will give you the shirt off their back, their last dollar bill, or their last gallon of gas. Shenandoah Mayor, Richard “Dick” Hunt said living in our little part of the country brings with it a lot of assets. “Living in our area of the country means breathing fresh air. We don’t have to fight rushing traffic or the hurry, hurry style of life. We meet people on the street or shopping and are able to stop and visit. We actually know people by name. Public Safety in our area gives us confidence to walk day or night, drive day or night and feel safe,” said Hunt. “We have great shopping,
restaurants, hospitals, doctors, fantastic school systems, churches, recreational facilities, parks, daycares, and good job opportunities.” Hunt added our youth grow up in a somewhat ideal area – especially when it comes to today’s world. “Our children grow up interacting with children in their school and other schools in the area because they can participate in sports and academic activities together. Teachers know their students. Because the parents know most of the other parents of their school age children, they have no fear of letting them overnight with friends,” Hunt commented. “There are numerous summer activities for the youth, including tennis, baseball, swimming, along with soccer, bowling, art camp, availability to join a theater group, libraries and movies. The children in town are able to walk or ride their bikes to school or activities.” Shenandoah resident Tom Beavers was born and raised in Page County, and has lived in Shenandoah since 1960. He said throughout that time, he has witnessed the resiliency of southwest Iowans time and time again, and that we are indeed fortunate to live here. “We are fortunate to have relatively low un-employment, pretty fair factory production, a somewhat lower cost of living, compared to the big cities, and an attitude,” said Beavers. “This attitude comes from people working hard to make their community a better place in which to live. Take a look at Shenandoah. We do not live on an interstate highway, we are apart from rapid growth areas, we are not a County Seat town, and we do not have a large corporate base which to draw in from. With all of what would appear to be disadvantages, our attitude comes to the front. People with attitudes build businesses, take part in community affairs such as school boards and city councils, take part in civic affairs, support local businesses instead of buying out of town, maintain a can-do attitude with everything.” Angie Mann, a personal banker at City National Bank, said it’s the people that make this a great place to live. “When something bad happens, the community comes together and rallies around those in need in so many different ways. But also when good things happen, the community is there to support them also,” said Mann.
Former longtime teacher and longtime volunteer fire fighter, Harold Dinsmore said its neighbor-helping neighbor that stands out to him. “The friendly caring of the fellow man,” said Dinsmore. Brandy Powers, who is employed at Page County Public Health, remarked that the benefits of living in Page and Fremont Counties include affordable housing, employment opportunities and great people. “As long you are willing to work, there are jobs in our area. It seems as though people in a smaller community are more willing to help out others even if they may not know them,” Powers said. Powers added when it comes to our youth, there is always an opportunity to do something, whether that is sports, clubs, or just spending time with friends. “Youth also have a great opportunity to go to college the with dual enrollment in college classes while still in high school. In a larger area, these opportunities may fill up fast or not even be available to everyone,” Powers commented. However, it may be Shenandoah resident Jenny Burkhiser, who is the Public Affairs Director for Midwest Region Family Stations, Inc. that summed it up best. “We have very friendly friends and neighbors, the land is beautiful with its rolling hills and expanses of abundant farmland, and there are growing opportunities for those who want to live, work, and raise their families here,” said Burkhiser.
PROGRESS • Wednesday, March 26, 2014
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life priority pedestal, our God’s truth biggest concern was that (sorry, Sam) he wouldn’t be fully potty-trained in time. He’s always taken to things somewhat slowly and reluctantly and, we had gleaned, this was very strongly encouraged as a prerequisite. I’ll spare you the details, but it all worked out in the end… Anyway, speech was apparently another important aspect of the school experience and Sam had also been frustratingly hesitant and/or methodical with his development in that arena. Long before it became an issue with school, however, we had employed the eminent talents of Green Hills AEA Speech Language Pathologist Laura Danforth to uncork the boy. With Laura’s help, we went from awkward, pained silence to incessant chattering in no time. It’s the best endorsement I can think of. Our biggest worry, all anxiety being equal, was how our shy little guy was going to adapt and overcome in this totally new environment. The single image most indelibly burned in my subconscious, the mental photo I’m sure will flash before my failing eyes as the death rattle rolls up my esophagus is of 18-month-old Sam in the arms of a stranger looking at me across a room with horror, terror, betrayal, misery, paralyzing confusion and - did I mention horror? – as I dropped him off at daycare for the first time ever. He loves daycare now, seeing all his buddies at Mary Whitehill’s in Farragut. Mary, the grande dame of the local daycare scene, has also done wonders for both Sam and his sister, Katie, coincidentally also a child of mine. Both have come home reciting their ABCs and 123s and possessed of other talents that neither my highly educated wife nor I remember teaching them. Mary has a bottomless well of patience and that rare gentle presence kids respond to. She looked after him, sure, but she also has helped him move forward into the bigger challenges that lay ahead. Still, that day and the change it would bring for all of us loomed and we tried as best we could to get excited without creating too much expectation. Sam started talking more and more about being in pee-school and wife and I braced for the return of that trembling lip and “are you ever coming back to get me?” glance as we waved away through the door. Finally, the day came and we polished off breakfast, talking excitedly but with a tempered “it’s okay if you’re scared” tone as the new morning routine blundered through its paces. We buckled ourselves into Mrs. Minivan, crunched our way down the quarter mile of loose gravel to the county road and turned toward the future.
RAH RAH...Extracurricular activities, such as cheerleading, enhance education experiences. Pictured above are Clarinda Academy and Sidney cheerleaders taking the floor to perform.
Extracurriculars enhance the educational experience By JASON GLENN Staff Writer
Studies have shown that, at the very least, participation in extracurricular activities such as athletics, music and student organizations don’t adversely affect kids’ academic performance in school. At the very best, they not only help improve grade point averages, attendance and disciplinary issues, but provide a balanced, well-rounded and fulfilling high school experience. Beyond that, and the four walls of a secondary education, having a diverse set of talents and interests can develop real-world skills like communication, teamwork and time management that students will use their entire lives. “I like to have deadlines so I can know when I have to get something done and manage that around a practice schedule, especially with having so many different practices,” said Abby Peterson, a Shenandoah High School senior who knows more than a bit about getting involved. Peterson is not just a straight-A student headed to Simpson College this fall, she is a cheerleader for both the
football and wrestling teams, plays softball, sings in the choir and jazz choir, performs in the school band, participates in speech competitions, and belongs to the Future Farmers of America, National Honor Society, Interact youth group of the Rotary Club and National Society of High School Scholars. It’s a busy schedule – sometimes stretching from pre-dawn morning practices straight through school to evening engagements and homework when she finally has a free moment – but each activity holds a special place in her heart, she said. “I like going to all the things I do. They’re mainly things I’m passionate about, so that helps a lot,” she said. In his career as an educator, Shenandoah Activities Director Bob Sweeney said he’s seen the proof of commonly cited statistics about students involved in sports, the arts or clubs not only performing better in the classroom but also being better citizens of the school and larger community. Among the important life skills they can pick up along the way, maybe the most important, is learning time management, Sweeney said, something they will most
LEARNING THE FUNDAMENTALS...Jacob Holmes teaches the fundamentals of tennis during Summer Rec tennis.
definitely need in the “real” world. To help those students organize and navigate their various activities, Sweeney has a set of five guidelines he has lived by and promoted over the years: Be there; Be on time; Have all the necessary equipment with you; Work to the best of your ability; and Display respect to everybody around you. “If I sat down with the CEO of a company, I don’t think they would argue with those five things,” Sweeney said. “They want people that are dedicated and a job site and an activity teach the same things.” Peterson echoed that general sentiment, listing time management as one of the most critical elements of her average day, but also said the simplest allure of having a lot of things to do is that they’re fun and result in some great and lasting friendships. She remembered a speech Shenandoah Principal Sandy Hilding gave at the beginning of the school year, urging incoming freshmen and other underclassmen to get involved because the opportunity is there for the taking and someday, if they didn’t, they might just regret it. Asked for her advice to the uninitisee EXTRACURRICULARS, Page 3
Youth sports leagues A GREAT ACTIVITY AND ENTRÉE INTO FITNESS By JASON GLENN Staff Writer
Every high school coach will tell you the key to success next year is hard work and dedication in the off-season, but the key to sustained success in the years to come is a thriving youth sports league. While varsity banners look nice hanging in the gym, though, the best reason to get involved in local youth sports is to foster a lifelong love of athletics and the valuable lessons being part of a team brings with it. “Team sports provide children and youth with many opportunities to grow physically and socially, as well as emotionally,” according to a University of Florida study. “Moreover, physical activities with other children allow them to build social skills through peer interaction.” Complementing a childs entrance into school and the classroom experience with participation in one of the area’s many youth leagues can not only provide fun and fitness opportunities, but also help ease the transition and develop deeper bonds with
their classmates. Small-town schools enjoy the benefit of having many kids who share the entire pre-kindergarten through high school experience together and some of their fondest memories can come from the early years they spend on youth league teams. Area leagues are typically operated by either town’s parks and recreation department or the local booster organization and often if a particular activity is not available in one town, parents can find a similar opportunity for their child in another one not too far away. To learn more about youth sports leagues in your area, visit the following websites: For Shenandoah, go to http://www.shenandoahiowa.net/rec_parks_programs.asp; for Essex, go to https://www.Facebook.com/ CityEssex; for Farragut, go to http://www.nishbd. org/vnews/display.v/SEC/ Athletics%7CYouth%20 Sports; for Sidney, go to http://www.gosidney.org/; and for Tabor, visit http:// www.fmyouthsports.com/ index.html.
PROGRESS • Wednesday, March 26, 2014
HIGHER LEARNING. ... The Shenandoah campus of IWCC is located on West Sheridan Avenue.
COLLEGE...Clarinda’s IWCC campus has recently been renovated.
Iowa Western Community College expands campuses in Shenandoah and Clarinda By KRISTAN GRAY Staff Writer
Increasing knowledge, bettering job opportunities, learning a new skill or adding a hobby are all great reasons to attend a college. But for many who live near Clarinda and Shenandoah, skills sets can be enhanced without traveling an hour to Council Bluffs – or farther still. Higher education is available right in our own back yards – and oftentimes at a fraction of the cost of a university. Iowa Western Community College, known by many as IWCC, has not one, but two thriving campuses in southwest Iowa. The Page/Fremont County Center, located at 1001 W. Sheridan in Shenandoah, offers credit classes, continuing education, video classes, and General Equivalency Diploma (GED) classes. The center also houses Iowa Workforce Development. The Medical Health Science Academy is a supplemental option for high school students considering a career in dentistry, nursing, or in becoming a doctor. The Page/Fremont Center Director Kristen Smith said that in the last year, Shenandoah’s campus, along with the other Iowa Western sites, now offers Video Conference Classes. “These classes, held over the Microsoft Lync System, allow the county centers to offer classes to their students previously not available. Because of faculty limitations and lower students numbers, classes such as Introduction to Criminal Justice, Microeconomics, and Principles of Marketing were not available in ‘live’ form to the students of the Page Fremont County Center,” she said. Before, she said, their only option was to offer online classes. “This new video conferencing system allows a live video feed of the class from any of the centers and Council Bluffs. The
use of high tech video cameras and audio equipment allows seamless interaction and learning between multiple locations,” said Smith. “Students are able to hear and see all sites and interact with the instructor and students. Think of this as Skype, only on a larger scale.” Smith disclosed that the Page Fremont County Center building is getting a facelift. “If everything goes as planned, work will begin on the exterior of the building this spring,” Smith said. “We hope for a clean, custom look that will enhance the experience for the students as well as the city of Shenandoah. Stay tuned for more information. Great things are to come.” Courses offered at the Clarinda campus include a comprehensive arts and sciences program and vocational-technical programs. Continuing Education classes also abound. Day, evening, and weekend classes offer a variety of options who are serious about pursuing a higher education. “In regards to IWCC and the ‘Quality of Life’ title of your article, I believe that Iowa Western embodies the ‘quality of life’ that we see in southwest Iowa. We are community oriented and, as we say, want to be this community’s college. To do this, we need to be continually changing, fluid and able to respond to the needs of our local industry, students and community members,” Clarinda Center Director Chad Wellhausen said. “We are fortunate to have faculty and staff who are insightful and aware of academic, business and training needs.” There are 350 students who take courses either full or part time, or online. The largest programs offered are nursing and business, with Practical Nursing, and an Associate Degree in Nursing. IWCC Clarinda partners with Nebraska Wesleyan University to offer a Bachelor and Masters Degree in Nursing.
With such a strong nursing program, the Wellness Coalition was created in partnership with the City of Clarinda and Clarinda Regional Health Center in hopes of improving wellness to those in the area. Group fitness courses are offered at the Lied Center which provide a full fitness program for weight training, swimming and other activities. The Clarinda Campus recently held a Medical Career Fair for Southwest Iowa High School Students who were exploring careers in the health industry. IWCC Clarinda has consistently awarded nearly $25,000 in scholarships every fall semester, because of the many local organizations which support IWCC. “We value our relationships, and helping our communities achieve their goals,” Wellhausen said. “In return this leads to a better quality of life for everyone involved.” Workplace Training includes joint efforts with numerous local businesses to identify and provide training needs. For instance, the campus recently started offering a new Electro Mechanical program through the Lisle Corporation and NSK Corporation. Management Bootcamp Training Seminars and wide opportunities for continuing education programs can be found there as well. Last summer, there were 250 people trained in the Microsoft 2013 software programs. “IWCC Clarinda Campus is privileged to meet the needs of southwest Iowa through our programs, classes and offerings. We are proud that our nearly 350 students have chosen to live, work, take classes and conduct business in the Clarinda Community,” said Wellhausen. The school is not all focused on spending time in books and computers – opportunities to get involved in the Clarinda community abound. Every year, a Wine and Jazz Event is held to provide the
opportunity for IWCC to update the community on the happenings and opportunities at the school while providing an evening of entertainment for the area. Student Activities include Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Student Senate and a Community Service club. The Iowa Western Depot on the Clarinda Campus has been recently updated and equipped with an International Art Collection donated by Theresa Rope Miller. Additionally, The Depot is one option for businesses to host conferences or company meetings. “Southwest Iowa truly is a great place to live, work and play. We are excited to call Southwest Iowa our home and proud to be this ‘community’s college!’ Wellhausen said. The bigger news at the main campus in Council Bluffs was the January 14 announcement that IWCC and Iowa State have agreed to a Pre-Engineering Program. So, students who complete recommended courses at IWCC in two semesters and transfer to Iowa State will be on track to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in eight total semesters. Iowa State’s engineering enrollment this academic year is 8,284. IWCC sports department in Council Bluffs holds six national championship titles in volleyball, earned in 2006; football from 2012, men’s and women’s soccer each claimed the national title in 2013, while their baseball program has earned two national titles, one in 2010, the other in 2012. To learn more, call the Shenandoah campus at 246-1499, or to reach IWCC Clarinda, call 542-5117. More details are available at iwcc.edu.
EXTRACURRICULARS Continued from page 2
TALENT...Each fall, Shenandoah High School puts on a musical, while other schools in the area often put on a spring play.
Wilson Family Aquatic Center
Peterson said it’s the possible joy of discovery she would encourage them to expect. “I would definitely say, ‘Do something,’ Even if it’s just one or two things, dedicate your time to that because you could find something that you didn’t know you liked or it could carry throughout your life even,” she said. Sweeney acknowledged there can be a fine line between a healthy palate of involvement and over-programming, where the stress reduction accompanying a reasonable number of varied activities tips into the stress enhancement of constantly rushing from one scheduled event to another. In the sports world, he said, what used to be four distinct seasons has, through the proliferation of camps, clinics and specialized training, one year-round, multidisciplinary athletic amalgam. But, he added, he’s still a firm believer in the positive impact multiple activities can have enhancing a student’s life during and beyond their school years. “I think the beauty of a school our size or in rural Iowa is that a young person can experience a variety of activities from the fine arts to athletics to clubs and organizations. That can enrich them long-term. It can also help them enhance or find out some skills that they have or interests that they might not have known about,” he said. “I think it’s a beautiful thing to have to balance a kid in a speech contest and playing in a District basketball game.”
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PROGRESS • Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Smaller schools keeping pace with laptops and tablets in the classroom By JASON GLENN Staff Writer
From manageable class sizes and accessible instructors to myriad extracurricular opportunities and an intimately involved and supportive community, small town schools offer kids a wonderful environment in which to receive a formative education. When those towns are a bit off the beaten path, though, and maybe considered a couple exits off the information superhighway, cutting-edge technology and teaching methods aren’t necessarily assets associated with a small school experience. But administrators and educators in smaller districts across the area are vaporizing those misconceptions by keeping even the most rural students up-to-date and beyond with the newest technological devices available. “We decided this was something that our kids deserved,” said Gregg Cruickshank, (superintendent of both the Sidney and South Page districts) of school board decisions to equip each and every student with a laptop or tablet. “It should be integrated into the learning and teaching process. And so it just kind of continued to grow and expand and morph from there.” Following separate trips to suburban Omaha and rural sandhills Nebraska school district six years ago to check out similar programs, Cruickshank and the Sidney board instituted a one-to-one technology program aimed at the goal stated above. One year later, Cruickshank and the South Page board did the same in College Springs. Today, every student in grades 3-12 at Sidney and 4-12 at South Page has access to a MacBook laptop and the younger students, from kindergarten to second or third grade, are at almost a one-to-one ratio with iPads. Adding to the modern and interactive classroom experience are Apple TVs, LCD projectors and Smart Boards that connect student to teacher to internet at the touch of a finger. The cost can be considerable, Cruickshank said, and tradeoffs have to be managed as far as upkeep expenses for the school facility. What helps, he added, is that Iowa allows schools to use two different infrastructure funds – the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy fund and the
LAPTOPS... Left to right, Nishnabotna students Zoey Jones, Liz Rhoades, Kayleen Webel and Daniel Whitehead work on their Chromebooks during a class period.
State Sales and Services Tax “Penny” fund – to pay for the devices instead of having to dip into the day-to-day general fund. With roughly 400 laptops and tablets in Sidney and around 175 in South Page, students are becoming ever more adept at integrating the devices and their capabilities into the learning process, Cruickshank said. Beyond merely typing out papers or e-mailing communications, they are working collaboratively on multimedia projects and presentations, using them to record and play back reading and math problems for better comprehension and participating in “flipped classrooms,” where lectures are recorded by teachers for viewing at home and their in-school class time is spent helping students with the actual course work. One of the more striking examples of the technology’s impact, Cruickshank said, was at a monthly meeting when he and the Sidney board members were treated to one of those produced, edited and polished multimedia presentations by
a Sidney elementary schooler. “I think it’s pretty darn phenomenal when you sit there and watch them do these presentations. Of course, for them, they’re the digital natives so it’s just part of who they are,” he said. “You give them those tools, they can do some pretty amazing things.” Getting students to engage more in the classroom and, ultimately, to develop real-world skills they’ll use for the rest of their lives are also goals of Nishnabotna’s commitment to technology, Principal Nikki Schubauer said. In her role as head of both the high school and Farragut Elementary School, she is overseeing the second year of their one-to-one initiative and has already witnessed some of the leaps in sophistication the modern classroom can bring. “Part of the 21st century learning skills through the Iowa Core is learning how to access and knowing where to find information, knowing what’s good information and what’s not, being able to discern between research-based information and
what’s just someone’s opinion,” she said. “They know that it will apply to their job, whatever they do.” Nishnabotna currently has in-school Chromebooks for all of their students in grades six through eight and take-home ones for every high school student. The kindergarten through fifth-graders have laptop carts at their disposal and, like Sidney, the preschoolers use tablets in their curriculum. Schubauer noted the rise in classroom engagement she had seen in students as one of the main benefits of having laptops and tablets as a learning tool, but also noted that it helped expand their horizons beyond the four walls of the school. “Another thing that I see is opening up the world. A lot of people haven’t been outside Iowa or the Midwest. Just being able to have pen pals or communicate or even have a virtual class at the zoo where they can see the penguins, just bring real things to life that we don’t always have in our back yard,” she said.
Sci-Fi Club at SHS is “A Place to Belong”
By KRISTAN GRAY Staff Writer
“The Force is strong with this one.” Darth Vader had said that very thing about Luke Skywalker in the iconic Star Wars movie, but it can certainly be said of Shenandoah High School Technology Coordinator Jason Schuett (pronounced “Shoot”). Darth Vader also is quoted as saying, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Suffering is what Schuett wants to eliminate. Schuett has created a Sci-Fi Club for students as an option for those who otherwise might not be involved in an extracurricular activity. “We meet about every other week. We’ve had a lock-in; we share TV shows and movies with each other that we like. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying what you enjoy – whether it’s Lord of the Rings or hard Sci-Fi, there are millions of people out there who will think you’re awesome.” Schuett speaks from experience, “I grew up in a town about the size of Essex; there was no one else in my school that understood me at all. I got along with most people, but nobody ‘got’ me. I know there are kids out there now who feel this same way. I wanted to have a place for kids to be themselves and enjoy these things without feeling like they’re weird – there are billions of people out there who enjoy this kind of thing. They’re not alone.”
“I hope the kids learn not to be embarrassed about what they like. I think I’m a better person because I learned that,” he said. “I felt like I was weird because I love Sci-Fi, but I met a group of people who like it as much as I do and it was liberating. I didn’t feel like I had to be somebody else. I want the kids to experience that – going to the convention is part of that.” For now a third year, Schuett has received approval to take students to “Planet Comicon” Sci-Fi Convention in Kansas City. This year’s club members are Christian Vandrey, Kara Emery, Preston Edwards, Dillon Baldwin, Barnabas Eggers, and Simeon Green. They’ll travel to the event on Saturday, March 15. “My wife, Tricia, is just as much into this as I am. She helped with our lock-in, and will go to the event with us,” Schuett said, “The kids will love it. There will be people in costumes – it’s kind of a pop-culture and comic book convention that’s gotten really big. They have a whole section with booths and vendors selling everything to do with anything geeky. Comic book artists will be there too. Movie stars will come to the convention – like Lee Majors – I’m stoked to see him,” said Schuett. But it’s the appearance of the seven original cast members from the Star Trek movie that has Schuett most excited. “The geek culture has gotten so big – I think that’s what spawned the TV show ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ Will Wheaton from ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation,’
us. We do have fun, but Lucas Film recognizes the importance of what we do.” The 501st consists of the “bad guys” of Star Wars: TIE Pilots, Darth Vader, and Storm Troopers, he said. “The sister group (The Rebel Legion) is filled with ‘The Good Guys’ of Star Wars. In our area, a lot of the members are in both groups – and we coordinate our events,” Schuett said. “We’re all volunteers, so we honor most requests, but don’t do birthday parties anymore. During the summer it’s not unrealistic to have two or three events every single week. In August of 2007, our Garrison had 27 events in 31 days.” He explained that his garrison is made up of over 100 members in a five-state region of: Iowa, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, and Minnesota. (Our local Garrison – the Central Garrison – is made up of over 100 individuals. The 501st Legion as a whole world-wide is around 7000 members) “International Garrisons are involved too. Our only requirement to keep the membership active is to own your own costume and attend one event per year. To join, you have to take photos of you in the costume and send it to the officers to approve. We have pretty high quality standards,” he said, “Some costumes can cost $1,000 but may not be detailed enough to make the grade.” One of the biggest honors for the garrison, he said, was in 2006-2007 when the group gained wide-spread recognition. “The 501st Legion got integrated into the canon lore of Star Wars, when the 501st was never mentioned in the Star Wars movies at all. Johnson made it up… there are a lot of authors who write Star Wars novels; one author wrote about our 501st Legion. Later that year, Star Wars battle front video game came out and see SCI-FI, Page 5
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SCI-FI... Shenandoah High School Technology Director Jason Schuett leads a group of students in the Science Fiction Club. From left (front): Jason Schuett, Dillon Baldwin, Kara Emery, and Christian Vandrey. Back row from left: Preston Edwards, Barnabas Eggers, and Zach Ellis. Not pictured is Simeon Green.
too, will be there. We’re going to make an ‘SHS Sci-Fi Club’ sign to take a picture with him. I hope to use my 501st pull to get the photo,” Schuett said referring to his active role in an international Star Wars costume club. If you’ve attended a Relay for Life event or ShenFest parade in Shenandoah, perhaps you’ve seen a Storm Trooper or two walking around. Schuett happens to be one of those “Boys in White, or a “Bucket Head,” as Storm Troopers have been called. “The 501st Legion is a world-wide fan costume group for Star Wars. It started 15 years ago when the Star Wars movies were showing again; Albin Johnson, the founder, and some friends decided to wear Storm Trooper costumes to the movies,” Schuett said. “Johnson put up a website that gained interest around the world, and now his club has grown enormously. We are recognized as Lucas Films’ preferred Imperial Costuming Group.” In costume, Schuett once attended a book signing with the group for The Visual Dictionary with the Lego Star Wars at Books a Million book store in Omaha. “We do parades and conventions and charity work. In 2007, we toured with comedian Weird Al Yankovic for his shows in Omaha, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Minneapolis, and Sioux Falls.” Schuett said the primary purpose of the group is the charity work. “It started out as a fun thing, but it’s become so much more important. Albin Johnson’s little girl, Katie, got cancer about the time I joined the group. While she was fighting cancer, it became a rallying cry for members. She passed away… she’s still our purpose and inspiration for doing charity work,” said Schuett. “We do a lot for Make-A-Wish in children’s hospitals. The kids light up when they see
PROGRESS â€˘ Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Continued from page 4
PRIDE...The concession stand at the Fremont-Mills football field was built through the districtâ€™s booster club.
Local booster clubs support students in all school aspects By KRISTAN GRAY Staff Writer
Booster Clubs across America exist to support music and athletic departments, but perhaps none may be more important than those in rural communities like the towns of southwest Iowa. Common threads, however, are a passion for children, dedication to volunteerism, and a stick-to-it attitude to see things through to the end. Following, are interviews with music and athletic Booster Club members from Shenandoah, Essex, and Sidney. Shenandoah Mary Peterson serves as the Shenandoah High School Music Booster Club president. The club is small, but actively involved in the music program. â€œWe purchased the new marquis sign outside the auditorium, and paid for half of what it cost to update the sound system in the auditorium,â€? said Peterson. â€œEvery year, we clean and maintain the uniforms. We help fund their trips to contests and help make sure they all have the outfits or uniforms they need. And, we help them out with all the events.â€? The past two years, the Boosters directed the musical, she said, and help the students go to Disney World in Florida. â€œWeâ€™ve already started planning and set dates for March 14-21 of next year to perform at Disney World. In addition to performing, students will do a music workshop with someone at Disney World,â€? said Peterson. â€œLast time, Disney employees taught them a song in ten minutes and then professionally recorded it onto a CD for each of the students.â€? While the Boosters dedicate money toward the trip, students also do their own fundraising for it. â€œEach kid, starting in 7th grade, saves money to go in to an account for that trip,â€? said Peterson. One fundraiser for the Music Boosters are the pop can cages at Fareway and HyVee. There, people from the community to drop cans worth five cents if recycled. â€œBut, someone vandalized the cages and stole cans, so over the last six months, weâ€™ve had a 50 percent drop in income,â€? said Peterson. â€œPaying for repair costs will be an added cost.â€? Peterson said the biggest challenge now is finding people to help with events. She and about six others serve approximately 90 music students, she said. â€œWe invite all the parents of choir and band students, weâ€™d love to encourage people to come help us out,â€? said Peterson. The Shenandoah Athletic Boosters has a larger membership of about 25, but
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