Imagine a Horace Mann that hired collegiate players for big basketball games. Unthinkable, right? That hired a Broadway actor for the lead role in musical. Appalling, huh? That hired professional brass and rhythm musicians to play at orchestra concerts? Stop! Get out of here. But as amazing as it may seem, this third scenario has become routine at many of the school's major musical performances – including last year's Chamber Winds Ensemble, and most recently in the Winter Orchestra and Glee Club Concert. It's time that we as a community reconsider this practice.
Don't get me wrong. Many of these professionals, like Mr. Wilson and Mr. Ragsdale, are wonderful musicians and members of the community who have guided and inspired us. But that doesn't change the fact that the reliance on professionals is corrosive to the students' experience in music.
The insistence on using professionals in the music groups destroys spots for students who are eager to participate. These students are deprived of the opportunity to flourish in musical groups that interest them. In addition, using professionals when students could also do the job violates the spirit of education and individual improvement. Young adults ought to have the chance to make mistakes and learn from them. How else does one develop composure and learn to tackle the difficult challenges?
The inclusion of professionals in music groups also hurts the students who do participate in the groups. The adults, playing perfectly executed parts, drown out the students. This is especially true in the orchestra, where a professional brass section thunders beautifully over the student string section, and obscures the playing of those whom the orchestra is for. To make mattes worse, the adults become a crutch that students can rely on to carry out a concert.
Using professional musicians also throws into question the very function of the music program. One could argue that the music program serves to make students better musicians, but then why does it provide them with such substantial support? One could argue that the music program acts to provide a chance for students to demonstrate their skills, but then why does it let non-students display their skills? One could argue that the department is trying to provide the best-sounding concert possible for the community. But then why do the ensembles that use professionals so often, play at Horace Mann so rarely? Rightly or wrongly, many students conclude that the professionals are included in concerts only to satisfy the need of teachers to demonstrate their excellence.
What's most bothersome about the use of professionals is that their playing is demeaning to the student-musicians who work so hard to make a great concert. Rather than display students' painstaking work, the concerts focus on the professionals, who do not have the same stake in the performance that the students do Rather than complementing the students, the professional musicians compete with them, because their sounds are so well honed and they play so loud. It's not as if the students need help to make a great concert.
Finally, hiring a large proportion of a music group changes the group's dynamic. The reliance on paid musicians makes the group less about the students involved, and more about the music department and the teachers who lead these groups. Students wonder whether the concert is for them of the teacher, and inevitably resentments arise and detract from group camaraderie. Professionals may make a group sound technically better, but they can never compensate for the lost intimacy developed over many months of communal practice. It's this spirit of intimacy and excellence that lies at the heart of what's best about Horace Mann.
It's sad to say, and also maybe a little clichéd, but the college process brings out the worst in everyone. I see people I respect every day, degrading themselves to bolster their prospects of college admissions. I see myself, somebody I thought had integrity, for the first time being motivated to better my academic transcript. If I saw myself in the hall, I'd call myself a total lameo, or something less appropriate that conveys a similar meaning.
Why are my classmates destroying their health night after night, cramming away? Is this helping them learn? Why are people going on a last-minute binge to add extracurricular activities to their applications? Eleven people can't be president of the Thesaurus Club if it doesn't hold meetings. And I know you're not joining it because you think the thesaurus rules. It doesn't rule at all.
People are actually discussing how they rounded the final answer on a math test on their weekends, when they could be violating the athletic code. That's just wrong. Like your answer on that last math test. Everyone knows you have to round to three decimal places. Duh!
But it's not just seniors who are acting up. Juniors see fancy-shamancy SAT tutors every Saturday afternoon when they could be tossing a Frisbee, or a freshman, in the park. Oh those freshman with their swaggering and such, how they swagger and spite us! But you don't see us standing up to them. Instead we make commune with that red devil, 10 Real SAT's. 10 wack SATs!
There are actually people who retake the SAT's after getting 1580's. Do you think a 1600 shows colleges that you're smart? How smart is locking yourself in a closet for three weeks while subsisting on Slim Jims and pizza? I'm awarding you an F- at life, with the minus just to spite you.
College might even have something to do with Tuesday's absurd assembly. I guarantee you if HMers weren't being so hysterical about University, nobody would give a hooting hoot hoot about finals whether exams are worth 1/7 or ¼ of your final grade. People would actually have fun. People wouldn't be boring. People wouldn't complain. Instead we have this ridiculous debate between people who have bombed exams and people who have aced them. Why does the GC exist again?
You have no idea how much respect I have for the minority who are relaxed about this college shindig. They provide the sanity and humor that the rest of the grade needs to get by, but its high time everyone else picked up the slack. Stop being a bunch of dullards and act like human being. Stop wearing your SAT's on your sleeve.
Everyone looks forward to third trimester when we seniors slump. Third trimester proves that we're cool, with the carefree abandon, lax classroom attendance and drinking Windex before passing out under a car in the Faculty parking lot that being cool entrails (sorry in advance Dr. Gellens). But I think that senior slump just reveals how lame Horace Mann seniors are. It proves that we were just doing it all for college, and once that's done we have no motivation. We have such little intellectual passion by the end of this process, that by the time we get to Wharton, we can't even spell economics (shouldn't have drank all that Windex).
I'm not saying that seniors don't got to do what they got to do, but it would be nice if people could keep some perspective this month. Talk with your friends about college once a week if you must. Don't advertise it to the cafeteria everyday. If we could just keep a better balance in our lives, this trimester could not only be manageable, but even enjoyable. I'm bringing a beach ball to school next week.
Do supplements really help athletes, or do health concerns outweigh benefits?
To many, the summer is thought of as a break for high school students. And academically, this is true.
However, for athletes, the pressure is turned up to obtain an edge on the competition, become a bit stronger, get a bit quicker. Creatine, a supplement taken by many male athletes, is making that a bit easier – or so users think.
Creatine is an amino acid produced in the body at an average rate of 2 grams per day. But it can be taken as a dietary supplement in the form of a powder or a syrup, similar to cough medicine.
Some athletes rely on the supplement to extend their endurance and give them short, quick bursts of energy.
Creatine supplements can be bought at any General Nutrition Center. It ranges in cost from $11.99 for 50 5-gram servings to $79.99 for 30 10-gram servings.
And some athletes are willing to pay for the product “to keep up with the competition,” says Prosser High School athlete Todd Meyer, an incoming senior.
Meyer, 17, doesn't take creatine because his parents disapprove of it. But Meyer admits he sees some positive effects to taking the supplement.
“People come to school as skinny kids and, after that year, they're big and ripped,” Meyer says. “It makes you bigger, faster and stronger, quicker.”
Creatine isn't a miraculous panacea that works one's body into shape as he sits on the couch and eats potato chips. But sometimes that's the trap athletes fall into believing, says Tom Moore, head coach of the Prosser High School football team.
“The problem with it is that kids tend to think if they take the supplement, they will become stronger,” Moore says. “That's not the case. It only allows you to work out harder.”
Moore describes his standpoint on creatine as “indifferent,” but points out those who take creatine can keep on lifting longer and harder when their muscles would normally retire from exhaustion. Hence, muscle is built at a faster rate.
To many competitors it sounds like an innocent, harmless aid to becoming a better athlete, and in many ways, it is. There aren't many side effects besides dehydration, which can be avoided by consuming large quantities of water.
Yet, it isn't entirely safe. There have been some links of kidney damage to people who have used creatine over an extended period of time. Also, it isn't approved by the Food and Drug Administration for safety, effectiveness or purity.
“All potential risks and/or advantages of creatine may not be known,” according to WebMD, an online resource for healthcare. This could be disturbing considering statistics reported in a survey done in Wisconsin between 1999 and 2000 by Timothy McGuine, M.S.; Jude Sullivan, M.D.; and David Bernhardt, M.D. Out of 1,349 football players surveyed, 30 percent of them used creatine. Expert say that number is increasing, especially in rural towns. Also, out of that 30 percent, 10.4 percent were freshmen and 50.5 percent were seniors, spotlighting a direct relationship between the age of an athlete and usage.
And more recently, in the 2001 August issue of The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a study by Jordan Metzl estimated that 40 percent of high school senior athletes take creatine.
A 17-year old male football and basketball athlete, who asked to remain anonymous, has taken creatine for the past 1-1/2 months. In 2-1/2 weeks, he gained 5 pounds. By the end of two weeks, he'd gained 10 pounds.
After an injury, the athlete felt like he needed to “catch up,” so he researched the supplement on the Internet and talked with a professional at a General Nutrition Center. He decided to begin taking small amount of the supplements, which he says have had dramatic results.
“It gives you more drive and allows you to finish stronger. I can keep going for a longer amount of time,” he says.
However, this athlete plans to cease taking creatine after he gets up to par with the competition in terms of strength and speed. He promotes a more natural and nutritional approach to improving athletic performance as opposed to creatine.
“I recommend a protein supplement. It's more natural,” he says. “You won't see the results as fast, but they do happen.”
Athletes aren't the only ones to carefully analyze the results of the supplement. Parents have been cautious to allow their kids to take creatine as well. According to Don Eucker – father of senior twin athletes Ryan and Shane Eucker of Prosser High School – parents are neither all for it, nor completely against it.
“Basically, it was OK with us if it was OK with the doctor and the coaching staff,” Eucker says. “We weren't really excited about (Ryan) taking (creatine), so we really checked it out. From a health standpoint, we wanted to make sure there were no real issues.”
Ryan Eucker is taking creatine on a consistent basis – with the consent of his parents – after seeing the near-immediate results of many of his friends.
“I heard about it, and I wanted to gain weight,” Ryan says.
Throughout last spring when Ryan only used it sporadically, he didn't see many results. But now, he's taking the supplement consistently and seeing results, noting in particular that creatine had given him quick muscle recovery.
“I haven't seen any cons to taking the supplement,” Ryan says.
I knew something was different as soon as I called Mrs. Jean Barton.
For starters, she offered to lend me her husband for a number at the upcoming Harvest Dance at Sunnyside High School. Second, she had a vibrant, lively voice, which epitomized her free spirit. It was easily apparent, even over the telephone, that this 69-year-old woman was not done living or learning.
“If there is one thing we (seniors) could pass on…” Mrs. Barton began, and I anticipated an ever-true aphorism, or some kind of magical phrase about life's little problems.
Instead, I heard, “Please learn how to dance,” Mrs. Barton said.
It wasn't the typical request. But Mrs. Barton isn't the typical senior lady. So, even when I first began to do my homework for this article, I realized I would get more than I bargained for.
Sunnyside- It was a chilly Sunday afternoon, the kind of weather that invites one to don a bulky sweater, make some hot chocolate and read a good book next to the fireplace.
Instead, on that November afternoon, more than 100 senior citizens chose to dance.
The cold winds and gray day didn't keep Yakima Valley seniors from this year's Harvest Dance. They danced all afternoon, having fun and staying active.
The event, said Jean Barton, a 59-year-old Yakima resident, was characterized by three “goods.”
“There's good air, good music and good company,” said Barton, who spent about an hour readying for the event. Her husband, Earl, 68 coordinated their colors. Purple was the choice of the night.
“I love to dress up,” said Barton, smoothing her long-sleeve dress. Her husband complimented her colors with a blueberry-purple shirt. A polka beat resounded jubilantly in the high school gym.
“Listen to this,” Barton said. “How can you sit still?”
As she spoke, seniors' feet artfully responded to their partners' lead, working in perfect unison while performing waltzes, rumbas and polkas. The seniors stepped with precision and moved with grace across the floor.
They all remain active and enjoy life by dancing. Some dance up to four times a week, at senior centers from Yakima and Prosser to the Tri-Cities.
This year, the Harvest Dance was held Nov. 2 in the Sunnyside High School gym. From 2 to 4:30 p.m. seniors danced to the musical creations of Hap Easter, who performed on the electronic keyboard.
Easter, a Yakima native and a senior himself, says performing keeps him mentally sharp. And he was quick to point out the health of the seniors at the dance.
“Look at them,” he said. “That's strength and health and happiness. You don't find them in rocking chairs.”
Mr. Easter's right: they can move!
The couples seem to glide effortlessly over the floor. Throughout the afternoon, I was asked to dance on three occasions. And before each dance, I gave a disclaimer: I'm really no good at dancing.
The inquirers understood, then set out to teach me in earnest. Upon my first attempt to dance with Mr. Earl Barton, my eyes were glued to the ground as I searched desperately for the next place to stick my feet, preferably not on top of my partner's.
While I did the (relatively) simple two-step with her husband, Mrs. Barton asked Unleashed photographer Abiel Hoff to dance. The two of us fared poorly, hindered by a lack of coordination and rhythm, but I was thankful for the opportunity to learn.
Throughout the afternoon, other high school students danced with these seniors, and they didn't seem much more comfortable than I did. Regardless, the interaction wasn't forced; seniors and student seemed at ease. They threw out, at least for this afternoon, the stereotype that seniors and teenagers don't mix.
Jennifer Gonzalez, a 17-year-old Sunnyside High School senior, described the association of students and seniors as comfortable, although the dancing was harder than she anticipated.
“It's hard to find a beat and to follow,” she said. The seniors, Gonzalez elaborated, were very polite, and the men asked her to dance in a most honorable fashion, saying, she recalled with a chuckle, “Can I have this dance?”
The dance was organized by Sunnyside High School's SkillsUSA Vocational Industrial Clubs of American and the Sunnyside Parks and Recreation Department.
For teenage VICA members, the restrained tapping of toes at the beginning of the dance gradually turned into relaxed comfort and an eventual debut on the dance floor.
Marika McNerney, a 16-year-old SHS junior, danced with some of the senior men, noting how different it was from High school dances at which everyone dances in their own style.
“There is a wrong way to dance,” said McNerney, referring to steps for the various dance rhythms.
The differences penetrated deeper than the surface level. At the typical high school dance, McNerney explained, you dance with your date most of the time, and girls often ask guys to dance.
But at the Harvest Dance, seniors switched partners like they were choosing chocolates. They danced one number with a partner, then soon switched to another. Sometimes, they even switched in the middle of a song.
This is because “you like to get acquainted with other people. You just can't stay in your own shell al the time. You'll get stagnant,” said Carol Dechant, a 72-year-old from Grandview. Three years ago, she moved from Las Vegas to live near her brother, and discovered she could not restrain herself from the Valley's senior dancing scene.
“As long as the good Lord allows us to move, we're going to be dancing,” Dechant said. “When you're in your 70s and 80s and you can move, you're just tickled to death.”
By anyone's standard, the Harvest Dance is one big fiesta. However, it didn't begin that way. Co-adviser of Sunnyside High School's VICA club, Karen Shrontz, recalled the first dance four years ago at which four seniors showed up. It was hardly encouraging and seemingly showed a lack of interest. But the group didn't quit.
“We just did it again,” Shrontz said. “We changed our tactics, and did more advertising.”
One tactic, which has made a noticeable difference, is an additional sponsor, the Sunnyside Parks and Recreation Department. Joan Niemeyer, assistant director of the department, has been working there for 19 years. She considers the Harvest Dane “an excellent program.”
“This is probably one of the best programs the Parks and Recreation Department has to offer,” she said.
The department secures the band, publicizes the event and buys the materials. Its co-host, the VICA club, takes responsibility for the setup, including decorating and providing beverages and snacks.
The seniors, Niemeyer said, “are asking all year long when the next dance is going to be.”
Near the end of the dance, senior Jack Balding of Toppenish gave me a dollar bill folded into a tiny, two-centimeter tall shirt. I had danced with Mr. Balding earlier in the afternoon, and he gave me the token as a souvenir of the dance.
Then he gave me the proverbial phrase I had expected from Mrs. Barton, thought its message was unpredictable: “If you learn how to dance, the boys will follow you.”
I couldn't help but divert my eyes, sheepishly. But I knew Mr. Balding was really just promoting his passion. Like all the seniors who attended, he loves to dance. And in his generosity, he sought to share his passion with me.
This memento, in addition to the experience as a whole, can best be described as a delight. Every new dance step and all the seniors I encountered were wonderful. It was a treat to hear their stories and to be their student.
In reflection, I realized I wanted to continue dancing, and that there is so much to learn from our older generations. Their experience and intellect gives them wisdom that should certainly not be kept to themselves.
I want to thank the seniors for sharing their beloved hobby so graciously with me. It was truly a delight.
She stands tall, her chin tilted upward in the pretense of cool control. Before her, the Lakota board members wait patiently to hear her story. She grips the podium, glances back at a cluster of students as though seeking encouragement, and then begins to protest the removal of the program that virtually saved her life.
She is not used to giving speeches. The microphone magnifies her intense effort to conceal the tremor of fear in her voice. A former drug-user who once hated school and dropped out of Lakota East, it is almost ironic that junior Libby Frommeyer is fervently defending her education. But if Wokini Academy is cut from the district's alternative education program, she fears that she and countless other students will once again “slip through the cracks.”
Luckily for her, Wokini Academy's future might be brighter than ever.
Lakota Superintendent Kathleen Klink responded to the pleas in slight bafflement. “We're not losing Wokini,” she said. “Wokini is not going to go away.”
Instead, it is in the midst of careful scrutiny as the district explores its option. According to Klink, the main proposal for Wokini's future involves a possible partnership with Butler Technology and Career Development Schools, commonly referred to as Butler Tech. Wokini would transition into a satellite program yet still retain its own identity. Wokini Academy is an alternative school for students deficient in credits, highly geared toward career skills and scheduled in shifts to allow for jobs.
But for Frommeyer, Wokini is more than a school. It's the ultimate second chance.
“I hated school, I was doing badly in my classes, then I started doing worse, then I just wouldn't show up,” recalls Frommeyer. “Eventually I stopped going altogether and started doing drugs. I even tried to kill myself.”
Today, Frommeyer earns high ‘A's and B's'. She grins and announces, “I love school.”
The board's plan is intended to make sure such stories like these find more happy endings, says Klink. Frommeyer, however fears that great changes would ruin the nurturing environment that fostered her success.
“We're a family,” says Frommeyer. “If they change that, there's going to be a war worse than Iraq.”
But Lakota Assistant Superintendent Mike Taylor says the changes would not drastically alter Wokini.
“We have two new satellite programs that have done very well this year – Robotics and Teacher Academy – and so it's not unusual to have these kinds of partnerships,” he says. “For the most part, Wokini will stay just like it is now.”
Differences entail Butler Tech overseeing Wokini as well as providing more Butler Tech teachers. But, according to Klink and Taylor, the key provision would be a stable source of funding for Wokini Academy. Rumors about cuts in the program's funding source sparked the initial controversy, says Klink, but many of the theories in the community were based on misinformation.
According to the board members, the exploration was spurred by three major factors.
First of all, state tax cuts to public education have begun to impact the Lakota school district. According to Taylor, Lakota has already lost a total of 740,000 dollars this year alone. And on top of this, the fiscal future is still uncertain.
“There's a concern when you take those numbers away,” says Taylor. “We don't know what next year's budget from the state is going to look like.”
As a result of this, Klink says, Lakota will have to reduce its expenditures by close to $800,000 before the end of the fiscal year.
The second primary concern is the expiration of Wokini Academy's grants. Over the last two years, says Lakota Alternative Education Coordinator Barbara Greiwe, Wokini has received two grants – one totaling roughly $220,000 and the other $186,000. The district is now in the process of seeking renewal, but in light of the cuts in Ohio, they are fearful that they might not be able to receive one. The task is more difficult than it seems, however, according to Lakota school board member Joan Powell. Grants have to be offered, applied for and won.
Powell feels the risk is too great without any other stable options.
“It's just too many kids to walk away and say, ‘too bad,' to,” says Powell. “We have to have reliable money.”
In addition to the expiration of the grant, the Wokini building's lease is also expiring in December. Wokini Academy is currently located at a storefront location on Cox Road, which only contains about 3,000 square feet of room. Taylor says the unusual storefront location was chosen because it was the only place in the vicinity of the district that became available. The rent costs nearly $3,000 a month.
The future of Wokini, however, might also involve a new home.
Klink says the board plans to move Wokini to the current Lakota board office, which would be modified in order to allow the academy to thrive. Because a new central board office is being built off of LeSourdsville-West Chester and Princeton roads, the board members could simply convert the old building into Wokini.
“The question became, ‘What are we going to do with (the old board office)?'” says Taylor. “There's more room here, so we'll be able to knock out a few walls and put up a few walls and this will become Wokini.”
Klink is optimistic about the potential for growth this would create.
“This might be the ideal situation because we have more room to expand and they would be close to the freshman building,” she says. “They would have access to the gym, the media center, and possibly any teachers.”
Greiwe says she covets above all else the sheer addition of space – especially the quiet outdoor space that the current storefront Wokini building lacks. More room would allow the 60-some students to meet all together instead of cramming into two small rooms, she says, and students would have a cafeteria instead of relying on the couple of microwaves they purchased.
According to Taylor, the new board office was paid for entirely by interest money based upon the last bond levy. The general funds were not even touched during the process.
But despite the seemingly flawless plan to allow Wokini to continue unthreatened, Wokini students do not all share the optimism of the board. Frommeyer, who emphasizes repeatedly that Wokini has become her “close family,” says that she wants Wokini to continue exactly as it is. She fears the program will change drastically in scheduling, discipline, and environment.
“Any place can be a school, but at Wokini it is a home.” says Frommeyer. “A lot of kids might not be trusting of new people.”
Greiwe also acknowledges that change is not always easy.
“A first year in any project change is always a difficult year,” says Greiwe. “The kids I work with have a harder time with change than most people and I think they like what they have now. They are worried it won't be the same.”
There are already Butler Tech teachers working with Wokini, but the students are close to their current, familiar staff.
Frommeyer recalls with amusement some examples of Wokini's tight-knit atmosphere. One time Greiwe went clothes' shopping with some students, says Frommeyer, apparently because “she wasn't in fashion enough and she had to learn.”
Frommeyer's other favorite part of Wokini is the service projects they do – activities that make her feel wanted and helpful, such as making crafts at a retirement home.
According to Greiwe, Wokini has five service-oriented groups; two of them focus on the community and the other three help the school. One of the community service groups is Big Buddies, Little Buddies, which helps teach first-graders at Hopewell Elementary (including English as a Second Language children) to read. Golden Years, the other group, participates in activities with the elderly.
The school group, Archives, logs the history and publishes a small year book at Wokini. Public Relations publishes Wokini's school paper. Student Activities plans charity drives and Wokini Academy events, such as the Thanksgiving dinner and drive for winter clothes.
In addition to focus on service and work-related skills, Wokini has academic classes in three different four-hour shifts to allow students to schedule jobs. Classes are taken in semesters, primarily via computer labs, and teachers assist students, quiz them and monitor their progress. The goal, says Frommeyer, is to graduate with a high school diploma at the best pace one can maintain. Many of the students who would otherwise have dropped school succeed at Wokini, she says, mainly because of the supportive environment and focus on success.
Wokini gave Libby Frommeyer control of her future – and a voice. Once a quiet and antisocial girl, Wokini gave her a true second chance. She found the courage to stand up and speak out against the possible cuts to her school – and her family. And though she is uncertain whether the board is too optimistic about the future or not, she remembers the chief lesson she's learned from going to Wokini.
“You can have a future,” she says. “You just have to work for it.”
Fifty-nine years ago, West Chester spoke.
She spoke in 53 different languages to a desperate audience around the world. She spoke the truth, her voice penetrating even the darkness of Nazi Germany. Families huddled in secret to hear reports of unbiased news from America, sometimes hiding in the safety of their closets to listen to the powerful Voice of America. West Chester's Bethany Station was one of the first stations able to broadcast so far, spreading the Voice of America until it was silenced in 1995.
Now, Bethany Station will speak again-but this time to a difference audience. The voice that frustrated Hitler will play on recordings throughout the proposed Voice of America Museum, ringing through the halls of the historical broadcast building in the Voice of America Park.
If completed, the museum will speak to tourists, locals, and veterans alike. According to West Chester Director of Parks and Recreation Bill Zerkle, it will also hopefully provide an international appeal.
“This should be somewhere where people will stroll in just because they grew up in Czechoslovakia and used to hide in the closet and listen to the radio,” he says.
Proposed exhibits for the museum include the GRAY Radio Museum's collection of premier radios, radio software by the Media Heritage group, and a restored console and small broadcasting studio by the West Chester Amateur Radio Group (WC8VOA).
Zerkle adds that plans have also been made to restore the building to its natural state, providing a more historically accurate feel. Drop ceilings and extra walls added in the 60s will be removed, exposing the original art deco ceilings and providing the conference room with a wide view overlooking the museum.
The museum, however, is only one facet of a historical and natural gem. The Voice of America Park itself is slated to undergo expansive renovations, in the hopes that it will become a crowning jewel in the proposed “Emerald Bracelet.”
A String of Natural and Historical “Gems”
According to Zerkle, the Emerald Bracelet is an attempt to protect the natural and historical features of West Chester before they are swallowed up by the encroaching development. Spearheaded by West Chester Parks and Recreation, it is an extensive plan to renovate and connect the six major parks of the area.
West Chester administrator David Gully says it is a vital chance to preserve the rapidly dwindling green space left in West Chester.
“We have a great opportunity here in West Chester to ruin everything God created,” he says, “if we don't pay attention to conservation.”
Keehner, Port Union, and Beckett parks are slated to be strung on the Emerald Bracelet, along with the renovated Station Road Schoolhouse and a proposed West Chester community center. A collaboration of firms and organizations such as Human Nature, Fearing & Hagenauer, the Clean Ohio Project, Metro Parks, the Butler County Department of Environmental Services, and township trustees are also involved in the plan for conversation.
Zerkle feels that such a project will not only provide an opportunity for community gatherings and recreation, but also help to alleviate the consequences of urban sprawl.
“We have wonderful schools and businesses,” says Zerkle. “but we don't want people to say they didn't decide to live here because it's here. We want to be sure to set aside some of the natural open space that is West Chester.”
The Emerald Bracelet, however, does not come without a price tag. The funds necessary for the project can no longer rely solely on grants, says Zerkle, so the Emerald Bracelet will appear as Issue number six on the November levy. It is a 1.95 mill continuing levy that will generate roughly three-and-a-quarter million dollars a year. According to Zerkle, this means that the owner of 100,000 dollar home would pay 60 dollars a year on average, roughly the cost of taking a trip to Paramount's King's Island.
Some renovations, such as additions to the Voice of America Park, are already well on their way. However, Zerkle says that more funding and more time are necessary to execute the plans for the Emerald Bracelet.
‘It's like building a house,” says Zerkle. “It's important, but you get impatient because you want to see results. But you can't just build it; you have to build it right.”
I. Voice of American Park
Located on Tylersville Road next to the newly developed VOA plaza, the Voice of America Park is actually far bigger than it appears. When it is completed, it will offer 80 acres of forest, 60 acres of meadow, and six miles of pathways for public exploration.
The area is surrounded by recent development such as Target, Michael's, and a planned Panera. Zerkle, however, says the developed areas were never given to the park to begin with and can potentially be used to enhance the park. One such system taking advantage of the development is the adjacent tiered wet meadow, which consists of three ponds separated by land sewn with marsh grass seeds. When it rains, Zerkle says, the runoff from the parking lots will flood the first pond and cause it to swell up to connect the second and the third. The marsh grasses will then be able to grow and enhance the resulting marshland habitat.
“It'll be very nice,' says Zerkle. “The hills around it are actually 14 feet high instead of the typical 4 feet, and reforested as well so people don't have to see the development.”
In addition to the tiered wet meadow, the Voice of America Park will include playgrounds, picnic spots, concession stands, sports fields, and a potential skate park. Shelters made of telephone poles will remind visitors of its historic origins, as well as landscaping intended to mimic the patterns of azimuths and radio waves. Gardens of honor for veterans and those who serve the community will scatter the area.
At existing memorial garden that Zerkle would like to expand is the Daisaku Ikeda memorial tree grove. The Buddhist lay organization Soka Gakai donated its 100 trees in addition to 100 books and a collection of photographs intended to honor the man who Zerkle refers to as “the Japanese equivalent of Martin Luther King.”
In the top 200 acres of the park area owned by Metro Parks, a 30-acre fishing and boating lake is being dug. The resulting mountain of dirt on Cox Road, affectionately nicknamed “West Chester Mountain” by locals, will be used as an open sledding hill unless Michael J. Fox highway is expanded and the dirt is used to aid in construction.
Additions to the park are not solely to benefit humans, however: the fences of Wiggly Field stand ready for curious canine visitors. The two paddocks, each a little over an acre in size, are intended for little and big dogs to romp and play in. Commemorative canine bricks will be laid in the shape of a milk bone at the seating area, which Zerkle says will feature doggy water fountains.
II. Beckett Park
Located on Beckett Road near Union Center Boulevard, Beckett is a 150-acre park well known for its giant sledding hill. At the bottom of the hill there now rest the pieces of the historical Mulhauser Barn, which the Mulhauser family raised money to move so it could be added to the Emerald Bracelet.
The barn itself is a historical jewel, dating back to the days when famous breweries dominated the area. Preliminary sketches show the barn renovated as a conference center and community lodge, fitted with internet access, a café, and enough space for 300 people to convene.
And according to Zerkle, the barn is interesting for a more modern reason: the rock band KISS used to own and practice in Mulhauser Barn.
III. PORT UNION PARK
Located off Princeton-Glendale Road, Port Union encompasses the historically rich Port Union Canal and Mill Creek. Long ago, workers in icehouses flooded the surrounding areas and froze them, then cut the ice and sent it on barges down to the Ohio River. But a combination of railroad construction and informal farmer's levees gradually straightened it, choking the creek and killing the vegetation that sheltered the natural wildlife.
Now, plans are being made to create a “conservation corridor” to remedy these effects. According to principal landscape architect Gary Wolnitzek of Human Nature, creating the corridor will potentially involve purchasing several hundred acres of land around the area. This land will then be protected from development except for bike paths and trails, with interpretive markers along the way to explain the remnants of icehouses and ponds. Focus will be placed on restoring the creek to a more natural state by possibly pushing the levees back and preserving area wildlife such as the leopard frog and the tiger salamander.
Marylynn Lodor of the Butler County Department of Environmental Services says the proposed conservation corridor is important for multiple reasons.
“The environment causes people to want to be around,” says Lodor. “If you look at property values where you have aesthetically pleasing natural features, conservation improves the property value and supports economic development.”
Lodor says projects that protect the stream enhance the water quality, which in turn enhances the water quality, which in turn enhances the air quality and improves the condition for native wildlife as well as visitors.
“It could be one of the most scenic and natural bikeway corridors, comparable to Little Miami,” he says.
IV. The Station Road School House
Located near Station Farm, the historic 1910 building will be renovated and used as a community gathering place for small events such as ice cream socials. According to Zerkle, the inside has already been gutted and is awaiting new furnishings; the old metal roof has been removed but replaced with a similar metal roof.
“The first metal roof lasted for 100 years,” says Zerkle. “So we figured that was pretty darn good.”
V. Keehner Park
Located on Barrett Road, Keehner Park covers 123 acres with shady forest trails, an amphitheater, sledding hills, and an 1833 log cabin. Keehner, the home of Pumpkin Fest, is being connected to the Voice of America by a bike trail and slated for further renovation.
VI. The Community Center
According to Zerkle, the proposed community center will be surrounded by Union enter, Mulhauser, and West Chester Road. Preliminary sketches show a clock tower and a park of several acres set aside next to it. The center will include indoor and outdoor pools and fitness facilities as well as a gathering space.
“The concept of each of the parks in the Emerald Bracelet is to meet recreational needs but also to be efficient,” he says. “So probably the number one concern here is traffic and all the congestion. You can't stop it – we know that – but you can shape it. You can make the effort to see that open spaces are set aside.”
Gully feels the Emerald Bracelet will successfully meet the recreational, historical, and environmental needs of the community, but acknowledges that it is not something that happens overnight. However, if and when it is completed, he says, the Emerald Bracelet of West Chester will never be forgotten.
“Every great community is remembered for their park system,” says Gully. “Businesses and buildings come and go, but park systems are remembered forever.”
Century coaches say they don't like cutting players, but they don't like sitting them, either
Head boys basketball coach Rich Hovland came out of the basketball office with a grimace on his face.
“I hate this,” he said “I'm not really a bad guy.”
Hovland just finished telling five basketball players they are cut form the team. And he was close to tears.
He doesn't cut players so much for their lack of ability as the lack of space on the team. He typically only keeps 15 players after tryouts, but says he could keep 115 if he wanted. The problem is there isn't much playing time as it is, and most of the people on the team wouldn't get a chance to play in a game.
“It's a lesser of two evils,” Hovland said. “It's really unfair to say I'd like you to come out and just bust your tail every single day all year long in practice, but we don't have any time for you to play.”
Hovland isn't the only coach to hate cutting players. Girls' basketball coach Jim Jeske says this is absolutely the worst part of his job.
“I hate it. You know why?” Jeske said. “It's probably the same for Coach Hovland. Someday it could be my daughter sitting in the chair across from me.”
Activities Director Jim Haussler agrees that it can get personal for the coaches.
“Coaches don't want to make cuts because it's a painful thing,” he said. “Sometimes they're cutting kids that they dearly love. It's hard.”
Assistant boys' basketball coach Ron Wingenbach doesn't have to deal with the pressure of sitting the players down and telling them they can't play for him. And he's grateful for that.
“God, I hate this thing,” Wingenbach said. “That's why I know I'd be a football or track coach. Because I'd never have to deal with this.”
Unfortunately Hovland does have to deal with it. Probably the hardest part is dealing with the players' emotions. Some players have left his office crying. Others have slammed the door on the way out. However, it's not necessarily a bad thing.
“The players themselves are disappointed and it wouldn't be a good thing if they weren't,” Hovland said. “Who'd wanna be on a team if nobody cares if they're on it?”
The Bismarck school district doesn't have a policy for cutting players, Haussler says. However, in the junior high a policy exists. There is no cutting in seventh and eighth grade. And cuts only occur in basketball and volleyball.
“We do not cut in any other sport where we have room. For example, soccer and football and track and field, you can find space to put those people,” Haussler said. “The problem you have with sports like volleyball and basketball is the facilities are limited. We are using our facilities to the max.”
The coaches are given some basic guidelines before they begin tryouts. They are told to make sure their criteria is as clear as possible. They are also asked to have as many eyes on the players as they can; to bring in assistant coaches and even sometimes let the players evaluate each other.
Perry Lee, who coached with Hovland in Bottineau, saw what Hovland went through after he cut players.
“He'd call me at one in the morning saying, ‘Did I do the right thing?'”Lee said. I'd say, ‘Yes, don't worry about it anymore.'”
Just like the coaches, Haussler knows that cuts in any sport are difficult.
“If we could eliminate them, I'd be the first one to say let's eliminate them,” he said. “But we need to be pragmatic. We have limited space and limited facilities.”
The second day of basketball tryouts, senior Jared Liebelt arrived early.
While fellow teammates threw a football around the gym, Liebelt was stretching – getting ready to play.
Liebelt, along with 24 seniors, juniors and sophomores, tried out for basketball the week before Thanksgiving. Tryouts were three days long and in those three days the amount of players would go from 25 to 15. Only six of 11 seniors could be kept.
Liebelt, who moved here this year from Parker, Colorado, because of his dad's job transfer, was one of the 11 seniors. He played junior varsity last year for Chaparral High School in a suburb of Denver. He has played basketball on a team since he was in third or fourth grade. Before tryouts, Liebelt was a little worried about how it would turn out for him.
“I'm hoping (to make it),” Liebelt said. “But it's tough competition because they're all good seniors this year and (Hovland) can only keep six.”
Moving here this year made tryouts for Liebelt harder, simply because the coaches don't know his style. He says that because it's just tryouts, the coaches don't know that kind of player he is and how he would be during the season. It also affects his ability to play with his teammates.
“It's hard to play with kids that you don't have a feel for,” Liebelt said. “And you haven't played with that often.”
Head basketball coach Rich Hovland agrees.
“Sometimes you don't know the kids real well. That makes it more difficult. I don't know how they're going to react in a pressure situation,” Hovland said. “We don't know whether their personality will match with others.”
Not only was Liebelt new, but also he got sick the week of tryouts.
“I don't like to make excuses, but I guess (being sick) did kind of affect how I played,” Liebelt said.
After the tryouts on Wednesday, each player was individually asked to come to Hovland's office. Each player was asked how he thought he did in tryouts. Hovland told them he was really thankful that they each tried out for basketball and that they gave it their best. He couldn't, however, afford to keep all the seniors.
Liebelt didn't make it.
“It was hard,” Liebelt said later that week. “But it's OK now.”
It was hard for Liebelt's parents to deal with his not making the team.
“We were glad he was trying out. He played basketball before, so we thought he'd play again,” Liebelt's mom said. “But he didn't and I guess we're OK with that.”
Liebelt thinks the players who did make it are all very good and that probably made it easier to deal with. But there are always regrets, he says.
“It'll be hard not playing this year,” Liebelt said. “It's hard to not make the team.”
Senior Dana Roller steps into the gym with his red-and-white practice jersey hanging loosely off his body.
He joins a group of seniors at the closest hoop and steps behind the arc, bends his knees, and draws his arm down, following the motion he learned years ago. Roller gently guides the ball to the hoop with his right hand finishing his shot with finesse.
After 10 minutes of shooting around, the 25 guys who are trying out for the JV or varsity teams are called over by the second-year coach, Rich Hovland. He addresses the team, emphasizing communication and team unity, He then gets down to the point of the team huddle.
“I want to make sure you put in your very best,” Hovland said. “Obviously we have 25 here and by Wednesday that'll be down to 14 or 15.”
Hovland looks on at the guys sitting before him, looking at each one. He knows that some of them he will not see in three days. He acknowledges this point as he watched Century's 2003-2004 basketball prospects.
“Some will get in by size, some their aggressiveness, some smarts, some the best defense, best offense, best on the glass – just show us what you got,” Hovland said. “Whether you make it or not, walk with your head held high. Take a chance.”
Roller sits on Hovland's right with his hands behind him, occasionally looking at his shoes. Roller played for the junior varsity team last year, and now, as a senior, he wants his spot among the varsity. Roller was competing against 10 others for one of the six spots.
“I thought I stuck with it pretty well, conditioning was hard,” Roller said afterward. “But I think about my mistakes more than I should. I remember one time in tryouts I put my head down after I missed a shot. The other team came down (the court) right away and scored an easy layup.”
While defending a side basket in the new gym, Roller guarded junior Chase Fisher. The junior tried to pass the ball to his left and Roller stuck out his foot, kicking the gall out of bounds. The same play occurred seconds later.
“Dana's athleticism is first in making him an asset to the team,” Hovland said. “He's very tenacious, he can rebound, he can defend and he can run the floor really well.”
It's things such as these that coach Hovland and junior varsity coach Ron Wingenbach were looking for. Though Roller felt fairly confident that he made the team, Hovland admitted that no one's safe.
In elementary school, Lucas Gage was playing soccer at recess. He went for a field goal kick and as he kicked the ball, his leg went flying off. Not his real leg, but his prosthetic leg.
“Everyone started laughing,” said Gage, now a junior at Century. “It was pretty funny.”
Gage was born with bones missing from his leg. At first, his parents, Jeffery and Donna Gage didn't think anything was wrong. They thought he had a clubfoot. So they went to a foot specialist who told them bones were missing from Gage's leg. They went to Seattle and Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. to get second and third opinions. All opinions were the same.
At 9 months, the doctors amputated his leg.
“I'm a nurse, so it was easier for me, but it was hard as a mother,” Gage's mother said. “I think it was harder on his dad.”
However hard it was, they, as parents, knew having Gage's leg amputated was better than having to spend his life in a wheelchair. Gage has lived his entire life with a prosthetic leg, and it hasn't stopped him from living a normal life. His parents got him in soccer and hockey as early as 4 or 5.
“My brother played (hockey),” Gage said. “I guess I wanted to be like my brother.”
Just like his brother, Gage is now playing hockey in high school. His brother, Travis played for Bismarck High, but Gage decided to play for Century because he had more friends at this school. Gage and his brother used to love to pull pranks on people with Gage's leg.
Sometimes, Gage could play an entire season of hockey without someone knowing he had an artificial leg. At a peewee hockey game one year, his foot got loose and turned sideways. The opposing coach thought he had broken his foot.
“He couldn't understand why this boy wasn't screaming,” Gage's mother said. “And the other coach was just laughing because he knew Lucas had and artificial leg.”
A teammate recalled a time in peewee hockey when Gage came off the ice and said that he had broken his leg. His teammates asked which one and he laughed and said his fake one.
Century hockey coach Mike Wald knows what a good hockey player Gage is. Wald has known Gage since peewee hockey and says he has progressed from year to year.
“Lucas has got a great set of hands,” Wald said. “He plays well near the net. He played quite a few pucks on the ice last year. It's awfully hard to tell he has a handicap sometimes.”
The players agree.
“He's got mad skills with a stick,” senior Dave Mickelson said.
Mickelson also mentioned Gage's ability to “dangle” the puck in front of an opposing player. Dangling the puck is moving the puck back and forth in front of the player without allowing him to reach it. The other players laugh and cheer when Gage dangles the puck in front of an opponent because it is almost a trademark for him. Because he doesn't skate as fast as other players, he uses his abilities with a stick to keep the puck from his opponents. Those skills have gotten Gage to where he is: in a position where the other hockey players admire him for the skills he's gained, even with the disadvantage he has.
“Gosh, think of how good he'd be with two legs,” sophomore Alex Bortke said.
The players like to joke about Gage's prosthetic leg. Last year, some of the players asked him to unhook his leg, so when he got his in a game his leg would go flying across the ice, just like it did in elementary school. He didn't do it, but the players are still trying this year.
Gage has never been self-conscious about his leg. There aren't many people who comment on his leg, and those who do are usually children. Gage says they turn to their moms and say, “Hey look at that kid. He's got a fake leg.”
“I don't really care,” Gage said. “It doesn't bother me.”
His entire life, Gage has had incidents involving his leg. One time when he was just over 1, his family was at the North Dakota Centennial. It was late at night, so his mom was carrying him. She didn't realize it but his leg fell off. Someone noticed and followed them for a block in order to return his leg. Another time, as they were walking along 9th Street, his leg fell off again while his mom was carrying him. “We stopped traffic to go back and get his leg,” Gage's mother said.
Gage tried out for the forward position on the varsity hockey team this year. Before tryouts, he was a little bit nervous and was really hoping he'd make varsity. He made the JV team, but some of this teammates think he should've made varsity. It's hard for Gage to skate very fast because his leg doesn't move the way most people's legs do.
“It's hard to do cross-overs because I can't move my ankle,” Gage said.
Gage gets a new leg every year because, as he gets taller, a new leg is necessary to keep both legs the same length. Because of that, Gage has a good relationship with his leg doctor. His doctor even makes special legs for hockey. Gage's mother says he gets frustrated when he gets a new leg and it doesn't fit right. He's had to have surgery to keep the bone from pushing through the stump.
Even with breaks, surgeries, frustrations and other problems he has with his prosthetic leg, Gage wants to keep playing hockey and play especially well this year. He also is trying out for the golf team.
“I think it's great,” Gage's mother said. “I think it's an inspiration to others and to him.”