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Grab & Go Breakfast proves popular at Shawnee elementary school

How about breakfast? At Nieman Elementary School in Shawnee, the food service staff has begun asking that question earlier — right when students walk in the door in each morning.

With bagged breakfasts now available near the entrance, more students are eating this important meal than before, when the only option was to go to the cafeteria for breakfast. It’s called Grab & Go Breakfast, a pilot program launched this spring through a grant from Amazon and “No Kid Hungry.”

All Shawnee Mission schools serve breakfast, according to a district news release, but Grab & Go Breakfast puts food choices “directly on the students’ footpath” at the beginning of the day.

“Being set up in the entry way helps students remember to have breakfast,” said Mary Harrington, food service manager. “Even if they are late, they can grab a breakfast bag and take it to class.”

Each breakfast includes grain, fruit, milk, juice and either yogurt or a warm breakfast grain item. The grant supported the mobility of the program, giving food service employees access to a solar warming station, portable service rack and a tablet computer connected to the food service software.

Research has shown that when kids are hungry in the morning, they have more difficulty paying attention, absorbing information and behaving appropriately. One study in England found that free breakfast clubs improved performance and behavior enough that it even benefited students who didn’t attend the breakfast clubs. The school atmosphere was that much better.

The obvious benefits of breakfast have prompted Shawnee Mission and other districts to find ways of encouraging children to eat in the morning.

“The biggest benefit is that more of our students are eating breakfast and are ready to learn,” said Roni Schwartz, area food supervisor in Shawnee Mission.

The uptick in breakfast participation is difficult to quantify, the district said, because the program is only a few weeks old and the numbers fluctuate. In the past, Nieman typically fed around 85 students each day. With Grab & Go, it’s estimated to be around 95.

The district plans to continue the Grab & Go Breakfast at Nieman next school year and perhaps expand it to other elementary schools.

County hires criminal justice coordinator

Johnson County has turned to an academic expert in criminology to help the county address the root causes of crime.

Alex Holsinger, whose career includes 19 years on the faculty at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, has been hired as the county’s criminal justice coordinator to manage major projects and data-driven efforts aimed at reducing criminal activity.

“Based on our long-established working relationship with him as an academic consultant, we’re confident he has the knowledge, skills and abilities to advance our innovative approaches to criminal justice,” Assistant County Manager Maury Thompson said in a news release

Holsinger received his doctorate in criminal justice from the University of Cincinnati in 1999 and has done extensive research on the effectiveness of criminal justice interventions. He also has helped governments with evidence-based practices in processing criminal cases. In 2015, he received the Legacy of Leadership Award from the Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission.

“Criminal justice reform continues to be a priority for county leadership,” Thompson said. “We look forward to working with Dr. Holsinger to continue to build on our past successes.”

Free choral concert May 6 at JCCC

A free concert by the Johnson County Chorus and Choraliers will be presented at 3 p.m. on May 6 in Yardley Hall inside the Carlsen Center at Johnson County Community College.

The chorus’s 40th anniversary concert, “Reflections,” will be conducted by Anita Cyrier. It also will feature pianist Evangelos Spanos, artist in residence; Eugene Butler, guest composer; and the Johnson County Chorus Reunion Singers, an alumni choir who will return to celebrate the anniversary.

The chorus, a continuing education course at JCCC, gives a free concert to the community at the end of each semester.

Three headed to international science fair

Johnson County schools produced all three grand award winners during the 67th annual Greater Kansas City Science & Engineering Fair last month at Union Station.

Two of the students were from Shawnee Mission West High School.

Science fair organizers said the grand awards are presented to the top three senior high projects that meet stringent requirements for entering the INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair. The winners and their sponsoring teacher will receive an all-expense paid trip to compete at the 2018 international fair, which is scheduled for mid-May in Pittsburgh, Pa.

The winners were:

▪ Rachel Silverstein, Shawnee Mission West. Her project was titled “The use of homotypic natural killer (NK) cell NKG2D signaling in NK cell Immunotherapy.”

▪ Erin Smith, Shawnee Mission West. Her project was titled “A novel, differential diagnostic and monitoring tool for Parkinson’s Disease.”

▪ Alexandria Stephenson, Olathe North High School. The title of her project was “The effect of geomagnetic activity in the ionosphere on GPS signal.”

Those students were among the Pioneers in Science award winners, given to the top five senior high projects. Paul Case of The Barstow School and Nathnael Kahassai of Liberty High School also received the award.

Case’s project was “Discovery of two new mutational signatures in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.” The title of Kahassai’s project was “Analysis of the 21 cm hydrogen line for mapping H I regions using radio astronomy.”

Plant sale at arboretum

The Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens will hold its annual plant sale the first weekend in May, rain or shine.

The sale will take place during three days under a big-top tent at the arboretum, 8909 W 179th St., about a half-mile west of U.S. 69.

Sale hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on May 4, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 5 and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 6. This is the first time the sale will continue into Sunday.

Friends of the Arboretum members will have first choice from 3 to 7 p.m. on May 3.

The selection includes butterfly host and pollinator plants, annuals and perennials, hanging baskets and planters, native plants and unusual small shrubs and trees. All are locally grown varieties that have proved suitable to the climate here.

Proceeds will be used to expand the arboretum.

Scholarships go to standouts in the arts

The Arts Council of Johnson County has awarded scholarships to 18 high school seniors among the 107 finalists for the 2018 Shooting Stars Awards.

The program recognizes Johnson County students for achievement in nine categories of literary, performing and visual arts. Nine $1,400 first-place scholarships and nine $700 second-place scholarships were awarded in each category.

The nine teachers who nominated the first-place students received a $350 honorarium.

▪ Winds and percussion: Alex Jashinski, Blue Valley West High School, $1,400; Sophia Hollman, Shawnee Mission Northwest High School, $700.

▪ Theatre Performance: Adyson Shaw, Blue Valley High School, $1,400; Camryn Hampton, Shawnee Mission West High School, $700.

▪ Voice Classical: Abbey Sensenich, Blue Valley North High School, $1,400; Matthew Robison, Shawnee Mission Northwest High School, $700.

▪ Photography: Julia Rosher, Pembroke Hill Upper School, $1,400; Kira Higgins, Blue Valley Southwest High School, $700.

▪ Strings: Kenton Huff, Olathe Northwest High School, $1,400; Shulammite Lim, Olathe North High School, $700.

▪ 3D Visual Art: Suhyun Park, Notre Dame de Sion High School, $1,400; Joseph Hatzfeld, Olathe Northwest High School, $700.

▪ 2D Visual Art : Kinsey McCormick, Gardner Edgerton High School, $1,400; Kaitlin Yu, Blue Valley High School, $700.

▪ Production & Design: Devin Palmer, Shawnee Mission South High School, $1,400; Madison Cole, Shawnee Mission North High School, $700.

▪ Literature: Micah Faulds, De Soto High School, $1,400; David Edmonds, Rockhurst High School, $700.

Merriam offers food trucks on Summer Sundays

Periodically on Sundays this summer, Merriam is bringing food trucks to a city gathering spot, enabling visitors to purchase and sample different items.

The first one will take place from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. on May 6 at Merriam Marketplace, 5740 Merriam Drive.

Free activities include face-painting, an inflatable, and live music by the Moat Brothers. Leashed dogs are invited to the May event for “Bow Wow and Chow” activities.

The second food truck event will be June 10.

Ryan Flurry will oversee Shawnee Mission career programs

The Shawnee Mission School District has named Ryan Flurry as principal of career education at the Center for Academic Achievement, starting with the upcoming school year. He will oversee career and technical education programs throughout the district.

Flurry has worked in Shawnee Mission for 13 of his 17 years in education, most recently as an associate principal at Shawnee Mission South High School. He’s also been a science teacher and associate principal at Shawnee Mission West High School.

Flurry holds a doctorate in educational leadership from Baker University.

Shawnee Mission Park Marina now open on weekends

The Shawnee Mission Park Marina will operate the first three weekends in May only on Saturday and Sunday before opening daily for the summer on May 26.

The marina offers boat rentals — including canoes, pedal boats, kayaks and paddleboards from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., with the last rentals at 6 p.m. Fishing permits also are available at the marina.

The Johnson County Park & Recreation District’s other marina operation, at Kill Creek Park, will open for the season May 26. Its hours are noon to 3 p.m. on Tuesday through Friday, noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Roeland Park to celebrate new trail at ‘Spring Fling’

Roeland Park will cut the ribbon on its Nall Park Trail on May 5 during its Spring Fling celebration.

The event will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the park, 48th Street and Nall Avenue. Look for food trucks, live music, arts and crafts, a mountain-bike demonstration and an Arbor Day celebration.

A chance to rediscover downtown Shawnee

Downtown Shawnee will offer a variety of activities May 5 during the “Spring Starts Here — Downtown Open House” in the area of Johnson Drive and Nieman Road.

The event will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and includes open houses at 15 businesses, the opening weekend of the Farmers’ Market at City Hall, three food trucks, a Moonwalk, balloon art, a flower-potting activity for children and a photo scavenger hunt.

Asian festival and business summit

Cultural performances, martial arts demonstrations, children’s activities, exhibits and food will be part of the 2018 Mid-American Asian Cultural Festival from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on May 12 at the Overland Park Convention Center, located at College Boulevard and Lamar Avenue.

Tickets for adults, age 16 and over, are $10 at the door or $8 online in advance.

The 2018 Asian Business Summit will take place the previous day from 2 to 5 p.m. on May 11 at the same location. Representatives from 10 Asian nations will talk about their countries’ business opportunities in Kansas.

Go to for more information on both events, to purchase festival tickets or to register for the business summit.

Lenexa fire station tours May 5

Lenexa fire stations will open their doors May 5 to residents of all ages who would like a close-up look at the trucks and equipment and tour the station.

The open houses are scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at three locations: 9620 Pflumm Road; 8725 Lackman Road and 24000 Prairie Star Parkway.

Farmstead celebrates 40th season

The Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead, 13800 Switzer Road, will celebrate its 40th season with special activities on May 5.

For a $2 admission, visitors can experience or see a chicken egg hunt, a wood carver, magic show, dance showcase, games and treats at various times between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Compiled by Elaine Adams, Special to The Star