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“Oklahoma!” Earns 16 Iowa High School Musical Theater Awards

Valley High School Performing Arts Department Presents Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!" Music by Richard Rodgers, Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II Based on the play "Green Grow the Lilacs" by Lynn Riggs Nov. 4 and 5 at 7 p.m. Nov. 6 at 2 p.m. Tickets: $10/$12 Reservations: or 515-244-2771 Staplin Performing Arts Center, Valley High School, 2650 Woodland Ave., West Des Moines, IAValley High School’s fall musical, “Oklahoma!,” has earned 16 Iowa High School Musical Theater Awards. The musical won four production awards: Outstanding Musical Production, Outstanding Ensemble, Outstanding Student Orchestra and Outstanding Community Engagement.

Nine student awards were also earned. Seniors Logan Benson as “Laurey Williams, Becca Dorsett as “Aunt Eller,” and Jared Fisher as “Curly McLain” all won Outstanding Performance in a Principal Role awards. Seniors Sam Galligan as “Andrew Carnes,” Kamden Lee as “Will Parker” and Nic Lovan as “Ali Hakim” and junior Ethan Glenn as “Jud Fry” earned Special Recognition for Performance in a Principal Role.

The “Cowboys” ensemble (seniors Carter Burmester, Zac Johnson, Owen Snyder and Jack Standefer; juniors Preston Hayes and Jordan Potter; and sophomore Cole Strelecki) and “Saloon Girls/Mourners” ensemble (seniors Quin Grabinski and Heather Stout and juniors Emma Bohn, Camryn Cline, Allison Hutchinson and Ellie Willse) also earned Outstanding Achievement as Featured Dancers awards.

Eight student teams also won Outstanding Achievement in a Creative or Technical Role team awards. Seniors Beth Hammond and Justine Williamson and juniors Brianna Cole, Jolynne Craven and Abi Whitford earned an Outstanding Achievement in Painting award. The Outstanding Achievement in Properties award will be presented to seniors Nora Raine and Isabella Vettese; juniors Kiona Dodson and Kathryn Rozanek; and sophomores Marina Fredregill, Jessica Haugen, Emily Schnoor and Emma Williams. Senior Brillian Qi-Bell and Cheyenne Raney; juniors Quinn Herbert and Amy Wickenkamp; and sophomores Hadley Abbas and Carrie Cassady earned the Outstanding Achievement in Stage Management Award.

An Awards Showcase will honor the students for their achievements at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 5, 2017. Students will perform an excerpt from “Oklahoma!” at the showcase and participate in a collaborative, interschool medley led by guest Broadway music director Adam Jones and choreographer Sara Brians. Tickets to the showcase start at $15 and are on sale now at, the Civic Center Ticket Office, and by phone at 515-246-2300.

Started in 2012-13, the Iowa High School Musical Theater Awards are presented by the Des Moines Performing Arts non-profit organization. Sixty schools will be recognized this year.


WDMCS Teachers Recognized by Iowa Secretary of State

(submitted by Iowa Secretary of State Paul D. Pate’s office)

Two West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) teachers were recognized for organizing the district’s participation in the statewide Iowa Youth Straw Poll for the 2016 general election. Students voted on their choice of the 2016 general election candidates. The results were then totaled with results from other Iowa schools and reported on Iowa Secretary of State Paul D. Pate’s website:

Stilwell Junior High teacher Sherri Bogue.

Stilwell Junior High teacher Sherri Bogue.

Stilwell Junior High School teacher Sherri Bogue and Clive Learning Academy facilitator Skye Welch stepped up and registered to include WDMCS students’ voices in the statewide straw poll. As a result of their efforts, their students received a unique civic education experience. Former Valley High School teacher Tracy Johnson was also recognized for organizing participation in the straw poll while a Valley teacher.

Because of the leadership from Iowa teachers like Bogue and Welch, the Iowa Youth Straw Poll was nationally recognized this year, winning the National Association of State Boards of Education Award for Outstanding Leadership in Voter Education from the National Parent Student Mock Election. Additionally, the social media program, #IAparticipate, was a national top five
finalist for a Government Social Media Award.

Clive Learning Academy facilitator Skye Welch.

Clive Learning Academy facilitator Skye Welch.

Pate sent these teachers a congratulatory certificate for their part in making the Iowa Youth Straw Poll nationally recognized.

“My thanks to all of the teachers and school administrators who helped make the Iowa Youth Straw Polls a huge success,” Pate said. “More than 250 schools and 56,000 students participated statewide. We could not have done this without the efforts of the teachers. The Youth Straw Poll was a fun, hands-on learning experience for students across the state that hopefully will encourage them become engaged in civics in their community.”

The Iowa Youth Straw Polls were the culmination of Caucus 101 and Elections 101—free, online, social studies curricula developed by Secretary Pate and written by Iowa teachers for Iowa students.
They are available for anyone to use at

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Valley Students Research Critical Issues for World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute

Five students from Valley High School were among the record number of participants at the World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute this year Mentored by Valley science teacher Brant Reif, the students joined 294 other students from 131 high schools at Iowa State University to explore critical issues related to global food security and discover academic and career paths in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).

  • junior Marcus Chew—education in Chad
  • junior Brianna Cole—malnutrition in Laos
  • junior Jane Smeins—education in Zambia
  • sophomore Kate Snodgrass—plant science in Madagascar
  • sophomore Radha Velamuri—water and sanitation in Haiti

Then-Governor Terry Branstad spoke to the students about the importance of feeding the growing population during the event luncheon.

“I truly believe that there just may be one of you here today who will be able to follow in Norman Borlaug’s footsteps, who will make a similar breakthrough achievement, one that will help us meet the challenge of feeding the 9 billion people who will soon be on our planet,” he said. “For you students, it is your generation that must meet this challenge—which is perhaps the greatest challenge agriculture has ever faced.”

Watch a recap of the 2017 World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute:


Mintzer and Kapur Earn Top Awards at State Science and Technology Fair

Valley High School 2017 graduate Gabe Mintzer and junior JJ Kapur both earned awards at the State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa on March 30. Mintzer earned first place in the Physics category, the competition Grand Prize, and the Iowa Space Grant Consortium for his project, “Investigating the Properties of Dark Matter.” Kapur earned first place in the Behavioral Science category and was named a Grand Honorable Mention for “The Turban Myth,” which analyzed biases associated with followers of the Sikh faith.

Both students also received the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair Trip Award, which included an all-expenses paid trip to compete as finalists in the 2017 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, which was held in Los Angeles, California, May 14-19.

Learn more about the students’ projects or view a full list of competition results online.

Congratulations to Gabe Mintzer and JJ Kapur!


Valley Students Earn First, Third Place in Video Contest

Congratulations to Valley High School sophomores Daniel Truong and Alison Hisel, who earned first and third place in the American Lung Association’s 2017 Iowa Radon Video Contest!

Truong earned $800, plus $300 for Valley, with his first-place video. Hisel’s third-place video earned her $400 and Valley $100. Both videos also competed with honorable mention videos by senior Ethan and sophomore Emily Ellinger, juniors Mary Fitzpatrick and Josie Lie, and senior Joshua Rodriquez to earn $300 for getting the most views.

Congratulations to all of these students on their impactful videos!

Watch all the videos on YouTube.


Valley Car Show Organizer Razzi Kellison is Ready for Anything

All car makes and models were welcome at the second Valley High School Car Show and Fundraiser, held Saturday, May 13. Cars from the 1950s onward filled the school parking lot, hoods propped up so attendees could get a closer look. People of all ages perused the cars and voted for their favorites, while a live band covered songs from Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” to “Chicken Fried” by Zac Brown Band in the background.

See photos from the Valley High School Car Show

Valley High School senior Razzi Kellison tapes a poster for the Valley Car Show to a pillar.

Kellison tapes a poster for the Valley Car Show to a pillar.

The event and its eclectic, inclusive spirit were thanks to the car show’s organizer, Valley High School senior Raziel “Razzi” Kellison. She inherited her position as event organizer from Garrett Lawrence and Sidney May, the 2016 Valley graduates who started the car show to raise funds and awareness for the engineering technology programs and classes at Valley. Like Lawrence and May, Kellison said the classes are her favorites. They are also the reason she has a clearer picture of what she wants to do after graduation on May 28.

“I really like makeup and doing hair, and I thought that was going to be my career,” she said. “Now that’s more of my hobby, and I want to be around cars all the time.”

When Kellison enrolled in the West Des Moines Community Schools in the middle of her ninth-grade year, she had only taken one engineering technology class, a wood shop course. The number of classes at Valley—20 in 2016-17—surprised her; the classes had all shared one room at her previous school. When she first stepped into the automotive room at Valley for one of Timm Grimm’s classes, she knew she’d found something that suited her.

“Grimm made me feel welcome,” she said. “It just feels good to be in there.”

Kellison uses a scooter to get around at the Valley Car Show.

Kellison uses a scooter to get around at the Valley Car Show.

The car show was Kellison’s chance to welcome the community into the world of the automotive classes. She organized food, music, and raffle prizes to attract more people to the event and secured all the sponsors, including Bob Brown Chevrolet, Interstate Battery, and Hy-Vee Construction. Her hope is that the car show continues to expand so more people learn why the CTE classes are such an important part of Valley and so important to the students who take them.

“These classes establish our career paths,” she said. “That’s kind of what high school is all about: figuring out what you want to do and what you’re ready for.”

With her high school career coming to a close, Kellison is ready to continue working towards an automotive career. She is most interested in incorporating her creative and artistic skills into painting cars, but her classes have also taught her skills like welding and soldering, and she feels ready to take on any new challenges.

“If I can take a fender off,” she said, “I can do anything.”

Learn more about CTE in the West Des Moines Community Schools.


Valley Student Kapur Named National Oratory Champion

Valley student JJ Kapur holds his Original Oratory Champion trophy from the Tournament of Champions.

Kapur holds his Original Oratory Champion trophy from the Tournament of Champions.

Valley High School junior JJ Kapur was named the 2017 Original Oratory Champion at the Tournament of Champions, the most prestigious speech and debate competition in the U.S. The win continued his impressive string of victories, which included first-place finishes at the Emory University, Minneapple and Harvard University tournaments and the Barkley Forum for High Schools.

As an original orator, Kapur composed his own persuasive speech addressing a social issue. His speech, “Let’s Dance,” started out with a lively Bollywood dance and focused on his experiences as a Sikh American youth. He earned top rankings in the semifinal and final rounds of the Tournament of Champions before earning the championship trophy.

Learn more about Kapur’s story.

The Tournament of Champions is the most prestigious high school speech and debate competition in the U.S. To qualify, debaters must receive two bids, earned by advancing to late elimination rounds at select individual tournaments. Held annually at the University of Kentucky, the tournament provides the most successful debaters from individual tournaments with a chance to compete with each other. Valley seniors T.J. Foley and Trent Gilbert also made it to the elimination rounds of the Tournament of Champions.

The Valley debate team was founded in 1968. High school and junior high school students can participate in debate. Coached by Dave McGinnis, the team attends 35-40 competitions per year, traveling to different locations including Harvard, Stanford and Yale universities.


Boys’ Track Team Earns 2017 State Title

The Valley High School boys’ track team earned a fifth state title this past weekend, working together to be named the 2017 Class 4A State Champion on May 20. The team finished with 73 total points, defeating second-place Waukee by four points. Congratulations to Head Coach Tom Trygstad and the entire boys’ track team on their state title!

See the team’s results below or on the team Twitter account.

  • 400-meter: fourth—sophomore Jacob Keller
  • 800-meter: eighth—senior Jacob Spann
  • 1,600-meter: 19th—senior Collin Day, 24th—senior Trevor Kirk
  • 3,200-meter: 22nd—Kirk
  • 110-meter high hurdles: third—senior Keaton Floss
  • 400-meter low hurdles: sixth—Floss
  • 4×100-meter relay: 10th—ninth-grader Creighton Mitchell, senior John Mahoney, junior Tariq Brown, junior Tashawn Buchanan
  • 4×200-meter relay: sixth—sophomore Jon Shaner, senior Braeden Heald, sophomore Saxon Barrientos, Mitchell
  • 4×400-meter relay: seventh—Shaner, Keller, Barrientos, ninth-grader Ryan Neu
  • 4×800-meter relay: fourth—Spann, sophomore Evan Armitage, Day, senior Ryan Williams
  • Sprint medley relay: fourth—Mitchell, Mahoney, Keller, Barrientos
  • Distance medley relay: sixth—Neu, Barrientos, senior Grant Peterson, junior Moise Habineza
  • Shuttle hurdle relay: third—senior Jack Hamborg, Floss, senior Jon Koele, junior Preston Doerrfeld
  • Discus: second—senior Bedale Naba, 14th—senior Rocky Lombardi
  • High jump: second—sophomore Trayvon Williams, seventh—senior Quinton Curry
  • Shot put: third—Naba
  • Long jump: second—Brown, sixth—sophomore Tre Fugate

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Valley DECA and HOSA Groups Earn Top Rankings

Two student organizations at Valley High School earned top rankings at competitions this spring. More than 20 students competed at the DECA International Career Development Conference, while 11 students qualified to compete at the HOSA International Leadership Conference.

DECA students at the DECA International Career Development Conference

Valley’s DECA group at the DECA International Career Development Conference

Seniors Sam Cox and Parker Jensen were finalists in the Travel and Tourism Team Decision Making category at the DECA International Career Development Conference in Anaheim, California, April 26-29. Cox and Jensen were one of only two Iowa teams to make the finals. Senior Ethan Ellinger was also recognized for being one of the top 10 test-takers in his event, Advertising Campaign. He was one of just three Iowa students to be recognized for this accomplishment.

Fourteen additional students and teams qualified for the competition:

  • Advertising Campaign—senior Whitney Wiese
  • Advertising Campaign, Buying & Merchandising Team Decision Making—seniors Cameron Brueck and Emma Judge
  • Business Law Team Decision Making—juniors Varun Myneni and Linh Tran
  • Business Services Marketing Series—senior Jared Shapert
  • Fashion Merchandising Promotional Plan—seniors Jessica Studer and Samantha Whitcomb
  • Financial Consulting—sophomore Caitlyn Potter
  • Financial Team Decision Making—juniors Armaan Kumar and Joe Swanson
  • Financial Team Decision Making—seniors Carter Czipar and Andrew Ridge
  • Hospitality Team Decision Making—junior Ariz Keshwani, sophomore Kate Snodgrass, junior Shubham Tayal, and sophomore Sukhman Virdi
  • Marketing Team Decision Making—seniors Ethan Ellinger and Whitney Wiese
  • Principles of Business Management & Administration—sophomore James Meng
  • Retail Merchandising Services—junior Lucy Brown
  • Sports and Entertainment Promotional Plan—junior Lucy Brown and senior Jared Shapert
  • Sports and Entertainment Team Decision Making—juniors Garrett Wheeler and Jack Thompson.

DECA is a business-oriented student organization with programs authorized by the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of Education. Its high school division includes 200,000 members in 3,500 schools. Learn more about DECA at

Students from the Valley HOSA group at the state competition.

Students from the Valley HOSA group at the state competition.

Eleven students in Valley High School’s HOSA—Future Medical Professionals group qualified to compete at the HOSA international Leadership Conference, June 21-24. Seniors Aggy Keary (Extemporaneous Health Poster) and Alec Freeman (Pharmacology); juniors Brianna Cole (Pathophysiology), Stacy Kabenda (Prepared Speaking), and Shubam Tayal (Medical Terminology); and sophomores Jacob Amro (Medical Law and Ethics), Caleb Bray (Epidemiology), and Maya Shah (Human Growth and Development) all took first place in their categories at the state HOSA competition.

Sophomore Radha Velamuri took second place in Human Growth and Development, and sophomore Hailey Amro took third in the same category. The Valley HOSA Bowl group (Kabenda, Tayal, Troung, and Velamuri) took second place. Tayal was also elected as the Iowa State HOSA President for the 2017-18 year.

HOSA is an international student organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Its mission is to promote career opportunities in the health care industry and enhance the delivery of quality health care to all people. Learn more about HOSA at

Congratulations to Valley’s DECA and HOSA groups!


Twenty-Five Valley Juniors Named to Leadership Program

Valley High School is proud to announce the newest members of NCYL from the Class of 2018! Twenty-five Valley High School juniors were selected to the National Council on Youth Leadership, a national leadership recognition program that fosters high ideals of leadership and integrity among American youth.

Congratulations to Isabelle Acheson, Grace Basler, Brianna Cole, Anna Correa, Quinn Fox, Madelyn Hansen, Mastura Ibnat, Amy Johnson, Nicholas Johnson, Jamia Jordan, Christopher Jun, JJ Kapur, Sarah Lagomarcino, Aleia Manning, Molly McDermott, Mitch O’Meara, Alex Peterson, Lillian Poulsen, Anvay Pradhan, Molly Rodgers, Caroline Smoldt, Shubham Tayal, Nancy Truong, Rachel Werner, and Jocelyn Westerhold.

NCYL logo. Text: National Council on Youth Leadership. "Inspiringa nd Shaping the Future of Our Youth"

The NCYL encourages leadership potential, gives young leaders opportunities to refine and strengthen their skills, and lets students share ideas with peers from other area schools. Learn more about the NCYL online.