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‘Life Lessons from Valley’ Features Student Stories of High School

news_valley_lifelessonsEleven students with a variety of backgrounds are headlining the first-ever “Life Lessons from Valley,” planned for March 6 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Valley High School Performing Arts Center, 2300 Mills Civic Parkway, West Des Moines. West Des Moines Mayor and Valley graduate Steve Gaer will be a featured speaker. The event is free and open to the public.

Valley High School Senior Dani Lipman created the event for her Honors Program capstone project. She decided the event would follow a format similar to TED Talks, short talks from the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) nonprofit about innovative topics. The presentation allow students to share how their high school experiences shaped their lives.

Lipman presented the idea to teachers, who then nominated 50 students from all grade levels for the mini-talks. Students auditioned for a spot in the mini-talk series by pitching their ideas and providing a rough draft of their speech. From auditions, Lipman chose the final eleven speakers. The stories include students who have auditioned for a national television show, found support as a transgender student, persevered when no one else shared their passion for a hobby, and much more.

Lipman also approached the TED organization that inspired her project and secured TED accreditation for the second half of her event. TED will share the event as “Life Lessons from High School,” allowing the students to reach a broader audience. Lipman said planning the event helped her get to know her school community better and the stories students had to share.

“In a way, it has made the school a little bigger for me, because of the stories I now see inside it,”
Lipman said of the project. “I think people will be able to gain an insight on Valley and its people.”

To get the latest updates on the event, please follow @lifelessonsvhsevent on Twitter.

Valley High School (VHS) is located in West Des Moines, a suburb of Des Moines with approximately 55,000 residents. VHS is a three-year comprehensive high school with approximately 1,900 students. Its Honors Program requires the completion of specific courses, a minimum GPA of 3.9, and the completion of a senior capstone project.


Updated: Valley IHSSA Entries Set State Records at All-State Festival

Updated Feb. 23 — Valley High School received Critic’s Choice Awards in five different categories at the Iowa High School Speech Association (IHSSA) All-State Festival, held Feb. 21 at the Iowa State Center in Ames. This set a new state record for Critic’s Choice Awards won by a single school.

Top Iowa professionals acted as Critic Judges during the All-State Festival, selecting entries in their own fields to receive the Critic’s Choice Awards. Valley received the Critic’s Choice Award for the following entries: Group Improvisation, judged by Rick Anderson from Kirkwood Community College; Reader’s Theater, judged by Susan Cantine-Maxson, of the IHSSA Hall of Fame; Solo Mime, judged by David Walker from Buena Vista University; One-act Play, judged by Gai Jones, from the Donna Reed Foundation; and TV Newscasting, judged by Paul Yeager of IPTV.

Valley also earned the E. Wayne Cooley Sweepstakes trophy, awarded to the school with the most entries performing at the All-State Festival. This is the 11th time Valley has won the award in the past 13 years, another state record.


Feb. 16, 2015 — Valley High School hosted the Iowa High School Speech Association Large Group Contest on Feb. 7. All 24 VHS entries and eight Valley Southwoods entries received top ratings, earning a “I” rating from a majority of judges. Thirteen VHS entries and four entries from VSW received special recognition and were invited to perform at the IHSSA Large Group All-State Festival on Feb. 21, at Iowa State University. VHS will also receive the E. Wayne Cooley Award, presented to the school with the most entries at the All-State Festival. This is the 10th time VHS has earned the prestigious award in the past 12 years.

Those who want to watch the All-State Festival may purchase tickets for $8 on the day of the event at the Scheman Building at the Iowa State Center. All spectators must purchase a ticket. Prior tickets can be purchased through Stacy Hansen at VHS or through Katie Dorrell at VSW. Make checks out to the IHSSA.


Valley High School entries performing at the All-State Festival are:

One-act play, “Eurydice.” Director, Ryan Penning; assistant director, Bryan Gamboa; technical director, Amanda Pichler; stage managers: Reid Epstein, Erin McCauley, Katie Ringgenberg; tech: Tommy Anderson, Sam Berry, Jamie Hanson, Emma Kazeze, Brillian Qi-Bell, Liz Remus, Brienne Edwards; cast: Andrew Axman, Grace Barker, Hanna Bush, Emily Carr, Cooper Christensen, Taylor Denman, Izzy Fidler, Lauren Frederick, Dillon Frost, Ashley Gettinger, Courtney Graham, Melissa Grinvalds, Beth Hammond, Grace Horvath, Carly Johnson, Zac Johnson, Libby Lorts, Nic Lovan, Clara Lyden, Carlo Maina, Sofi Mandil, Margaret Mungai, Paige Marshall, Augustina Mateo, Abby McCullough, Evalyn Nougi, Sharissa Patanapanich, Anna Peterzalek, Josh Rodrigues, Lizbeth Salinas-Reyes, Julie Sisler, Elena Soto, Jack Standefer, Madison Stegman, Heather Stout, Allison Tow, Maren Tuttle, Ramya Vemulapalli, Noah Welch, DeVuntae Williams, Justine Williamson, Anna Wood, Piper Wood.

Choral reading, “The Grudgekeeper.” Director, Stacy Hansen; stage manager, Cheyenne Raney; cast: Kyra Casper, Lily DeTaeye, Jared Freiburg, Andy Han, Colin Lane, Jessica Martens, Nicole Miller, Anna Mokricky, Lauren Pfeil, Derek Pham, Elise Ramaekers, Owen Snyder, Melanie Taylor, Nick Wang, Jake Wheeler


Reader’s Theater: “Tuck Everlasting” — Photo Credit: Jeri Williams

Reader’s theater, “Tuck Everlasting.” Director, Stacy Hansen; stage managers, Kathryn Catellier, Reid Epstein; cast: Liz Cleaven, Keaton Denker, Emma Erhard, Matthew Hrdlicka, Kamden Lee, Dani Lipman, Savannah Mendenhall, Nico Mulhern, Marisa Potts, Sydney Sheffield, Caroline Stump, Pearl Tate, Ryan Voggesser, Annie Weinberg, Danny Williams.

Group mime, “To Cheat the Devil.” Director, Derek Claussen;  performers: Hanna Anderson, Julia Anderson, Logan Benson, Lily DeTaeye, Jared Fisher, Masha Smirnova.

Group mime, “Alice Returns: The Looking Glass, the Stolen Watch, and the Lost Brother.” Director, Derek Claussen; performers: Cameron Denker, Nico Mulhern, Angelina Mullican, Derek Pham, Jake Wheeler, Trinity Zynda.

Group Improvisation:  Noah Dorsett and Grady Stein Photo Credit: Beenie Stein

Group Improvisation: Noah Dorsett and Grady Stein — Photo Credit: Beenie Stein

Solo mime, “Tsunami: Japan.” Director, Nicole Crawford; performer: Hanna Anderson.

Solo mime, “The Race to Save the End of Time.” Director, Ted VanDeventer; performer: Daniel Soto.

Group improvisation. Directors, Joe Van Haecke, Amanda Pichler; performers: Noah Dorsett and Grady Stein.

Musical theater, “Heathers.” Directors, Megan Helmers, Brianne Magel; stage manager, Kathryn Smoldt; cast: Colin Lane, Maria Lind, Nicole Miller, Lauren Pfeil, Elise Ramaekers, Daniel Soto.

Musical theatre, “Bring it On.” Directors, Megan Helmers, Brianne Magel; stage manager, Kathryn Catellier; cast: Sarah Clarke, Rebekah Conard, Andy Han, Derek Lutt, Jessica Martens, Nick Wang.

Musical theater, “Assassins.” Directed by Megan Helmers, Brianne Magel; stage manager, Cheyenne Hensley; cast: Keaton Denker, Matthew Hrdlicka, Dani Lipman, Claire Maly, Josh Miksch, Jack Wilson.

Television news, “We Report: Progression or Oppression.” Directors, Glen Biermann, Ryan Van Every; cast: Lejla Avdic, Katie Daft, Jenna Hanson, Cheyenne Hensley, Allison Isenhoff, Alex Johnson, Sarahi Lopez, Alli Newell, Jack Ohringer, Mara Smith, Gloria Tanui, Cheyenne Vanlandingham, Suilley Vuong, Megan Yeates.

Short film, “Limbo.” Director, Allison Koontz; cast: Emily Bergez, Susannah Crichton, Katie Daft, Alex Fell, Jared Freiburg, Tevan Fuller, Catie Judge, Allison Kacer, Emily Kacer, Katie Pixley, Blake Porter, Lukas Rysavy, Chase Stine, Abby Tobin.


The Valley Southwoods entries selected for the All-State Festival were:

Choral reading, “’Til Death Do Us Part.” Stage managers: Ashlyn Williams, Grace Basler, Gracie Pollack; cast: Sam Allbee, Anthony Alvardo, Cooper Earle, Rebecca Figueroa, Jack Freeborn, Maddie Hansen, Alec Jessen, Emma Ksiazak, Liz Lau, Sam Sheffield, Maddy Swaim, Olivia Ramakers, Caroline Smoldt, Garrett Wheeler.

Reader’s theatre, “Fly Away Home.” Valley senior directors: Liz Cleven, Annie Weinberg; stage managers: Cassie McKinney, Amy Wickenkamp; cast: Zoe-Ella Anderson, Grace Axman, Trinity Bierl, Emma Bohn, Alainna McAuliff, Erin McCoy, Charlie Overton, Zach Pits, Lillian Poulsen, Carter Pretzsch, Hannah Taylor, Ann Thomas, Jack Thompson. (Not performing due to time constraints.)

Ensemble acting, “Captive Audience.” Guest directors: Jake Leberton, Maddie Ripperger; cast: Maria Masteller, Kylie Miller, Miller McCoy, Carter Oakley. (Not performing due to time constraints.)

Ensemble acting, “When Shakespeare’s Ladies Meet.” Guest director, Rachel Ogden; cast: Amy Wickenkamp, Zoe-Ella Anderson, Olivia Hansen, Jo Craven, Marisa Rethman, Quinn Fox. (Not performing due to time constraints.)

The other Valley High School entries receiving I ratings were:

Group mime, “Ivory Wars.” Director, Derek Claussen; performers: Kamden Lee, Connor McCarville, Melanie Taylor, Spencer Tramontina, Ryan Voggesser, Danny Williams.

Solo mime, “The Death of Figaro: A Final Sonata.” Director, Amanda Pichler; performer:Tommy Anderson.

Group improvisation. Directors: Joe Van Haecke, Amanda Pichler; performers:  Hira Mustafa, Lilly Seltz.

Group improvisation. Directors: Joe Van Haecke, Amanda Pichler; performers: Becca Dorsett, Tevan Fuller.

Ensemble acting, “Proof.” Director, Kim Van Haecke; cast: Rebekah Conard, Alex McNunn.

Ensemble acting, “Thistle Blossoms.” Director, Allison Koontz; cast: Savannah Mendenhall, Annie Weinberg.

Ensemble acting, “Mime in a Box.” Director, Charlie Reese; cast: Julia Anderson, Liz Cleven, Jack Standefer.

Television news, “Wake Up America.” Directors, Glen Biermann, Ryan Van Every; cast: Thomas Bonus, Gabe Butler-Klein, Sam Dayton, Josh Farmer, AnnaMarie McQuliff, Olivia McDermott, Hira Mustafa, Alyson O’Hara, Elizabeth Reed, Anthony Reno, Dani Roth, Kathryn Smoldt, Grady Stein, Chase Stine.

Short film, “Road Trip.” Director, Allison Koontz; cast: Wil Abeling, Andrew Bohn, Gabe Butler-Klein, Anne Marie Derouin, Sarah Estes, Ryan Jones, Nikolaus Kammerer, Alex McNunn, Grace Patrick West, Zainab Sohail, Cody Thompson.

Radio news, “SPCE.” Director, Glen Biermann; cast: Thomas Bonus, Catherine Christian, Cooper Christensen, Anna Mokricky, Elizabeth Reed, Andrew Thompson.

Radio news, “SUPR.” Director, Glen Biermann; cast: Dawson Edwards, Carly Johnson, Olympia Manning, Jack Ohringer, Abigail Patterson, Trevor Tyma. 

The other Valley Southwoods entries receiving I ratings were:

Group mime, “A Laughing Mess.” Valley senior directors, Nick Wang, Melanie Taylor; performers: Bree Cole, Cooper Earle, Bre` Eigenheer, Deonna Garcia, Jeff Purcelle, Susan Vue.

Group mime, “The Babadook.” Director, Katie Dorrell; performers: Leann Grandia, Rebecca Figueroa, Charlie Overton, Collin Reeves, Faith Smith. Rebecca Stockham.

Musical theater, “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” Director, Katie Dorrell; music director, Adam Kent; cast: Anthony Alvarado, Preston Hayes, Emma Ksiazak, Liz Lau, Keegan McCullough, Lizzie Napier.

Musical theater, “Hairspray.” Director, Katie Dorrell; music director, Adam Kent; cast: Bella Giudicessi, Lauren Johnson, Camille Mireault, Kate Raridon, Emma Seybert, Julie VanKirk.

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Valley Art Teacher Named Clive Citizen of the Year

Valley High School art teacher Tom Murphy is being honored as the Clive 2014 Citizen of the Year at the Clive Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Celebration. Murphy served as the Public Arts Advisory Commission (PAAC) chairman for the City of Clive from 2011–2013.

murphyto“That was an opportunity to bring art to the community through a public art program,” Murphy said. “Clive was one of the first to set up a fund that would be used, along with grant money from Bravo, Prairie Meadows, and local companies, to put artworks on display in the community. “

Murphy’s leadership of the Clive PAAC helped sustain the Clive Public Arts Program during a transitional period and led to two new programs: an annual art contest for children attending art classes called “Kids for Art in Clive” and the widely recognized “Art Along the Trail” program.

Murphy has taught with WDMCS for 26 years. He earned his associate’s degree from Grandview College and his bachelor’s degree from Drake University before graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1988 with a master’s degree in arts in education.  He then worked as an art teacher at Western Hills, Phenix, and Jordan Creek elementary schools until 1994, then moved to Valley High School. He has now worked there for 20 years teaching classes in drawing, painting, digital graphics, and animation. He was instrumental in starting the animation/TV and radio lab at Valley in 2008.

He is also an instructor at the Des Moines Art Center and active in the WDMCS youth sports community. He has coached soccer and Little League and is a board member with Opportunity on Deck, a Drake University sports clinic for disadvantaged children in Clive and Des Moines.

The Annual Celebration will start at 5:30 p.m., with dinner served at 6:30 p.m., on Tuesday, Feb. 17. The celebration will be held at NCMIC Group, 14001 University Avenue in Clive. The program will follow dinner and will include the presentation of the Clive Citizen of the Year award to Murphy.


Valley Boys’ Swim Team Places Third at State

Congratulations to the Valley Boys’ Swim Team for their third place finish at the State Meet on Saturday, Feb. 14. Valley’s results were:

  • 200 Medley Relay — Second place, school record, consideration for All-American status (Sam Gorham, Bradley Rhein, Ethan Eiler, Beau Blazek)
  • 200 Freestyle — seventh place (Carl Skoog), 14th place (Seth Brady)
  • 200 Individual Medley — 10th place (Nick Fox)
  • 50 Freestyle — fifth place (Sam Gorham), 10th place (Ethen Eiler)
  • 100 Butterfly — 16th place (Ethan Eiler), 23rd place (Andrew Rottinghaus)
  • 100 Freestyle — second place tie, consideration for All-American status (Sam Gorham); seventh place (Carl Skoog); 16th place (Beau Blazek)
  • 500 Freestyle — 15th place (Nick Fox)
  • 200 Freestyle Relay — third place, consideration for All-American status (Ethan Eiler, Beau Blazek, Seth Brady, Carl Skoog)
  • 100 Breaststroke — 12th place (Bradley Rhein)
  • 400 Freestyle Relay — second place, consideration for All-American status (Beau Blazek, Seth Brady, Carl Skoog, Sam Gorham)


Kindergartners Have Rhythm in Music Class

Crestview kindergartners Cheri Cing and Gizelle Moreno-Casillas learn with rhythm sticks in music class.

Crestview kindergartners Cheri Cing and Gizelle Moreno-Casillas learn with rhythm sticks in music class.

Kindergarten music class is a time to explore, hear and develop the beginning knowledge and skill to listen and be able to talk about what students have heard and what they are learning.  Students have been learning about rhythm and steady beat this week. They have been learning how to read rhythm notation and different ways to show their learning. One day, they played an echo game with Crestview music teacher William Bird where each student used rhythm sticks to play each rhythm as an echo and then from written music notation.


Students Enjoy Winter Fun in PE Class

Jordan Creek students enjoyed the outdoors while sledding during physical education class. Teacher Luis Suarez gives a push to Emma Fetters, Sophia Samples and Chayse Robison.

Jordan Creek students enjoyed the outdoors while sledding during physical education class. Teacher Luis Suarez gives a push to Emma Fetters, Sophia Samples and Chayse Robison.

Students in Luis Suarez’s physical education classes had the opportunity to enjoy the Iowa winter with some awesome sledding the week of Feb. 2.  The hill behind the school has few obstructions and students are instructed where they can and cannot go. Suarez uses the activity for some great character lessons about sharing, taking turns and getting great exercise in the snow. Students have done a great job overall in observing safety rules to keep it a fun experience. When students learn to watch out for others, they become more aware of their fellow students and less focused on themselves.


Finalists Chosen for National Merit Program

Eleven Valley High School seniors have been named finalists in the National Merit Scholarship competition.

The students are Hanna Anderson, Julia Anderson, Keaton Denker, Lawrence Feng, Sunita Kolareth, Lauren Pfeil, Ojas Pradhan, Rishi Shah, William Sipfle, Ryan Thompson and Arun Velamuri.

High school students may take part in the National Merit Scholarship Program based on their PSAT/NMSQT scores and meeting entry requirements. Students with the highest index scores, which are based on critical reading, mathematics and writing skills, are notified in September that they have qualified as a commended student or a semifinalist.

Students recognized as semifinalists, which denotes them as the highest-scoring students in their state, then complete applications for the next round. Teens are notified in February if they have been chosen as a finalist. Their high schools are provided with certificates to present to the students.

In March, program organizers will begin to contact finalists selected for scholarships. Honorees are chosen to receive awards ranging from $2,500 National Merit scholarships to scholarship awards provided by corporations and colleges.


Two Students Chosen for Chinese Association Awards

Two Valley High School students are among the honorees selected for the Chinese Association of Iowa’s youth of the year award.

Sophomore Annie Zhang and senior Hira Mustafa will be recognized at the association’s annual awards banquet later this month. The youth of the year award recognizes young people serving others and making a difference in the community.

The Iowa Chinese Achievement Awards will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21 at Merrill Middle School, 5301 Grand Ave., Des Moines. The association will also honor nominees recognized for leadership in corporate and community life along with notable local businesses, nonprofits, volunteers and more.

The ceremony will feature a keynote speaker, reception, music and a dinner. Tickets are $25. Contact 988-0901 or for more information.


Students Explore Russia’s Culture, History

Fourth-graders at Westridge Elementary have just completed a wonderful trip to Russia. They packed their suitcases, applied for passports, and boarded the plane for their two-week journey through this cold country. The students learned about Russian tourism, culture, geography, literature, animals, and history, and have done lots of great research. The highlights include learning about the Russian czars and making czar crowns, reading Baba Yaga fairy tales, touring the beautiful cities of Russia, and painting Russian Faberge eggs. According to Julia Krob from 4A, “Learning about the culture of Russia was very interesting. What I thought was really American was actually Russian.” Matt Schmalz from 4B feels that “Russia is very cool because it has lots of onion domes in architecture.” Ethan Rosendahl from 4C also enjoyed Russian culture. He liked learning about St. Basils Cathedral because “we talked about Ivan the Terrible and the architects who built it.”


Request Nets Playground Equipment

Westridge fourth-graders were granted money from the PTA to purchase playground balls as part of an ELP project.

Westridge fourth-graders were granted money from the PTA to purchase playground balls as part of an ELP project.

Westridge fourth-grader Tyler Emanuel noticed a shortage of playground balls in the pod bins this fall. Wondering if there was a way to get more balls for students to play with at recess, Tyler decided to make this quest the focus of an Extended Learning Program (ELP) project. His fellow classmates were excited by his presentation and joined him in making a funding request to the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) at a Jan. 16 meeting. The group did an excellent job and the students’ request for the purchase of 54 playground balls and four pumps was approved by the PTA. After the meeting, ELP teacher Nancy Foley guided the group through the ball selection process and the students developed a plan to help ensure that the new equipment is properly maintained. The students will distribute the new playground balls to the kindergarten through sixth-grade classrooms in early February.