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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.


Valley Administrator David Maxwell Named 2017 Citizen of the Year

David MaxwellValley High School Associate Principal David Maxwell was named a 2017 Citizen of Year by the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce. Maxwell was selected alongside West Des Moines citizen and former Valley High School parent Mark Hillenbrand for facilitating community discussions about equity, diversity, and multiculturalism in West Des Moines.

Maxwell has been an associate principal at Valley High School since 2005. He was previously a language arts teacher at Lincoln High School and the dean of students at Hoover High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Iowa and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Iowa State University.

Maxwell will be honored as a West Des Moines Citizen of the Year at a special reception from 4-6 p.m., Wednesday, May 31, at the Staplin Performing Arts Center at Valley High School, 3650 Woodland Ave., West Des Moines. The event is free and open to the public. For more information on the reception, please contact the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce at 515-225-6009.


Valley Students Named 2017 U.S. Presidential Scholar, Semifinalist

Valley High School senior Gabriel Mintzer has been named one of 161 2017 U.S. Presidential Scholars. Mintzer was selected from a pool of 722 semifinalists by the Commission on Presidential Scholars, and is one of only two 2017 U.S. Presidential Scholars from Iowa.

Senior headshot photo of Gabriel Mintzer.Mintzer is invited to Washington, D.C., in June for the National Recognition Program, which culminates in the presentation of the Presidential Scholar Medallion during a White House-sponsored ceremony. Inclusion in the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program is one of the highest honors graduating high school seniors can receive. Scholars are selected based on academic success, artistic excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as evidence of community service, leadership and demonstrated a commitment to high ideals.

Valley High School senior Cayden Codel was also selected as a semifinalist in the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program from more than 5,100 candidates.

Mintzer, son of Michael Mintzer and Alla Mintzer-Zaprudsky of West Des Moines, is the co-founder and co-director of the Des Moines Student-to-Student Speaker Series, which provides students with monthly lectures given by STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) professionals. Mintzer is a member of the Valley High School science and knowledge bowl teams and the Central Academy mathematics team. He is also a member of the Valley High School National Honor Society chapter and the chapter treasurer.

Senior headshot photo of Cayden Codel.Codel, son of Franklin and Tracy Codel of West Des Moines, is a member of the Valley High School knowledge bowl, mock trial and swim teams. He is also a member of Valley’s National Honor Society chapter and is head of the chapter’s student tutoring committee. He is a member of the Moody’s Mega Math Challenge Team and has worked as a summer junior counselor at the Science Center of Iowa. Codel also earned placement in the Valley High School show choir, Iowa Opus Honor Choir and Iowa All-State Orchestra, and he participates in the Plymouth Congregational Church Youth Choir.

Congratulations to both of these students!


Valley Senior T.J. Foley’s Nonprofit Fills Global Gaps

T.J. Foley's senior headshot.Like many high school seniors, Valley High School student T.J. Foley is getting ready to graduate. Unlike most, he will graduate with experience as the founder and CEO of a non-profit organization, The Globus Project. Thanks in part to his work with The Globus Project, Foley has been awarded a four-year, full-tuition scholarship by The Bryan Cameron Education Foundation: one of the largest standalone academic scholarships ever received by a Valley student.

Despite all evidence, Foley insists he is an average teenager.

“There’s nothing extraordinary about me,” he said. “I just had an opportunity and did my best to take advantage of it.”

That opportunity came when representatives from Central and South America visited the State of Iowa Youth Advisory Council (SIYAC) in October 2015. SIYAC is a policy advising organization of young adults from across the state. Foley was the council’s executive chair at the time. A representative for Guillermo Gallegos, president of the El Salvadoran Legislature, approached Foley to write a proposal calling for a similar youth council in El Salvador.

Three people hold up Foley's plan after presenting it to El Salvador's legislature in November 2015.

Foley’s plan is presented to El Salvador’s legislature.

The proposal was presented to the legislature in November 2015 but just started progressing in January 2017. With the familiarity of a politician three times his age, Foley acknowledged that everything in politics takes its own time, and he is willing to wait for the support he needs.

“One person doing something—no matter how grand—won’t be able to be successful if people don’t get involved and follow it,” he said.

Foley formally started The Globus Project with a friend from SIYAC in fall 2016, making it his capstone project at Valley High School. Always interested in politics and history, Foley’s focus on international connections was fostered by his ninth-grade social studies class at Valley Southwoods Freshman High School.

Foley now works with contacts in countries including Cuba, Taiwan, and Kosovo. He hopes to travel to Cuba to help start a community garden he proposed, which is still seeking funding. He even has a world map on his wall, covered by sticky notes marking connections and potential target areas.

“In a world increasingly connected by technology, by travel, by trade, problems no longer stop at international borders,” he said.

Logo for The Globus Project, T.J. Foley's non-profit organization.That realization led to two of The Globus Project’s main goals: to connect infrastructures across international divides and get young adults excited about and engaged in social change. Foley is determined to provide opportunities for people his own age to discuss their ideas about removing the obstacles they face when pursuing success.

“(People are) responsible for their own success,” Foley said. “They have to have the freedom to solve problems the way they need to.”

In the fall, Foley will begin studying international relations at Harvard University. The Globus Project will make the journey with him. In his eyes, The Globus Project is simply taking the initiative to fix problems, and he believes anyone—especially young people—can and should do the same.

“This is why I feel more hopeful than ever,” he said. “It’s not always going to be pretty or perfect, but as long as people continue to find pieces missing and continue to fill those gaps, I think the world will be OK.”


Join Valley High School for the 2017 Colors for Cancer 5k!

ColorsforCancer 1617 slideValley High School’s Fifth Annual Colors for Cancer 5k Run/Walk will start at 1 p.m., on Sunday, May 14, 2017. Registration is $20, and all proceeds will go to the John Stoddard Cancer Center.

Check-in begins at noon the day of the 5k. Color is optional, so stay on the sidewalk for no color, and enter the color stations in the grassy area to receive color.

Contact Tory DeVries, Valley High School, 515-633-4326, with questions.