Miss Rodeo KS visits Wabaunsee elementary schools

Miss Rodeo Kansas Brooke Wallace speaks to Alma Elementary School students on Friday. Wallace, a former classmate of Alma fourth grade teacher Brooke Janssen, spoke about rodeo events and her duties as Miss Rodeo Kansas.” The students enjoyed it,” Janssen said. “They saw her as a celebrity, which she thought was funny.” Janssen said she invited Wallace because she knew it was her job to spread knowledge about rodeo. Wallace also visited Maple Hill Elementary. Photo by Emma Alderman.

Juniors prepare tasty STAR project

Juniors Eleanor Badeker and Macy Falk put the finishing touches on a cheesecake for their STAR event. They substituted peanut butter with sunflower butter to suit people with peanut allergies. Photos by Hannah Mumpower.

‘Indulgent Dessert’ addresses food allergies

Juniors Eleanor Badeker and Macy Falk made a delicious creation for their FCCLA STAR event.

Many FCCLA members compete in STAR (Students Taking Action with Recognition) events, which cover a wide variety of topics related to Family and Consumer Sciences. Events are separated into three divisions: Junior division which covers students in the 6-9th grade, Senior division is open to 10-12th grade and the Occupational division is open to any student who intends to pursue a career that is related to that event.

STAR events can be done either individually or in groups of up to three people. They usually begin with a planning process and can include multiple elements such as speeches, research, visuals, presentations and various other elements. After completing their STAR events, students will then present these elements to judges at District, State and even National competitions.

Wabaunsee FCCLA has 23 members competing in STAR events this year. On February 6, these students will take their STAR events to Districts at Nemaha Central. To move on to the State competition in Wichita on April 7, students must place 1st in their event at Districts with a score of 85 or above. If they place 1st or 2nd at the State competition with a score of 85 or above, students will then move on to the National competition in Anaheim, Fla. in July.

Juniors Eleanor Badeker and Macy Falk are participating in the Food Innovations Senior STAR event. Food Innovations recognizes participants who demonstrate knowledge of the basic concepts of food product development by creating an original recipe, testing the product with sample groups and creating a marketing strategy. They demonstrate their knowledge of food science, nutrition, food preparation safety and product marketing. Participants must prepare a display, suggested product packaging and an oral presentation.

The sunflower cheesecake, and “indulgent dessert,” features a crushed Oreo crust, homemade toffee and caramel sauce with semisweet melted chocolate chips.

“This year we were assigned to do an indulgent dessert,” Badeker said. “We had to modify it and make it our own. We came up with an idea because it had a personal connection to my allergy. Obviously with my allergy there are a lot of things that I miss out on, so we decided to create a dessert that people with nut allergies could safely have that would be similar to something that they can’t usually have.”

Badeker and Falk are taking the recipe for a peanut butter butterfinger cheesecake and are creating what they call a Sunflower Cheesecake. “The steps we take are to do the planning process first and then make the food item and have certain people judge them and then we make the food item again,” Falk said. “We took a peanut butter butterfinger cheesecake and replaced the peanut butter with sunflower butter and the butterfinger with a toffee that we made ourselves,” Badeker said.

Badeker and Falk have made their Sunflower Cheesecake two times. Each time they made it, they had it tasted by a sample group of WHS staff and students including those with nut allergies and those without. They had the tasters fill out a review sheet each time they sampled the cheesecake. After the first sampling, changes were made to the toppings of the cheesecake. Using the information from the review sheets, Badeker and Falk were able to refine their recipe in order to create a better tasting end product.

Falk and Badeker drizzle caramel sauce to complete plating their dessert.

Badeker and Falk believe that STAR events are well worth the effort. “STAR events help with your public speaking and help build your leadership skills by taking initiative and creating a project,” Falk said. “It is a great opportunity to develop skills in speaking and doing projects,” Badeker said. “They give you an opportunity to create something and also see new places and have new experiences while working on them. The only con would be that it can sometimes be hard to find time to work on the event among all of the other responsibilities you have.”

— Hannah Mumpower, @Hlmump01

Senior Makayla Wagner meets birth family

Over winter break, senior Makayla Wagner met with her birth mother and sister for the first time since being adopted by Heather and Jack Wagner in 2002.

“We adopted Makayla on the very first national adoption day that Shawnee County observed,” Heather Wagner said, “that was October 18, 2006.”

Prior to contacting her birth mother, Makayla knew relatively little about her birth family. “I didn’t know a lot, not a lot at all,” she said. “I was very young.” Makayla even had doubts about ever getting in contact with them. “I didn’t think that they wanted to talk to me or that they didn’t even want to meet at all.”

In order to meet or contact her birth mother, Makayla had to be eighteen. “When we adopted the kids we told them that when they turned eighteen, if they wanted to find their birth families we would help them do that,” Heather said. Makayla came to her mother shortly after her birthday in October and said that she wanted to find her birth mom. “I asked her how she wanted to proceed,” Heather said. Makayla wanted to talk to her grandmother, who was her foster parent prior to being adopted.

“We went up and we started talking to my mom. Makayla had some questions, they were answered, and then we actually found their family on Facebook,” Heather said. Makayla then corresponded with her birth mother for the first time since being adopted.

Makayla’s fears soon turned into excitement after reaching out for the first time. “Me and my grandma and my mom reached out to her,” she said, “She told me she was really excited because we hadn’t talked in years, but she was kind of nervous.”

Heather said she was excited for Makayla. “I have been totally OK with both of my kids finding their birth families. If they want to find them great, if they don’t that’s fine too,” Heather said. “I have had the opportunity and been blessed to raise them and keep them alive.”

When details were finalized, Wagner, accompanied by her mother, met with her birth mother and sister. “I was kind of nervous to meet them but also happy,” Makayla said.

“It went well, we laughed a lot.” “My favorite part was hanging out with my sister and going to Chuck E. Cheese’s.”

Heather said meeting them was a wonderful experience. “We laughed, we cried, I finally for the first time got to see how Makayla was made up.” Heather Wagner said she can see many similarities between Wagner and her birth family. “It’s just been a wonderful experience for us.”

“It has created a whole new world for Makayla,” Heather said. Makayla is often excited, but still gets a little nervous, but has learned so much. “When you are adopted there’s a lot of unknowns, like family history but by meeting them she has had the opportunity to learn.”

Makayla plans to stay in contact with her birth family as they are planning to moving to Kansas City. She hopes to make many new memories and learn more about her family history.

“If you ever have the opportunity to adopt a child, I think that is one of the best ways if you can’t have children of your own to become a parent,” Heather said. “They deserve forever families, just like you have yours and I have mine.”

— Emma Frey, @_emmafrey_

Former music teacher saves Christmas concert

Former music teacher Sue Yocum directs freshman Sarah Vanstory and the high school choir prior to the winter concert December 17. Yocum took over for Richard Philbrook, who was sick that day. “I was kind of worried, but I knew Mrs. Yocum was a really good teacher. I forgot words at one point in rehearsal, but I felt comfortable with her,” Vanstory said. Photo by Sean Dugger.

Music students perform despite teacher’s illness

A Christmas miracle was needed to keep the winter concert on schedule.

Richard Philbrook, the 5-12 band and choir teacher, fell ill over the weekend preceding the annual Winter Concert December 17. The students in the music program came to school that Monday planning to finalize preparations for the concert, but it was in danger of being cancelled without a director. Former elementary music teacher Sue Yocum volunteered to become the director, but only had a day to work with all of the students.

Yocum had to quickly work with students to see if holding the concert was still feasible.

No other days were available to reschedule due to the impending winter break. With only one class period to practice with the all of the students, the decision to continue without any changes to the performances was made, including performing two solos in the choir’s ‘White Christmas’ and the tempo difficult piece of the band’s ‘Three Minute Nutcracker’.

“Not knowing the tempos or the cues for the students in the pieces made it difficult,” Yocum said. “I enjoyed it, there was almost less stress than one I prepared myself.”

Behind the curtains, secretary Jeanne Parry put in a lot of work in the logistics side of the concert with things like contacting the correct people for help and making the many programs to be passed out.

“We just didn’t want to disappoint everyone who would have to travel or the seniors and their last Christmas concert,” Parry said.

Despite the illness and the inability for Philbrook to attend, the concert was performed on time and received well by the audience. “I thought it was really good, everybody played and sang their best even though Philbrook was gone,” junior Luke Stuhlsatz said.

“I was impressed, proud, and not surprised with how well the students responded,” principal Jan Hutley said.

Known for not missing any concerts before, Philbrook was disappointed to have to miss his first one due to being sick, but was proud of how the students performed.

“The concert would not have happened without the tenacity of Mrs. Perry, Mrs. Yocum, and all of the students who were willing to work with someone they hadn’t,” Philbrook said.

— Sean Dugger, @seandugger01

WHS Student Publications staff picks favorite Christmas entertainment

With Christmas right around the corner, Christmas entertainment can be found in various forms such as music, movies, books and more. In the spirit of Christmas, WHS publications staff and advisers chose their favorite pieces of Christmas entertainment. Let us know your favorites on Twitter @whscharger.

Kaytlyn Meseke, newspaper

“The Polar Express” movie is my favorite piece of Christmas entertainment because it holds a special place in my heart. When my brother was being born, my aunt took me to the movie theaters to watch it and it was my first movie theater experience. I didn’t enjoy it much that day, and it still kind of scared me years after. But every year we watch it as a family and the suspense still gets me sometimes.

Hannah Mumpower, newspaper

“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” is by far my favorite piece of Christmas entertainment. My family and I watch it every year on TV at least once, if not more. It’s a really funny movie and is super entertaining. I’m pretty sure my brother can quote just about every scene in the movie. It also reminds me a little of our own family Christmases. They get a little hectic sometimes, but it turns out all right in the end.

Laurel Barber, yearbook editor in chief, newspaper

“Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas” is a classic but amazing Christmas movie. Every year the night before Christmas my mom would wrap all the presents and I would have to go into the back room to watch a movie. I would always watch the movie and try to be like Minnie in the ice rink.


Jayna Keller, newspaper

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is my favorite piece of Christmas entertainment. It’s such a classic, and when I was in sixth grade, I helped the younger kids in EL put on a production of it. Also they play it every year on TV, so I can just sit down with my little siblings, and enjoy a holiday movie. It’s an easy way to be able to relax with my family, without fighting about what to watch.


Abby Oliver, newspaper editor in chief, Senioritis host

Ever since my brothers and I were little kids, my mom would read us “The Night Before Christmas” book Christmas Eve night before we went to bed. We would get to open one present that night, and it would always be new pajamas. Then we would all sit on our couch, and listen to mom read The Night before Christmas. It just reminds me of Christmas as a kid.

Makayla Wagner, yearbook

My favorite Christmas movie is the classic animated “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” because it makes me laugh and my favorite part is when he started feeling and he asked Max to help him.    

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! — Pictured: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” — (Photo by: Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.)

Sean Dugger, newspaper

Being more into music than movies during the holiday season, “Carol of the Bells” takes the place of my favorite Christmas entertainment. The song has been remade by many artists, which I believe adds to its enjoyment as everyone adds something a little different every time. My favorite covers include the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Pentatonix.

Emma Frey, newspaper

I liked all the animated Christmas movies growing up like “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town,” “The Year Without Santa Claus,” “Rudolph,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” “Nestor,” and “The Grinch.” I never really got into any other movies when I was younger like I did with those. They’re just so good and I don’t think any Christmas movie will ever top those for me. They remind me of being a kid.

Eleanor Badeker, newspaper

I’m a big fan of all the classic Christmas movies, but for me nothing beats the Nutcracker ballet. My family owns an old version on VHS. The picture is kind of fuzzy and it makes weird noises sometimes, but it adds to the effect that has been a tradition every year. The music by Tchaikovsky is so beautiful. My mom and I always watch it during Christmas break and it calms us down amidst the craziness of the season.

Justice Houston, yearbook

I love all Christmas songs but my favorite is definitely is “All I Want for Christmas” by Mariah Carey. It’s my favorite because every Christmas season me and my friends always jam out to the song.

Melissa Campbell, yearbook

My favorite Christmas movie is the Christmas Chronicles. It’s a new movie on Netflix, and it has some comedic scenes.

Shantel Corp, yearbook

My favorite movie is “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” My favorite Christmas song is “Christmas Cookies” by George Strait. It my favorite season because I get to spend time with my family.

Meredith Hess, yearbook

Christmas Hallmark movies are probably my favorite thing to entertain myself with during Christmas time. My mom and I waste time watching them, and I even watch them while I study for finals! They are really cheesy and the same thing happens in every single one, but I love them.

Dillon Spellman, Senioritis producer

My favorite piece of Christmas entertainment is the 2008 Hannah Montana Christmas Special. Even if it only exists in my mind, it has to be the greatest Christmas-themed piece of art to ever exist. Someday I might even get around to watching it.

Brendan Praeger, newspaper adviser

Rather than choosing something old, I’m choosing something new that I think will become a tradition in my family. Last week I watched “Angela’s Christmas” on Netflix with my two-year-old son Logan. The short animated film presents a story from Frank McCourt, the author of the Irish classic “Angela’s Ashes,” in which a young girl steals the baby Jesus from a nativity scene to keep him warm during a cold night. The movie is incredible, and since my mother grew up in Ireland it’s extra special. Logan has watched it half a dozen times already and his grandmother even took him to the nearby Catholic Church because he kept asking to see “Baby Jesus.”

angelas christmas

Luke Barber, Senioritis host

My favorite Christmas movie is “A year without Santa.” I remember when I would sit on the floor in my grandma’s old house and watch it and sing along to the Mr. heat miser and Mr. cold miser song. My favorite Christmas song is from Charlie Brown, the Christmas time is here song, it’s just so sweet.

Maddie Alderman, Senioritis host

My favorite Christmas entertainment is watching my father watch “A Christmas Story”. He’s seen it about a million times, but still laughs at every joke. Also, if you watch closely, you can see him mouthing the words along with the characters on screen.

Amy Cassell, yearbook adviser

My favorite song is “Mary Did You Know?” because it’s pretty and my kids will sing it.

Students prepare for winter choir, band concerts

Emma Alderman, Tara Quintanilla, Bernice Poulter, Gabby Simmons and Kimi Buchanan sing during choir practice at WHS. The choir performs December 17 in the auditorium. Photo by Abby Oliver.

Concerts to feature Christmas classics

As Wabaunsee students prepare for winter concerts, one teacher is directing his first winter concert, while another is preparing for his last.

Maple Hill Elementary performs Tuesday in Maple Hill and Alma performs Thursday in the WHS auditorium. Both shows begin at 7 p.m.

Elementary music teacher Peter Ruby likes the challenge of directing young students.

“Young students definitely enjoy to wiggle when singing, but their enthusiasm is contagious. It’s apparent they love what they are doing and I am very excited for them to show their parents what they are capable of,” Ruby said.

The students will perform a selection of Christmas songs, including  “Christmas Makes me Sing,” “A Gift for Santa,” “Bubble Wra,”, “Simple Gifts” and “Little Drummer Boy.”

“I have challenged the students, especially 4th grade, with difficult music and they have risen to the challenge,” Ruby said. “I’m proud of their hard work and determination, especially their perseverance through struggles.”

First grade students from Alma Elementary practice for the winter concert Tuesday afternoon in the WHS Auditorium. Photo by Sarah Vanstory and Hannah Ratts.

Wabaunsee Middle and High school teacher Richard Philbrook is preparing for his last Christmas concert before retirement.

“They will perform everything from traditional, like Carol of The Bells, to some modern-sounding arrangements with some new songs. A wide variety, from old favorites, traditional, to modern.” Philbrook said. “They’re working very hard, starting with the logistics, and fine tuning a couple of notes.”

— Jayna Keller, @whscharger

Freshman Emmert performing in The Nutcracker

Ballet plays a big part in freshman Cecelia Emmert’s life.

The 2018 Ballet Midwest production of The Nutcracker marks Emmert’s ninth year performing in the ballet.  

Emmert was introduced to ballet at the age of six. “My aunt signed me up for some classes and I continued from there,” Emmert said.

This is Emmert’s first year being a part of Company through Ballet Midwest. “Company basically gives you more responsibility,” Emmert says, “you’re higher up and considered more mature.” Dancers must audition for Company every year. New dancers are given a big sister to help introduce them and get them used to company and when they are older they receive a little sister.

In addition, this is Emmert’s fourth year en pointe. Pointe is a ballet position in which the dancer dances on the tips of their toes. This requires different shoes and requires more effort and practice than dancing on flat feet.

Rehearsal in preparation for The Nutcracker began in October with practices twice a week. The dancers are then given a break and return with practice four times a week. The week leading up to the production includes practice every day except Monday. “We practice a lot.” Emmert said. Some dancers even miss school in order to attend rehearsal. The Nutcracker features a cast of about a hundred dancers, ranging from young kids to adults and includes both men and women.

With ballet occupying most of her time, Emmert still finds time to balance school work and a social life. “I just try to get all of my homework done,” Emmert said, “when I’m done then I can focus on dance.” Emmert said she loses a lot of sleep, but she’s managing to stay caught up.

This year, Emmert will play the part of a Yellow Flower and a Spanish Corp. “I like being flower,” Emmert said. She said that her favorite role would be either flowers or a Hungarian dancer. Emmert’s favorite part of the ballet is Act II when the Russian dancers are performing in front of Clara and the Nutcracker.

Emmert has also been a part of several other ballets including Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake and will be a part of Coppelia this upcoming spring. Emmert intends to continue ballet until she graduates high school.

On top of ballet, Emmert also enjoys reading and art. “I really enjoy alone time and music,” she said, “I don’t really do much besides ballet.”

Performances of The Nutcracker will be on the 7, 8 and 9 of December at the Topeka Performing Arts Center, with two performances on the 8th.

— Emma Frey, @_emmafrey_

Drama rehearses for fall play

Dillon Spellman and Maddie Alderman rehearse for the fall play during drama class. The fall play is on December 1.

Drama students to perform holiday play

The drama class is preparing for it’s fall play, Closed for the Holidays,” 7 p.m. December 1 in the high school auditorium.

Written by Flip Kobler and Cindy Marcus, the play follows  travelers caught in the turmoil of a snowstorm. Stranded at a local community center, everyone from a teacher with a bus full of students to a Sheriff eager for criminal action is going to need a miracle to have a happy holiday.

Senior Travis McCall is taking on the role of Nolan, the fiancé of a woman who becomes hysterical around the holidays.

“This is a good character for me, because I’ve seen and dealt with crazy women,” McCall said.

Junior Brendan Dugger plays a mysterious man who is secretly an elf working for Santa.

“This character is good for me because I get to be kind of rude, which is always fun. I’ve only been in Drama for one year and am preparing by spending time everyday reading my lines.

“It’s always stressful in the last couple of weeks,” director Brendan Praeger said.

Tickets for the performance are $5 for adults and $3 for students.

— Kendyl Bolinder, @BolinderKendyl

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