Involvement. Leadership. Excellence.
18 Under 18 is a showcase of East’s most stand-out Lancers who help lead and influence the community — as nominated by you.
The following 18 students come from every class. They are athletes, artists, activists and more, and they help shape the school through their diverse range of activities and talents. They motivate and inspire the student body, and they have the intangibles — the qualities that you just can’t teach.
Here are your 18 Under 18:
10-year-old Christian Alldredge sat in his pajamas on his family friend’s couch at the Lake of the Ozarks as he watched Jimi Hendrix strum his guitar to the “Star Spangled Banner” in “Woodstock… The Movie.” Alldredge sat glued to his seat as the raw emotion and power of the performance crept into the room.That was the spark. It charged a love for music, and the passion never left him.
Now, as a Freshman, Alldredge’s plans consist of one thing : “QUITE FRANKLY, QUITE FRANKLY, and more QUITE FRANKLY.”
QUITE FRANKLY THE BAND is Alldredge’s band, founded by Alldredge himself and Shawnee Mission South student Scout Matthews last year. Alldredge plays guitar with the band at one or two gigs every week. Between QUITE FRANKLY and his previous band ,The Whips, some of Alldredge’s largest gigs have been in Nashville, Lawrence and at the Uptown Theater.
“[Christian’s] energy level gets heightened whenever we’re on stage, and it makes me more energized just by being in the same room with him,” says Alldredge’s bandmate and East freshman Essy Siegel. “You can really tell he loves what he’s doing and I’m really glad that I get to play with him.”
When Alldredge isn’t rehearsing for a gig with QUITE FRANKLY in his bassist Nate Gregory’s basement, he’s performing on a different kind of stage in the Little Theater. As a freshman, Alldredge has become involved in the theater program at East.
“I always kind of knew that theatre was going to be something that I did in high school,” says Alldredge. “I was in two school musicals in middle school and really liked it, so I decided it was something that I wanted to continue to do.”
Alldredge is currently rehearsing for his third frequent Friday of the year, “Every Novel You Read in High School”. He also signed up for tryouts for the school musical, “The Little Mermaid,” and has worked on the sound crew for both the musical revue and a jazz concert.
Alldredge’s ultimate goal is to combine both his passion for playing the guitar and singing to pursue a career in music. He also wants to own his own recording studio so that he can help upcoming artists like other artists have helped him.
Already advancing towards his future goals, Alldredge is releasing his own album, titled “Noise” on Nov. 23. He says the debut album is about “growing up and and learning about [himself] and other people.”
Although he doesn’t know where his love of music will take him, Alldredge knows that his passion is as tried and true as it was five years ago.
“I don’t care if im famous or not,” Alldredge said. “I just want to have enough experience and enough opportunities to make a living off of solely being a musician.”
by Megan Funkey
When guest speaker and founder of KC for Refugees, Dr. Sofia Khan, came to speak to the members of the diversity inclusion nonprofit, Bridges KC, the students that attended the event all made donations to the organization. After the event, Bridges KC founder and senior Lauren Winston received a text saying that the donations had paid for somebody’s rent that month. After reading the text, Winston knew she had created something impactful.
Winston built Bridges KC to promote awareness of the backgrounds of other people. Their mission is to facilitate meaningful discussions and communicate social issues that are current so others can become informed about them and talk knowledgeably about them. That way they won’t be able to form misconceptions about other people.
Bridges KC was inspired by her mom’s involvement in the Diversity Inclusion Committee at East and her father’s involvement in mentoring urban youth, as well as their family values of helping other people and giving back in the community.
“A lot of people are willing to learn about these different issues, but we also have people who are still in that mindset where we’re sheltered by being in Johnson County,” Winston said. “So, I feel like talking about these issues are important in our community to make sure the people who may be experiencing that form of being sheltered are able to get that experience of knowing about people outside of Johnson County.”
She appreciates knowing what it’s like to work towards goals like promoting diversity inclusion to other schools through social media and Race Project KC, another organization Winston is involved in.
Teacher David Muhammad works with kids at East along with 11 other schools in the Race Project KC, where they gather and go on different field trips like going on a bus tour about Troost while talking about the Troost division line and looking at society and understanding oneself and differences.
“She’s doing stuff for her community and other communities that you see adults not even care about,” Muhammad said. “That takes a lot of confidence and a lot of guts because you get judged really easily and it’s not easy out here, especially in today’s political climate for a young black female. For her to not only excel but also be vocal and out there, it’s really commendable.”
by Ben Henschel
There’s something about working hard that appeals to junior Emory Apodaca. It’s irrational. He doesn’t mind giving up the sleep — the 1 a.m. coffee pots and the grounds he’s mixed into his food keep him up. And he actually welcomes researching around four hours of debate a night on top of his homework.
Emory’s always busy, and he’s not sure why. He’s craving something, maybe even subconsciously. Something that his irrational drive helps him reach.
Emory wants to feel successful — and the only way to really feel successful is to be successful, in his mind. So he’s always working, and doesn’t live for fun.
And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“If I based my life around fun, I obviously wouldn’t have taken on half of the things I did,” he said. “But being productive and doing these things and debate, it’s automatically rewarding.”
Emory’s time is taken up by challenging and time-consuming endeavors. Along with his IB diploma candidacy, he’s the president of the junior class, an orchestra member, a regular at math club, a top debater — all bringing his own version of success.
Apodaca has been contributing heavily to the debate team’s successes this season. He and his debate partner, junior Evan Winden, ranked no. 14 in the coaches’ poll for Kansas debate. On Oct. 19-20, the East squad debated in the Iowa Caucus, which Emory described as quite possibly their biggest tournament.
Being his own constant self-critic, he said they did bad. “Real bad.” But to him, “real bad” is breaking top 16 in a tournament of over 45 partnerships from all over the U.S. And they’ve broken in each of the three tournaments this semester.
The standard is always high, and Winden believes Apodaca, at least sometimes, needs to take a load off.
“There isn’t much, but one thing Emory needs to improve upon is cutting himself a little more slack,” Winden said. “But he has this mindset that he needs to do well to have that payoff.”
Right now, as the junior class president, Apodaca’s organizing a breakfast tailgate to benefit the can drive and setting up fundraisers at restaurants like Tropical Smoothie Cafe. And since before summer even began, he’s been collaborating with all of StuCo on perfecting prom.
“I wasn’t really sure if I’d like the pressure of [being President], but I’ve really enjoyed it more and more,” he said. “I just really like planning things to help out the East community.”
After East, the future isn’t clear — chemical engineering, nuclear physics, mathematics or somewhere in between. He hopes to eventually work on the Large Hadron Collider located on the Franco-Swiss border. It’s the world’s largest particle collider, and the world’s largest machine, period.
“It’s this bigass particle accelerator, you can quote that, 17 miles in circumference, and it’s a vacuum chamber in which protons are sped up rapidly and smashed together,” Apodaca said. “It gives us new insight into which particles were being formed when the universe was created.”
Of course, it takes the highest amount of respect in the scientific community to get there, and to him, respect stems from success.
Emory does want to feel successful, but what he spends his time with now, and what he plans to do later would indicate something much more than a feeling. The debate-filled weekends, the strenuous IB schedule, the zero-breaks state of mind — it’s all worth it, and it’s all necessary to get to where he’s going.
by Alex Freeman
From the time he walks into marching band practice at 6:30 a.m. to when he goes home after sectionals at 9:00 p.m., senior Becker Truster has a smile plastered to his face.
Truster knows what it’s like to have a full schedule. He’s a drum major for marching band and plays in every other band ensemble at East. He tutors student athletes at Indian Hills Middle School. He works at Papa Murphy’s 20 hours a week. He’s always busy, usually working 15-hour days — but through it all, he keeps smiling.
“There are days when I come to school where the last thing I want to do is be super positive, but I spend 10 minutes in the car and just stop, look at things from a good perspective, and then I hop right in front of the band and I’ve got a big smile on my face,” Truster said. “I wouldn’t say I’m faking it, because I can genuinely get myself into that happy state pretty quickly.”
Truster doesn’t just want to help the students he works with musically and academically. He wants to be there for people emotionally, because he wants them to be the happiest version of themselves. In Truster’s words, “everyone deserves to experience themselves in their fullest capabilities.” To achieve this goal, he makes himself available to talk to his fellow band members about whatever’s on their mind, ensuring a comfortable atmosphere.
“I’ve never seen him sad,” trombone player and sophomore Ethan Enderle said. “He’s always really happy and upbeat and it kind of spreads throughout the band. … It makes the experience of learning hard music more fun.”
Truster’s ultimate goal: to lead by example and teach the younger band members what a strong leader looks. One who not only stands still with his eyes up and arms crossed to signal to the band they’re ready to start, but one who shows everyone they can trust him with anything. He hopes that he will teach this so that these leadership skills — of positivity and productivity — will be passed down the line of drum majors long after he’s gone.
“I want to be one of those people that when you walk into Shawnee Mission East, you can hear the voices of people in the past who have done things that are really cool for this school and have been outstanding role models,” Truster said. “The people that the underclassmen, when they become upperclassmen, talk about to their underclassmen. People who they felt made a big impact on them.”
by Miranda Hack
Before he was Lilah, he was Eli.
Eli dressed in the school-issued uniform khaki pants and polo. Eli whispered with one or two of his classmates, rarely sharing with his class of 40. Eli was wishing, waiting — never acting.
“That’s the biggest difference, between me then and me now,” junior Lilah Powlas said. “When I went by Eli, I was dreaming about the things I’m doing now.”
Lilah went by Eli for 8 years at St. Elizabeth’s, his old school in Missouri, but made the change just three months after coming to East. Before that, Lilah was just an idea: a mood board on his Pinterest page, a character in his head.
To him, becoming Lilah was an art project — a complete shift in the way he presented himself to the world. It was a shift both in wardrobe and environment, as he entered an entirely new school, surrounded by nearly 1,800 strangers. He knew one person.
Still, he was determined to stand out — and he did.
Now, Lilah walks the halls in his zebra-patterned Doc Martens and paint-splattered pink button down. He’s Co-President of Fashion Club and design editor for Freelancer. He even received an honorable mention for NSPA Artist of the Year for his yearbook portfolio.
They aren’t dreams anymore. They’re reality.
“[In elementary and middle school], I used to look at our school yearbook and think ‘Wow, that’s ugly.’ Now, I can change it,” Powlas said. “I used to read the newspaper, and think ‘That’s cool.’ Now, I’m part of making it.”
And his passion for the act of creation itself is evident in his work, whether it’s design, photo illustrations, typography or photography.
“He has a very clear vision in his head of what he wants to accomplish,” junior and Fashion Club Co-President Willa Ivancic said. “And he always manages to carry it out.”
But, more than anything, Lilah is a character — someone who embodies his individuality in a way that Eli didn’t.
“People who are enigmatic, people who are characters, I’ve always admired that.” Powlas said. “And trying to be one… It’s hard, but I feel like I’m getting there.”
by Ben Henschel
Senior Jet Semrick’s at school until 6 p.m. on Wednesdays and 9 p.m. on Thursdays, poring over documents and typing pages of research — almost to the point of overkill, and all for varsity debate. He spends fourth hour each day working with Mrs. Fishman and Mrs. Pence on all things StuCo: the week’s agenda, logistics for StuCo Events, and organizing new ones.
Semrick can’t imagine walking out of school on a Thursday night when it’s not pitch black outside. It’s routine — and for him, the extra work is well worth the reward.
Semrick is the lone member of the StuCo executive board, serving as the student body president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer — something that, in years past, is covered by three or four students.
Despite being the only member, Semrick has played a vital role in managing the can drive benefiting the Johnson County Christmas Bureau. He’s helped East raise over $5,000 worth of cans to help those in need this holiday season, and says it’s a rewarding process.
“It was an awesome feeling, packing all of it up and sending it to the JCCB,” Semrick said. “It helps a ton of people, and it was a really good year for the school.”
The hard work yields rewards outside of StuCo that are just as satisfying, like taking eighth place at the NSDA National Debate Tournament and the semifinalist spot for Team USA Debate.
The next marker he’s chasing is the Tournament of Champions in Kentucky. Two bids are needed to compete, which are earned by placing high in national or regional debate tournaments.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more dedicated debater,” senior Luke Bledsoe, Jet’s debate partner, said. “A lot of times I’ll be like Jet, hey, let’s hang out. He’ll say, ‘sure, but let’s hang out and do debate work.’”
As a four-year varsity debater, Semrick’s been around the country competing in debate tournaments and camps — Ft. Lauderdale, Cedar Rapids, Birmingham and Chicago are his favorite debate spots.
Last summer, Semrick spent seven weeks at the University of Michigan Debate Institute. It wasn’t a conventional summer camp. 16 or 17 hour work days, Blesdoe said, of drills, writing and giving speeches, cutting research for their labs, and attending lectures. And when they got back to the dorm at 10, their outside research work began.
Semrick was able to research immigration policy with a 10 to 1 or better faculty to student ratio, with some of the top debaters in the country.
“You go to these [camps], and you really see the difference, people there who are just insane, crazy smart,” Semrick said.
Semrick’s hard work isn’t all just for him, though. He hopes to leave future StuCo representatives and executive board members with an established base before he leaves East. Preparation for the next executive board — which he hopes will have more than only one person next year — is always on the back of his mind.
“I want future executive boards and presidents to know what they’re doing and how to approach certain things,” Semrick said. “I’ll always be there for advice, like, ‘how do I handle the can drive, we’re looking to do this with it, what do you think?’ Even if they text me after I’m gone, I want to be able to help with those future problems as well.”
After finishing her nomenclature practice for Honors Chemistry and working on some debate homework at around 1 a.m., sophomore Sophie Rice sets her alarm for 5:30 a.m. to wake up in time for band practice. The thought of her fellow band members greeting her before the sun helps her to leave the warm covers.
When she comes home from school, she immediately changes into a yellow banana button-up over her required blue band t-shirt and leaves to meet her friends on the silver bleachers for the Friday night football game. The laughing and light-hearted energy throughout the sea of band uniforms and instruments makes the early morning and late night more enjoyable.
To Rice, band isn’t just an activity, it’s a family. A similar mindset weaves through her other involvements at East — StuCo, cross country, soccer and debate. With this much involvement, Rice’s life is dedicated to East.
“East is my home,” Rice said. “I spend so much time at this school that it’s hard not to love it.”
Rice often spends more time at school than she does at her house, sometimes not walking out of East’s heavy silver doors until the sun goes down. Usually these hours come from practicing and cracking jokes with her band friends after school. If she’s not in the band room, she may be running seven miles around the perimeter of the neighborhood during cross country season or doing 20/40s during soccer.
During the StuCo elections for the 2018-19 school year, hundreds of sophomores gathered in the auditorium as the candidates gave their speeches. Rice’s speech was different than the other students’. She had to pause a couple times to tame the audience — they wouldn’t stop chanting “Rice, Rice, Rice.” The lululemon-clad, the band kids, the football players — they all cheered and voted for Rice.
“I think people actively want to follow her just because she’s not really an average person,” sophomore and friend Emilia Gibbs said.
Sophomore Caden Nicholson hates losing. In fact, he hates losing more than he loves winning. And he really likes to win — it’s just who he is.
Nicholson values more than just winning, though. His dedication, school spirit and energy drive him on and off the soccer field.
With nine goals to his name in this season’s scorebooks and a spot on second team All State, Nicholson’s strong work ethic has an effect on the varsity soccer team. He played as a forward this past season.
“It’s just not in me to not give it 100 percent really, in like everything I do,” Nicholson said. “Like in school I’m not really the most naturally smart person, so I have to work really hard for my grades. And in soccer I’ve never been the most technically gifted person, but if I lose the ball or the ball gets away from me, my work to get it back makes up for it.”
If Nicholson’s not at practice — which is rare — he’s juggling in his backyard or playing pick-up games with his friends on the weekends. He can’t stay away from a soccer ball. His freshman year, Nicholson sacrificed his seventh hour, only taking six classes, to make it to practices for his club team, the Sporting Academy Developmental Team.
Despite being one of only two sophomores on varsity, he soon found his place as an energetic leader after receiving guidance from his older teammates. Nicholson also took on the role of team mascot in the eyes of some of his teammates, such as senior Will Tulp.
From his animated goal celebrations — usually involving sprinting to the East crowd and pumping his fist in the air to fire everyone up — to having his phone background set as a team picture during the season, Nicholson’s school spirit and positive energy spreads not only throughout the team, but also the entire East community.
His dedication and passion is even easier to see. He was the player who never backed down from a challenging header ball — it didn’t matter whether the guy was 5 feet 8 inches tall or 6 feet 4 inches tall, according to teammate and sophomore Will Lowry.
“He’ll get mad at me for saying how small he is, but he’s going up against guys who are quite a few inches taller than him,” Lowry said. “With all his energy and just will to get to the ball, he gets there, which I think is a huge thing for our team.”
According to Lowry, Nicholson is never seen without a smile. Even when he had to take on the stereotypical underclassmen duties, such as carrying water down to the fields, Nicholson never lost his smile or laughter. It’s this positive tone and energy that he brings to all aspects of his life, on and off the field, alongside his dedication and school spirit. It’s what makes Caden, Caden.
“In all parts of my day I’m energetic and ready to go, it’s just a part of who I am I think,” Nicholson said.
Whether it’s through diagnosing Daisy from “The Great Gatsby” with depression during her English project or asking someone how their day is going — just in case they need someone to talk to — senior Jana Banerjea channels mental health into everything she does.
Mental health is always in the back of her mind for a reason — Banerjea lost her mother to suicide in 2014 and she’s had her own experiences with anxiety. She finds herself constantly checking in with others by asking “How are you?” or “How was your day?”
“I try my best to have good mental health and make sure everybody around me is in good mental health, so just spreading that awareness is important to me,” Banerjea said.
Hoping to reach even more people with mental health awareness, Banerjea founded “Minding Your Mind” club. After the suicide of students at SM Northwest and Indian Hills Middle School last year, she felt students needed to keep talking — not just about the incidents, but beyond them.
“Nobody starts talking about it until somebody hurts themselves or something like that happens,” Banerjea said.
The club is part project-based and discussion-based. From passing out stickers with phrases like “It’s nice to be nice” and “Tomorrows are for starting over” at the school entrances and using a shredder to literally “shred your worries,” the goal is to affect the whole school.
Discussions range from how social media impacts mental health to students sharing their own experiences.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize that everybody has mental health issues, even if it’s your friend you’ve known forever. There’s something going on that they might not have told you about,” Banerjea said.
Banerjea realized that everyone is going through something and decided to spread awareness through East. A wave in the hallway is all someone might need to make them feel better which is why she encourages club members to embody the mindset that kindness is the best approach. Even if it means greeting someone in the hallway who doesn’t wave back or trying to engage someone who doesn’t want to talk, being nice has no consequences according to Banerjea.
“If I can affect anyone in a positive way once a week, then that’s all I need,” Banerjea said.
Senior Nat Nitsch needed some motivation. After a long day filled with listening to lectures in IB classes and playing her flute in pit orchestra rehearsal, she clicked the bookmark on her Macbook air. “Desiderata” — the poem she lives by — popped up. Her eyes skimmed the 27 lines filled with sentences like “Keep interested in your career, however humble” and “Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.”
Nitsch is heavily involved and holds leadership positions in over six activities at East, from being the co-head editor of The Freelancer, East’s student-run literary magazine, to the drum major of the marching band. Nitsch puts all her attention into what she does because she truly enjoys being the stay-after-school-till-6 life.
Nitsch learned how to march as a freshman in front of intimidating crowds at football games and pep assemblies. Now, she’s moved up to the drum major and has learned that it takes necessary for the position she holds.
“Back when I was a little freshman I would see things being done and I would say to myself, ‘man I want to be a part of making these decisions,’” Nitsch said. “I want to be able to have my views and influence things and now here I am and here I can do that.”
On Mondays, she goes from Latin club to categories club to teaching flute lessons at 6 p.m. Tuesday after school means pit orchestra for the musical, then tutoring. As she makes it halfway through the week she has another pit orchestra rehearsal, then flute lessons, then band booster meetings and youth in government. The list goes on and on — that’s only through Wednesday.
Her planner is painted with bullet points and highlighter to signify due dates and activities. IB diploma homework and clocking in practice hours for band and orchestra takes at least four hours out of her night. Not only that — she also needs to organize and help run the Freelancer and Latin club.
“The first word that comes to mind when I hear her name is honestly just responsible,” friend and junior Shelby Winter said. “She’s just the most on top of it person that I know and she also has an amazing attitude that lift people’s spirits.”
With her involvement in Latin club at East, Nitsch has found a possible career path that excites her. A career that makes the ends of her lips curl into a smile when she talks about it.
“I’m hoping to pursue classics, so basically Latin,” Nitsch said. “Hopefully I can become a professor somewhere . . . I like the teaching but I also like the idea of being able to research and contribute to the shared knowledge of Latin.”
by Alex Freeman
On any given Thursday afternoon, you can find junior Sean Paddack seated at a desk in Room 524, listing off his name, grade and preferred pronouns at the beginning of the Gay-Straight Alliance meeting. He hasn’t missed one since last year. As he looks around the room, he sees lots of friendly faces — including a few that he brought in himself.
To Paddack, GSA has one main purpose: to remain a safe place where people can come together and feel comfortable being themselves. He tries to make everyone feel welcome by being open and accepting towards everyone, and he always encourages people to join the club. He has convinced as many as 10 friends to come to a meeting — after all, if you go to a few meetings, you’re sure to make new friends, according to Paddack.
“One day after school we were going in for math, and he was like, ‘well, you should come to GSA with me right now,’” friend and junior Hannah Ives said. “I had never been before and he just invited me and introduced me to everybody when we walked in and you could tell everybody loved him in the club. He was just such an open person and so welcoming to everybody.”
Since Paddack feels a lot of students don’t understand what GSA does, he makes sure to spread as much information as possible. It’s not just talking about “the gays,” according to Paddack, it’s discussing issues prevalent to the community and giving presentations on topics pertaining to LGBTQ+ people, such as asexuality and gender dysphoria, that aren’t discussed in school. Sometimes, they even volunteer and protest throughout the KC area. But ultimately, Paddack’s role is just creating a safe environment to speak your mind for everyone who comes, regardless of their gender and sexuality.
“I’ve always hoped to make a lot of friends but also help other people make a lot of friends, which is why I love GSA,” Paddack said. “Most of the time when I’ve brought someone in, they’ve been really shy and I just wanted them to meet really nice people who wouldn’t judge them. I want that to be my mark on the school, just helping people make friends.”
by Rose Kanaley
As a cheerleader, link leader, president of happy club, book club and outdoors club, everything about senior Lucy Crum radiates positivity.
You can spot the smile gleaming across her face from the opposite end of the hallway, and you can hear her cheering for the football players from any place in the stands.
It was Crum’s junior year that she decided to try out for cheer as well as join the clubs she now helps run — a choice she’s grateful she made for the rest of her life.
“I just realized how much better my life was when I was involved,” Crum said. “The more people I met the more I wanted to get involved, and it just kind of spiraled into what it is today.”
Even passing out candy to the student body before school for happy club had her hooked — seeing so many people smiling at 7:40 am was the highlight of her week.
Crum’s friend, senior Carson Jones, sees her as a positive and influential person in his life. He loves her interest in adventure, and when it comes to tuning out negativity in response to her radiant, sometimes overwhelming positivity, Jones thinks Crum is a perfect role model of it.
“She just brings life to everything we do,” Jones said. “She doesn’t care what other people think, she’s just out there.”
Just as she encourages people to do through her role as president of the happy club, Crum works to make other people happy rather than just herself. Whether it’s simply sharing one of her famous lustrous smiles while passing in the hallway or trying to make a friend laugh, Crum believes even the smallest things make a difference.
She’s passionate about her love for East, and this combined with her love for spreading smiles helps her fulfill her role as happy club president and a proud student at East.
“Even if I could positively impact one person, it’s totally worth doing all the work you would do to impact more people,” Crum said. “East has served me so well, I just want to serve it back just as well.”
by Megan Funkey
Six years ago, now-sophomores Ellie and Ava Peters’ younger sister was diagnosed with Aplastic anemia, a type of leukemia that causes your bone marrow stops making all blood cells — the only cure was a bone marrow transplant. Their whole family of five got tested in hopes that one of them was a match — and Ellie was. Without hesitation she donated her bone marrow to her little sister, and thanks to a “hospital sleepover” they both had an easy recovery.
This spring, the twins are co-chairing their own SHARE project — a bone marrow drive for ages 18 and up.
The drive is similar to a blood drive, but you aren’t donating anything right then, you’re just swabbing your mouth and signing up to be a possible donor to someone on the national registry. The chances of matching someone are about 1 in 22,000 but signing up is still important according to Ava.
“It’s like a 25 percent chance to find someone in your family. There’s so many people out there who don’t have one in their family,” Ellie said. “That’s why the registry is so important to get on because you never know who you could save.”
Giving to others has become a common theme for the Peters twins. Since fourth grade they’ve been involved with multiple organizations like YMCA Challenger Buddies, Mathew’s Ministries and Pack of Pals.
Helping others gives the twins a different perspective on how they choose to live their lives and pulls them away from their own issues, and helping others at school and in the community makes them realize the test they have tomorrow isn’t going to be the end of the world according to Ellie.
Ellie is involved in social skills at East and loves the spirit of the class and how she’s met so many positive people. One of the most recent projects they participated in was trick-or-treating for cans on Halloween with Pack of Pals, which allows the students to go and hangout with students that are a part of the special education program. Ava says it was the best way she could have spent Halloween.
“I like pack of pals because it’s at our school and I can become friends with them outside of school and then see them in the hallways,” Ava said.
The relationships they’ve built and are continuing to build are one of their favorite parts of the projects they do. Whether it’s making new friends to greet in the halls, hanging with their buddies from Matthew’s Ministries or catching up with a patient the twins always have fun helping others.
“If I’m going to a special needs event, I’m excited to see my friends there, or if I’m going to a cancer walk I’m excited to see a patient I haven’t seen in a while,” Ellie said “Every time I go to something I meet someone new.”
To senior Davis Vaughn, high school means learning to forget about the possibility of embarrassment — whether that be covering himself in green paint to look like the Grinch or showing off a giant stuffed animal swordfish during the 2017 musical, Nooses Off. It means 7am band rehearsals and two hours of singing during the school day. And through these, It means he has met the people who he can depend and count on.
“My friends mean so so very much,” Vaughn said. “They’re like my main support system. One of the things about theater, choir and band is that, unlike sports, it’s really not too competitive. Everyone wants everyone else to succeed.”
Throughout his years, Vaughn has been in almost every single production for theater — from Seussical his sophomore year to Madea his senior year. He even performed an eight minute song he had practiced tirelessly for months with the chamber choir in Assisi, Italy. And as for band, marching for hours at festivals and giving up Friday nights to perform at football games take up hours and hours of his time. This is high school for him — and all the time spent is worth it.
“This year [has] just been a joy,” Vaughn said.
Despite his busy, go-go-go schedule, Vaughn has maintained his bubbly and caring personality. Little things like surprising his friend, junior Margaret Veglahn, with ice cream only reinforce his friends’ thoughts that he’s an important part of the theater support system.
Support systems work both ways, and Vaughns’ friends hold up their side by always being on his starting freshman year in a Frequent Friday called “Scarlett.”
“Some days I would feel really down and the entire cast would help group together to help me figure out how to solve the issues that I faced,” Vaughn said. “Knowing they have your back means so much to everyone.”
by Libby Hise
Beep, beep, beep. A big smile spreads across junior Margaret Veglahn’s face as she hops out of bed at 5:00 a.m. on Oct. 23. In between bites of her waffles and syrup, she texts her friends, “Happy Mol Day!” The same big smile returned when she saw her IB Chem 2 friends at 5:45 a.m.
After Mol Day, Veglahn attends five IB classes, and when the bell rings, she makes her way to the theater to rehearse for her upcoming play, Medea. Here, she stars as the lead. Since her part as Medea debuted just one week after Mol Day, rehearsals were amped up to three hours, leaving her just a few hours to do her homework.
“That’s my normal day right now,” Veglahn said. “I love to stay busy. If I wasn’t doing a play right now I’d probably try to find something to keep me busy even though I have hours and hours worth of homework.”
Starting at age six, Veglahn has always been focused on being the best she can be. Along with being an IB diploma candidate and an influencer in the theatre program, Veghlan is also involved in forensics, Choraliers choir and Stage Right — a youth choir and theater program outside of school.
Sometimes when Veghlahn’s alarm goes off, all she wants to do is hit snooze and catch up on the sleep she lost after staying up until 2 a.m. working on homework. But she’s become so involved in her activities that waking up everyday increases her feeling of becoming better at what she is involved with and her overall sense of achievement.
“Theater affects every aspect of my life,” Veglahn said. “To be successful in theater you need to be really in touch with yourself and always be on top of your schedule.”
Senior Destiny Ray likes helping freshman pick out their track and field event. Is sprinting their thing? Try the 100m. Extra long stride? Maybe long jump is for them. And if those don’t work out, Destiny’s there to guide them towards a second or third option.
Ray is the “welcomer” of the team — she knows what it’s like to be the new, awkward kid in a big school like Shawnee Mission East — and she doesn’t want her teammates feeling that way. Everyone’s got potential to Ray, and there’s no reason to slow them down with pressure or distressing remarks.
“[Welcoming] helps us get to know who you are and get to know what things you want to achieve and bring forth to the team where we can make bigger things and actually bring more trophies and actually bring bigger awards so we have more to look forward to when our seniors are leaving this year,” Ray said.
Patience is also key in track. Newcomers may not try out of fear they’ll get yelled at or criticized, so she encourages them to keep an “open, honest heart” and ask questions.
“She’s not ever one to get super angry. She’s super patient,” junior and JV track member Abby Gorman said. “She’s able to step forward and be the team leader that everyone needs but she also knows when to step back and let others shine which is really cool because not many people have the ability to do both.”
After welcoming new members to the team and giving plenty of time to build a relationship, Ray starts seeing where she can help push them. She gauges when to ask if someone is struggling and needs guidance and when to let her teammates do their thing.
Ray, knowing Gorman was fast, uttered what she calls a “special prayer” before Gorman’s JV 4×1 race to pass on some of her own energy. She told them all they had to do is “run their race.” According to Ray, it’s important everyone has their “shining” moment — after all it is a team.
by Rose Kanaley
Anyone sitting in the crowd at the football games knows who no. 7 senior PJ Spencer is. Whether it’s from chanting his name at a football game, seeing him take first in the 200 freestyle relay at state or hearing him announce upcoming SHARE events as an executive, Spencer is undoubtedly seen as a leader in the Lancer community.
Spencer has been volunteering since seventh grade — ever since he first started spending time at the Upper Room, working with the children there to provide out-of-school education.
According to SHARE coordinator Krissie Wiggins, Spencer’s generosity leads to him taking on leadership roles throughout the program in projects he’s helping to organize like Restart the MusiKC where students to come perform to raise money for Restart and Mr. CANSAS where contestants compete in an event to collect cans and money to donate to the Johnson County Christmas Bureau.
“I think he’d do anything for anyone in this room or in this school,” Wiggins said. “He’d stand up for anyone for the right thing, and I think it is more the way he leads by example and the person he is just commands respect.”
As football team captain, Spencer finds himself responsible for giving a pep talk before the game to keep the team excited and energized.
He finds it necessary to set examples for not only people his age, but underclassmen as well. He chooses to be someone that underclassmen can look up to.
“PJ is one of the best leaders on our football team,” sophomore Jacob Johnson said. “He really goes out of his way to make sure underclassmen feel apart of the team.”
Spencer works to make these relationships because he wants to leave the same impact that the seniors had on him when he was an underclassman.
“I just want to affect those underclassmen kind of how I felt upperclassmen affected me,” Spencer said. “Which was being positive, being inclusive, showing them how great this school is and how many things you can do at this school, and just emphasizing that being involved with the school is such a big part to high school and is something that you really don’t want to be missing out on.”
Looking into the rest of this year and after, Spencer wants to focus first on finishing high school and being as involved with East as possible. He wants to cheer on the other teams in the same way they cheer for him. He wants to spend as much time as possible with his friends before they split for college. He wants to leave underclassmen prepared for what’s to come.
After that, he knows he’ll be fulfilling his lifelong dream of playing football in college, although he is not sure where yet.
But wherever Spencer goes — he’s sure to bring leadership in the only way he can.
“He’s just kind of this gentle giant with a big heart,” Wiggins said.