Friday, December 20, 2013

Day 72 - A Proud DECA and Link Crew Leader

Today's post is from senior Matt Hejna

Often times I will hear the question asked “What is DECA?” and even as a fourth year DECA member, it’s difficult to describe. My ninth grade year I found myself asking that question while I was in DECA as well. However, I quickly realized the value DECA could bring in helping my future. I would strive to become more successful in the program. My ambition grew, and I wanted to become more involved in the program and signed up for a Public Relations event at the end of my 9th grade year.

The project started out largely unorganized, indecisive, and didn’t have a clear direction through the majority. The project centered around a shoe drive through an organization that gave $0.50 per pound of shoes donated. Since there was such a lack of focus and organization, it was difficult to determine where the money should go. Our group then thought of giving the money to a cause that would be close to the school. A cause that everyone would get behind. A cause that could truly make a difference in lives. The money collected would go to the Ronald McDonald House, in honor of Mr. Bulman’s son, who passed away from Neuroblastoma cancer.

Immediately after this cause was taken up, the project took on a whole new meaning. The upcoming competition at state seemed like a minor detail as the project was engulfed by this cause. And while I still anticipated success at the state level, there would be no victory.

Less than 24 hours after the defeat, I was revived by how unified the school was as we counted the shoes to discover how much money was raised for the Ronald McDonald House. I realized on that day that no matter the success in competition, the true victory came from making a difference. I can’t say that I’m the only person who reached out to help Mr. Bulman, but I can say his appreciation for the support remained ceaseless regardless.

Through the help and support of this school and community this project was made possible. From the generous donations by the Link Crew, to the endless support by the DECA advisors, this project was a success because of Mound Westonka High School. And I anticipate this trend will continue as students will continue to be changed by programs like DECA and Link Crew. For this reason I could not be prouder of being a student at Mound Westonka High School.

DECA Officers - Alex, Courtney, Matt & Willie

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Day 71 - Committed and Proud Senate Member

Today's post is from senior Mackenzie Strehle

Ask anyone in our school to describe me in one word, and I bet you a lot of them would describe me as being incredibly “involved”. From the three sports I compete in, to National Honor Society to Link Crew, it’s pretty safe to say that I keep myself busy around the school. Although I am involved in a number of extracurriculars, the one activity that has had a truly profound impact on me during my high school career is Student Senate.

I first ran for a position on Senate during the spring of my eighth grade year, and I was lucky enough to be voted as one of our class representatives for the school the following year. I went into my freshman year unsure of what to expect as a newly elected Senate member, but I was quickly welcomed into the group and promptly put to work.

I spent the next few years on Senate working diligently, and I soon discovered the huge impact that I could actually make in both our school and community. I was given the opportunity to work with so many incredible people, from teachers to administrators to community members, and I have since developed a sincere passion for giving back and supporting our school.

I see commitment and pride in our school every day through the amazing people I get to work with as a Senate member. It is so inspiring to see such a huge group of people committed to our students and staff, and I am so incredibly lucky to be a part of such a passionate group. I would not be the person I am today without my experiences on Student Senate, and I know I will continue to be impacted by the people I’ve met and the lessons I’ve learned throughout the rest of my life.

Student Senate Officers: Abe, Alex, Mackenzie and Willie

If you have a story that you would like to share, please email for more information! We would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Day 70 - A Proud View from the Pit Band

Today's post is from senior band member Leah Pinault

I want to take these next few minutes to tell you, whoever you are reading this, about the one thing in my high school career that makes all the stress and long hours and lack of sleep truly worthwhile. I want to tell you about a family, a dedicated, creative, cooperative, loving family that emerges every October and lasts for a lifetime. This family is the musical family. Before you dismiss it as cliché, hear me out. 

Starting only a few weeks into school, we spend every waking moment together. We're simultaneously dealing with the stress of piling up homework and late nights and trying to make this awful thing come together. All of us equally hate it and are in love with it. It consumes our days, determining our social life (or lack thereof), when we get to start our homework, etc. But it also lets us express our talents and the thing we love most: music. There are dark, dark times, but slowly light can be seen at the end of the tunnel. We are panicking more than usual, but we finally love what we're creating. 

We've become a community, a family that screams together and laughs together. We blurt out the songs that have been stuck in our heads for weeks, singing as horribly as possible, twirling and laughing until our scene is called. When we can't take the heat any longer, a joyful trumpet decides to teach us to twerk or talk in British accents. In the pit, we text each other nonsensical things, establishing inside jokes that would mystify an outsider. At the last moment possibly feasible to humans, we are ready to perform. 

The night comes and we are giddy with excitement. The air has a perpetual haze of hairspray to it but we breath it in like life itself. Defying all logic, the show goes well. There is late night Perkins, cast parties, and Bdubs to celebrate. Sunday night, when we are striking the set, we are so glad it's over, but we are going to miss it more than anything. Though the experience has come to an end, the relationship with the people involved has not. Friendships will continue to grow until next year, next October, when it all starts again. This family will come back together stronger than before, singing, playing, and laughing louder than ever. 
Leah Pinault

Pit Band

Cast and Crew of Copacabana

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Day 69 - MWHS Travel Opportunities--In-Country and Abroad

Today's post is from 2010 graduate Laura Hoogeveen

I distinctly remember walking down the History department hallway of MWHS during my sophomore year, and thinking, “How does it get any better than this?” At that point, I knew that within a span of five months, I would be traveling to three different places with programs offered through the high school: Washington, D.C., Costa Rica, and China.

First I went to Washington, D.C. with Know America. I earned myself a spot on the trip by getting some of the top scores on a series of tests related to American History. To get out to Washington, D.C., we rode in a white 12-passenger van for hours listening to Mr. Doepner-Hove (my A.P. US History teacher at the time) belt out “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson each morning. Know America was an incredible opportunity to witness the sights and artifacts of our nation’s history in our nation’s capital with someone who is passionate about teaching it.

In March of that year, I went on the Spanish department spring break trip to Costa Rica. It was my first time out of the country! Costa Rica was also my first experience utilizing Spanish in a context outside of the classroom immersed with native speakers. Overall, I remember the trip being extremely adventurous. We went white-water rafting, and zip lining through the rain forest. I was definitely scared and apprehensive at first, but then I didn’t ever want the thrilling adventures to stop! There was no turning back my love of travel at that point...

Then in the summer, I spent two weeks in China with the Westonka Summer Institute. I remember the trip to China was the first time I truly realized that the world is a huge place, but despite differences, people are people everywhere. When it came time to leave, I sat in the airport with the advisor of the trip (who was also my guidance counselor) Ms. Baumann, and we tried to devise a plan to stay longer! I didn’t ever want to leave, and that’s a feeling that I often get now no matter where I travel.

Looking back, I can see how those trips sophomore year were each catalysts for discovering my passions, and developing how I’d like to utilize my interests in a world-wide context as a career. Those trips my sophomore year of high school also taught me how to go outside of my comfort zone in a variety of ways to have new experiences and grow as an individual.

Last fall, I studied abroad in Ecuador for the semester. Throughout my time there, I did things I never would’ve imagined – like eating guinea pig, mountain biking through the rain forest, repelling down waterfalls, and shopping at local markets all by myself. I lived with a host family, and after taking classes there for two months, I did a six-week internship teaching English in a small, rural, indigenous community. It was an immense period of personal growth, and I definitely came back to Minnesota a changed person.

Now I’m a senior at the University of Minnesota– Twin Cities. I’ll graduate in May with a Bachelor of Arts in both Journalism and Global Studies, along with minors in Spanish and Teaching English as a Second Language. These studies definitely reflect my interests and I can attribute my ability to graduate with 2 majors and 2 minors in 4 years thanks to the AP and College in Schools courses I took in high school. I had phenomenal teachers at MWHS who challenged, encouraged, and inspired me along the way.

I’m thankful for the experiences and people at MWHS that have shaped and guided me to where I am today… I know I will continue to be impacted by them in the future as well! Mound Westonka certainly has small district advantages but offers big school, incredible opportunities.

Snapshots of Laura's travels sophomore year of high school (2008)

If you have a story that you would like to share, please email for more information! We would love to hear from you!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Day 68 - Giving Back to the Gillespie Center

Today's post is from Mindy Anderson, Director of The Gillespie Center 

MWHS Pride is shining brightly through the DECA students who volunteer in our local community. For several years, the DECA students have volunteered at The Gillespie Center’s Santa’s Hidden Treasures Event in December. The DECA students also volunteer throughout the year at The Gillespie Center and pitch in when we need extra help.

The Santa’s Hidden Treasures Event is a fun filled family holiday event where kids of all ages secretly buy holiday gifts for their family & friends; kids participate in holiday activities and get their photo taken with Santa. This event brings together the youth, families, the MWHS students and the Senior Citizens from the Westonka area.

The DECA students are totally involved with the entire event from set-up to break down of the event. The DECA students help the kids make up their shopping lists, assist the kids with their shopping and encourage the kids take part in the activities. The DECA students also serve as volunteers in the kitchen, ticket sales, wrapping gifts and helping with Santa photos. The last couple of years, we have also been fortunate to have the MWHS Wrestling Cheerleaders volunteer as well.

What a joy it is to see all the kids, the MWHS students and the Senior Citizens celebrating the holiday together. The Gillespie Center is filled with lots of laughter and smiling faces getting into the holiday spirit.

The MWHS DECA students are a friendly, hard working and caring group. It is a pleasure working with them at The Gillespie Center. The DECA Teacher Advisors also do a fantastic job and lead by example to create an enthusiastic team. The DECA students should be very proud of all good things that you do for your school and community. I look forward to working with this outstanding group of students and staff in the future. Happy Holidays!

Mindy with a few DECA students

Helping students buy gifts

Helping in the kitchen

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