Friday, June 6, 2014

Day 169 - The Evolution of the #MWHSPride Project

Today's post is from parent, teacher and DECA Advisor Sue Simonson

Marty Fischer and I had been talking about trying to start a Twitter pride hashtag for about six months. The concept was similar to something we saw during a visit to a school in Chicago. It was only after Courtney’s senior year started off with a couple hiccups in August, that I invited Alex and Courtney to Scotty B’s for breakfast to pitch them an idea for their senior DECA project. I had only a few sentences out before the light bulbs went on and they both ran with my small idea. They had achieved success in DECA in their sophomore and junior years and were searching for an idea to knock out of the park. I never dreamed that they would take the project to the lengths that they eventually did.

Their first meeting was a few days later with all three DECA advisors and Marty Fischer. The girls wanted to pitch the idea and have a brainstorming session. They had the insight to know that if done well -- this was going to be bigger than a DECA project. Their plan was to generate positive pride in their school. The idea was to use social media as a way to promote positivity -- rather than what many students use it for -- putting people down. The girls tweeted a couple times from the newly created @MHWSPride Twitter account and within one day, a student no one would have ever thought would use the hashtag - did so. They knew it was going to work! Students slowly started to use the new hashtag so that now it is common to see at least one tweet everyday that contains the #MWHSPride hashtag.

Alex and Courtney approached their English teacher, Mr. Bulman, about writing the first blog entry: he enthusiastically agreed, and the “170 Days of MWHSPride Blog” was born. Putting their DECA marketing background to work, they started to promote it to everyone they could think of. Recognizing that most parents aren’t on Twitter, the girls quickly realized that they were missing their secondary target market and created a Facebook page for MWHS parents to see the daily blog. Mr. Fischer helped by emailing all MWHS parents about the blog. He also reached out to MWHS graduate Rachel Slavik and the project was featured on the WCCO News in October! Page views increased by 1000 after that news program aired. The project started out slowly, but after Homecoming week, the news stories, and the introduction of the #MWHSPride t-shirt, we started to see that the project was gathering momentum.

Keeping the daily blog entries flowing was by far the hardest part of the project. Courtney, Alex and I brainstormed ideas for “themed” blog weeks. We had many people that helped us along the way, either with their ideas or just by asking others to write for the blog. I can remember saying to myself at Day 70, “how in the world will we get another 100 people to write?” Whenever the chips were down, the blogging gods came through and we never missed a school day without a blog entry. Just because it was hard work, doesn’t mean that it wasn’t worth it. The blog provided an intimate look into our school and our community through personal stories. I found myself driven to tears on many occasions with either laughter or heartfelt pride in the stories.

The statistics on the blog and the project are staggering. Last week the blog reached 30,000 page views. It has been seen in almost 40 countries and all but one continent. The Twitter account has almost 500 followers. The Facebook account has 330 followers -- with most posts being read by more than 500 people EVERY day.

Out of this pride campaign came a very competitive DECA project in the category of Public Relations Campaign. As mentioned earlier the reach and exposure of the campaign was local, metro (WCCO and Minnetonka Magazine), state (MN School Board Association Conference) and even global (blog). In DECA we tend to see the same kinds of projects year after year in certain categories and neither Steph Lolich nor I had ever seen anything remotely similar in the Public Relations competition. Having already been to the International DECA competition in their sophomore and junior years, Courtney and Alex knew that this project had great potential. In their junior year, they advanced to the finals (which means they placed top-20 in the nation). This year they wanted to make it to the podium (top 3), but came in 4th place. While upsetting at the time, they can now agree that they won so much more! They changed the culture in their school. They made it cool to use social media to promote positive happenings. They promoted school and community pride in all sports, activities and happenings at MWHS. As their DECA advisor, teacher, mom, and friend, I could not be more proud of these two young ladies; they’ve left behind a legacy that will live on at MWHS long after they’re gone!

#WestonkaPride #DECAPride #MomPride #MWHSPride

Alex Riffle & Courtney Simonson

Courtney, Sue & Alex

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Day 168 - Pride abounds on the MWHS Trap Team!

Today's post is from MWHS Trap Team Head Coach Jeff Hanratty

This spring marked our second season as an official sport at MWHS! We have had approximately 30 students come out for trap in each of the past two seasons, and it’s a resounding success!

Some background -– trap is a shooting game where you attempt to hit a 4” clay target hurled at high speed through the sky with a shotgun shell containing about 450 little pellets at a distance of 25-30 yards. Shooters attempt this 25 times from 5 different shooting stations per round. Sounds easy right? It is not, however, some of our MWHS students have gotten pretty good at it! In fact, we had almost one-half of our team average over 19 out of 25 – placing them at the varsity level according to the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League. Our best shooter this Spring was 8th grader John Koch averaging 22.70 and finishing #63 out of 6100 students (185 teams) in the entire state! Also, the White Hawks finished second in our conference! That is an awesome accomplishment and a source of #MWHSPride.

We are really excited how our community has embraced the sport. In current times, the words “school” and “guns” doesn’t go over very well with some people. However, the sport has had zero incidents since its inception and the students have shown the utmost respect for the rules. Trap is the fastest growing sport in the state, in fact, Governor Dayton is kicking off the State Championship event this weekend in Alexandria, MN. MWHS will be sending a team up there to shoot on Saturday. Winning teams from that event will earn the right to compete in the Minnesota State High School League tournament on June 14. Minnesota is the only state in the country where the high school league has recognized trap as a varsity sport and awards a state champion.

Thanks for supporting our team. I am amazed at the number of people who have stopped me to ask about the team. Many voice regret that they (or their kids) didn’t have the chance to participate in trap when they were in high school! We have room on the team so please consider giving it a try! We especially would like to see more girls get involved. We shoot at the Minnetonka Sportsmen’s Club which is west of Mound. I am proud to be associated with such a supportive community where all kids have a “shot” at doing something big!
2014 MWHS Trap Team

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

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Day 167 - Three Family Members Visit China

Today's post is from 2013 grad Jenna Hoogeveen

As I am home reflecting on my first year of college being completed, I am distracted by Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and now the Blog where posts are being published talking about the trip to China that students from the high school are on right now. It reminds me of my chance to visit there through the Westonka Summer Institute. Talk about Westonka Pride! I was so excited when that letter came stating I was going to have the chance to go to China with my friends and a couple teachers.

Both my older brother and sister had the same opportunity and from their responses when they returned home, I knew I wanted to visit China as well. The things they were able to see, learn and experience was something I wanted for myself too. Thanks to many staff, school board and Superintendent Borg for helping to make this possible. The pride I had when I was at college saying “oh, I went to China when I was at my high school” was incredible. The next question would also be asking me where I went to high school. I replied “Mound Westonka” without hesitation. When I tell them my sister went to China and both my brother and I went to China and Peru in high school -- they are truly amazed.

I would encourage all students at MWHS to consider applying to the Westonka Summer Institute. It is so worth the extra time in preparing and the cost. Who would have ever thought that me, my brother, and my sister would all visit the Great Wall of China independently of each other before graduating from high school? I hope this program continues for many years. My mom needs a picture of my younger brother Adam and the Great Wall to complete her frame. I am waiting for the pictures of the current group in China to post their pictures from the Great Wall, and more. It’s fun to relive the moment through their experience.

If you want to check on their adventure you can visit their blog at You can even leave a message for them to read!

The Westonka Summer Institute is Westonka Pride happening beyond the school year!

Laura Hoogeveen - China 2008
Jenna & Kyle Hoogeveen - Peru 2011

Jenna - China 2012

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

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Day 166 - MWHS Foreign Exchange Student Pride

Today's post is from parent and community member Cheryl Dahl

This school year we hosted an exchange student; Oskar Danielson from Sweden. Betsey Kiefer, the YFU Coordinator, told us she likes placing kids in MWHS because the school and community are so embracing of the exchange program. I agree with Betsy and I had so much MWHSPride as these foreigners were welcomed, and I watched them acclimate into the American lifestyle at Mound Westonka.

From day one these kids were immersed into classes, activities and athletics. I believe MWHS offered these students so many more opportunities than they would have gotten in a larger school. At MWHS, these students could participate in any activity or athletics program they wanted. That meant they could play a sport that wasn’t offered in their country and they all took advantage of the opportunity. In fact, some of the students were honored at the end of the year as three sport athletes. For Oskar, one of his MWHS highlights was being able to play basketball and making his first basket.

I was so proud of the students for putting in a lot of effort and excelling in their academics. Many of them made the honor roll and this was a testament to our wonderful teachers. The teachers were so nice and went above and beyond to help these kids succeed.

I was bursting with MWHSPride at graduation when Mr. Randklev said this has been the most involved group of exchange students. Mr. Randklev also acknowledged all the exchange students and their families that were present. Oskar's family was here from Sweden and they were so so happy they were here to experience his graduation.

Having Oskar this school year has been a wonderful experience for our family. A BIG thank you to the teachers, coaches and staff for making this year such a great experience for these students. I'm proud of the Westonka community for allowing these kids to make wonderful memories that will last them a lifetime.

Exchange students: Oskar Danielson (Sweden), Luk Fleddermann (Germany), Alexis Olvera (Mexico), Vincent Rominger (Germany)

If you are interested in being a host family contact Betsy Kiefer at: (612-298-9987) or Teresa Boser (952-457-9921)

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

Monday, June 2, 2014

Day 165 - MWHS Co-workers Going the Extra Mile

Today's post is from Business Education Teacher Steph Lolich

I find it difficult to write a blog post regarding a specific example of pride as I, truthfully, am proud of so many things that happen within our classrooms, our hallways, and our Westonka community. Throughout my years at Mound Westonka High School I have continually found myself inspired by the actions of my students, my co-workers and the involved members of our local community.

A few weeks ago, after one of our Westonka Summer Institute Classes had wrapped up for the evening, I happened to walk by Mr. Bulman’s classroom where, at 8:30 p.m., he was viewing a movie with his students. Did this activity fit into the defined hours of his teaching contract? Of course not, but Mr. Bulman had elected to spend the evening with his students because he knew it would enhance their educational experience.

During my drive home that night I contemplated how many teachers were still in the building as the moon was shining brightly in the sky. In that same moment I also started to reflect upon all of the extraordinary efforts of my co-workers. I started to think about all the little things that they do because they truly enjoy their occupations and care about the kids that they work with every day.

For the remaining few weeks of the school year, I started noting some of the significant things the people I work with do to make the kids they work with know they care. Here is just a sampling of some extraordinary efforts:

  • Mrs. Howard writing a letter to ALL of the graduating seniors in her classes, wishing them well and encouraging them to push themselves. For the record, Mrs. Howard teaches a lot of seniors. 
  • Mrs. Blanchard staying late into the evening to empty a kiln for her students, a task that one of her students discussed with me for several minutes during passing time. In her words, “Mrs. Blanchard is the best teacher ever, who does that?” 
  • Mrs. Lyngby developing a final lesson for her CIS class that inspired an incredible amount of enthusiasm for learning. For the final two weeks of the school year her students showed up at 6:30 a.m., extremely excited to prepare for a lesson they were about to teach. I have never witnessed students so excited about a project or, truthfully, a teacher. 
  • Mrs. Schwartz stopping to talk to most of the teachers in the building prior to the sections track meet, checking in to see what her track athletes would be missing in the classroom while competing at the end of the season. It was a clear indication that she was not only concerned about their competitive success but also about their academic success. 
  • Mrs. Paul writing an incredibly engaging speech for graduation that was shared prior to the reading of roll. It was spot on, funny, and heartfelt. During a very busy time of the year I don’t know how she found the time to script such a fantastic speech. 
  • Mr. Randklev, although buried in paperwork, taking the time to fulfill my request to borrow a graduation gown for a display case. Are you kidding me? Why did I need it then and why did he honor my random request? Because that’s what he does for just about anyone. 
  • The custodians discussing the possibility of a custodial exchange program with China after asking several questions about our WSI China trip. It was obvious that they were inquiring about the possibility because they were excited for our kids and the opportunity they had in front of them. 
  • Mr. Atkinson making math fun. I cannot begin to explain how many 8th grade students have shared with me that Mr. Atkinson is their favorite teacher because he is good at teaching and is really funny. However, I’ve heard some of his jokes (repeated by students several times) and I have come to the conclusion that 8th graders have a unique sense of humor. 
  • Ms. Bormes organizing everything and doing it with grace, a sense of humor and a positive attitude. What would we do without her? 
  • The Guidance Department. Enough said. 
Because I have limited space to script this blog I am only able to share a few examples of extraordinary effort. When I worked in business I thought teaching was going to be a profession that was easy to conquer. I was wrong. The people I work with make mastering the art of education look easy but I can honestly say that what they do is far from easy. It takes lots of hours, so much dedication and a passion for working with kids. The people I work with are here for our kids and our community and because of that I can say I have one of the best jobs in the world.

The faculty and staff of Mound Westonka High School

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