Monday, July 22, 2024

In pursuit of knowledge: Cascade High School’s academic clubs elevating education

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LEAVENWORTH - At the forefront of Cascade High School’s (CHS) extracurricular activities are its thriving academic clubs. From science to business and journalism, these clubs offer students a platform to explore their passions, sharpen their skills, and foster a community of like-minded students. 

Among CHS’s academic clubs that have seen extraordinary success in recent years, including winning national, state, and local prizes, are the Future Business Leaders of America High School (FBLA), Knowlege Bowl, Technology Student Association (TSA), the Environmental Sustainability Club, Speach & Debate, and the Publications Group. 

FBLA High School is the division of Future Business Leaders of America that helps high school students prepare for careers in business through academic competitions, leadership development, and educational programs. At the core of the CHS FBLA’s lies its commitment to providing students with hands-on experiences, mentorship, and networking opportunities. Under the guidance of faculty advisors Tammy Murphy, a CHS computer science & IT teacher, and career technical education and business teacher Kirk Sunitsch, as well as student leaders seniors Julian Valdez, Breanna Loomis, sophomore Emma Radach, and freshman Elliot Tiegel, the Club has competed annually at the Washington FBLA State Business Leadership Conference (SBLC), at which FBLA members from across the state meet in Spokane for four days of training and business scenario competition. This year, twelve students are preparing to compete at state. The best performers at the state conference advance to the National Leadership Conference. In addition to traditional educational approaches to learning business ventures and preparing for competitions, FBLA members receive daily hands-on business experience running the CHS student store.

Another CHS club that literally has hands-on – on a buzzer, that is, to chime in to answer questions in quiz-based competitions that test players on a wide variety of academic subjects – is the CHS Knowledge Bowl team. The team, advised by math and science teacher Dayle Massey, captained by junior Caroline Menna, and further comprised on the varsity squad of seniors Adrian Renner-Singer, Ellie Holm and Isabel Menna, and juniors Savanna Rowles and Caden Peterson, finished fifth in this year’s state championships after being state runner-up last year and state champion the year before. Competitions are based on topics covered in high school, such as math, science, history, language skills, literature, music, and geography. Each of the nine Educational Service Districts in Washington hold regional Knowledge Bowl competitions to determine which schools make it to the state tournament, held annually at Wenatchee High School. “We always hope to place high at state,” commented Holm, who continued: “We always have very high expectations for ourselves, especially after having been state champions. That said, placing fifth in the state this year is definitely something we can be proud of.”

“Proud” is also a word frequently used when speaking of TSA, “an organization that promotes STEAM – science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics – competitions and careers,” informs TSA advisor, and photography & visual arts teacher, Teara Dillon. “Of the 35 kids in our chapter, 29 qualified for state this year. There we had several students who made the podium, meaning the top five in their event – and mind you this is out of over 1,800 Washington state high school students: [senior] Dillon Munly and [junior] Ethan Flansburg for transportation modeling; [junior] Mia Dreis for children’s story illustration, [sophomores] Cordelia Freeland and Anja Lungren for problem solving; [sophomores] Kairus Krejci, Kyrianna Ross, and Cosimos Terranela for fashion design. We also received the award for largest chapter for one of the divisions.”

Matching the prowess of their academic club peers is the CHS Speech and Debate Club, whose mission is to empower students through competitive speech and debate and to create a platform for young voices to be heard and celebrated. Speech and Debate not only builds confidence, boosts classroom performance, improves communication, increases critical thinking skills, and provides life skills vital to future success, it is often called one of the most useful activities in which a student can participate in high school. Cascade High School’s Club is advised by social studies teacher Dwayne Allen who conveys that “the Club has a core of about eight to twelve members who meet weekly together and weekly with me individually. We attend monthly tournaments beginning in November and go right through February before the district qualifier in March.” After sending five of its members to state competition last year, the Club had another strong performance at the qualifier this year, under the student leadership of senior Beanna Loomis and juniors Coal Fiano and Mia Schons, taking second place for small schools and scoring a plethora of individual awards.

Bringing the focus a little more locally for the last two years is the CHS Environmental Club. Jump started by last year’s president, senior Isabel Menna, the Club, advised by Massey, with current officers juniors Caroline Menna and Hazel Eschen, and senior Ellie Holm, has brought into school, via brown-bag speaker luncheons for the edification of the greater CHS community, local and regional sustainability leaders ranging from the Coleville Confederated Tribes to the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust to an alumnus founder of SheFly, a women’s line of sustainable clothing. The Club has also in the last two years: partnered with local recycling non-profit Waste Loop and the CHS Facilities Department to begin composting at CHS; proposed the idea to Waste Loop of having its president be an advisory member to the Waste Loop Board as a means of broadening and deepening the relationship between Waste Loop and the Club; worked with Waste Loop and CHS counselors to develop an internship for CHS students at Waste Loop; hosted a booth at the Leavenworth Earth Day Community Fair (being held on April 21st this year at Enchantment Park).

While initially a two-class CHS program (Publications and Advanced Publications) offered to help produce the yearbook (The Ursa Major) and the school newspaper (The Kodiak Chronicle), the CHS Publications Group has expanded to include a club component, in part, to allow students who want to write, edit, produce, market, and graphic design more than a mere two semesters to do so. Advised and guided by CHS English teacher Roselyn Robison, this year’s editorial staff, comprised of Isabel Menna, Maddy Black, Caroline Menna, Paige Runions, and Avery Houghton have just completed, with their staff, the 2023-24 Ursa Major and their seventh month of this school year’s Kodiak Chronicle. Under the steady hand of Robison’s leadership and counsel the last four years, CHS Publications has excelled, not only being published regularly in The Echo and winning numerous prizes from the Washington Journalism Education Association, it has also been awarded, each year, either first or second place nationally from the American Scholastic Press Association. In addition, the same press association awarded Menna (Isabel) in 2022, the national “Outstanding Story in a Digital Newspaper.” “Ms. Robison is truly an amazing teacher and advisor,” asserts Menna (Isabel), a senior. “I can’t imagine any other teacher being able to pull off what she has done these last four years, every semester of which I’ve been with her and witnessed first-hand. Ms. Robison has transformed the Publications Group into one of the best in the country, which is no small feat for a small, rural public school. I’m so proud to have been with her all these years – and learned so much from her. I’m excited to follow the Group from afar to see how much more they will achieve.”     



“Academic clubs play a pivotal role in shaping the intellectual landscape of our school,” remarked Principal Rudy Joya. “They not only complement our academic curriculum but instill in students a sense of curiosity, collaboration, and leadership.”

The impact of the clubs extends far beyond the confines of the classroom. Through teamwork, mentorship, and hands-on learning experiences, students develop invaluable skills that will serve them well beyond their high school years.

Cascade School District’s mission is “Continuous Student Development,” to “cultivate potential for life-long success.” CHS’s vibrant academic clubs stand as a testament to the district and school’s commitment to that success by nurturing the minds of tomorrow’s leaders. With each meeting, competition, and triumph, these clubs inspire a new generation of students to reach greater heights and leave an indelible mark on their communities, if not the world.

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