Compiled by ERIC ERICKSON
• Two teams from the Como Park Debate program qualified for the Minnesota State Debate Tournament, held at the University of Minnesota on January 13-14. Juniors Jackson Kerr and Stephen Boler placed third in the section tournament to qualify. Sophomores Peter Schik and Henry Hansen placed fourth in sections to earn the final state qualification spot. Both teams participated in the policy debate division, which examined the question of the U.S. increasing its diplomatic and/or economic engagement with the People’s Republic of China.
Photo right: Como Debate team members qualified for the Minnesota State Debate Tournament. State qualifiers pictured from left to right are sophomore Peter Schik, junior Jackson Kerr, junior Stephen Boler, and sophomore Henry Hansen. (Photo provided)
Teams prepared arguments and positions for 90 minutes of debate against their opponents. The experience of debate has been rewarding for the participants. “We know infinitely more about China-U.S. relations than we did prior to the debate season,” said Kerr. “We really enjoyed the camaraderie, and the practices were lively.”
Como has sent teams to state in debate before, but qualifying two teams in the same year was a first for the program. Deb Hansmier has stepped into the role of debate coordinator at Como, following the contributions of Abbey Boehm-Turner. The technical aspects of research and debate preparation are led by Como debate alum Ian Johnson, who takes pride in the progress of the program. With the state tourney entrants being sophomores and juniors, there is already enthusiasm and great promise for next season.
• Como Park students Sumaya Mohamed, Kari Gurney, Josafen Sanchez, Annalaura Mendez, PaNhia Vang, and Lay Lay Thoo participated in the Youth in Government Model Assembly program at the newly refurbished state capitol from January 5-8. The program gives high school students from across the state opportunities to serve as legislators, judges, attorneys, lobbyists, government officials, and media representatives in sessions that are conducted by the youth themselves.
Senior Sumaya Mohamed served as a press secretary for the assembly, which in total had over 1400 participants. “It was such an amazing opportunity; I was able to network and learn so much. I connected with NBC News correspondent Jo Ling Kent, who was an alum from Youth in Government and was covering parts of the event for NBC,” said Mohamed. It was a powerful and inspiring experience for all of Como’s participants, organized by Liz Paone.
• Carole Whitney is a nominee for the Minnesota Teacher of the Year Award. Whitney is the music department chair at Como, conducting five choirs, directing the fall musical, and the spring play. She has created opportunities for all students ranging from beginning choir, to preparing soloists and ensembles for state competitions, to leading her advanced choirs to Carnegie Hall in New York City during the span of her 23 years at Como.
She has been certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in Early Adolescent
• Young Adult Music and has held several other leadership positions in regional and state music organizations. Nominees for the 2017 Minnesota Teacher of the Year will be announced in May. A panel of community leaders will work with Education Minnesota to analyze and determine finalists during the coming weeks.
• Freshman Amelia Schucker earned a violin seat in the Minnesota Opera’s “Project Opera” program. This year’s production is “The Nightingale” which will be staged at the Minnesota Opera Center in Minneapolis on February 10 and 11. Music Director Matthew Abernathy will lead the youth training program for talented performers.
The Como Park Winter Instrumental Concert was held on Jan. 23 in the Como Auditorium. The concert featured the intermediate band, concert band, jazz band and orchestra under the direction of Dr. Philip Fried.
• Como’s National Honor Society (NHS) has collected and delivered over 300 books to Como Park Elementary School students. The project is an expansion of a project called the Children’s Book Express which was created by retired professor Phil Martin from Minneapolis Technical and Community College. The program goal is to get books in the hands of children that need them.
NHS students set up a collection box (built by Bob Prifrel’s woodworking class) in the main office. All books were donated by Como students and staff. Seniors Hannah Rhee and Divine Uchegbu launched and coordinated the effort. “It really is a community project, and the school has been very generous with their donations,” said Uchegbu. “NHS students have constantly volunteered to count, store and transport the books.” The project will continue throughout the spring, and the elementary students will be equipped with plenty of new and gently used age-appropriate books to read.
• Winterfest Spirit Week took place at Como from Jan. 30-Feb. 3. Thematic dress-up days were held all week, and the coronation of the Winterfest King and Queen was held in conjunction with a Pep Fest. Spirit Week concluded with the Winterfest Snowball Dance at the Midpointe Event Center on Feb. 3.