Springdale Schools Blog
Emily Sargent, a seventh grader at J.O. Kelly, had no expectations when she and about 20 other students from her school took the ACT at Springdale High School. She was more than pleasantly surprised when she learned she scored 30 in English and 25 overall.
“Our GT (Gifted and Talented) teacher (Lacinda Files) told us about the ACT and recommended we take it,” Sargent says. “When we first got there the room was full of high school juniors and I was very nervous. Then they put us in smaller rooms and some of my friends from school were in there. And, the teacher was very friendly. That helped us relax.”
How in the world did she score so well in English?
“I love to read,” Sargent responds. “I read a lot. I like science fiction. Reading has really helped me with vocabulary. My grandmother was a math teacher for 42 years. She helps me with math and gives me books to read.”
Her grandmother is among many family members who have been teachers. Her mother is in nursing. Emily has thought about becoming a teacher but is also interested in law and medicine.
“I have five cousins who are all younger than I am,” she says. “When I visit them I watch them a lot. That is what made me want to teach. I like younger kids. But, I want to look into law and medicine and attend an Ivy League school. I don’t know which one but I want to go to one of the best colleges in America.”
Sargent has time to choose a college. If she improves on her ACT each time she takes it in the future, they will be recruiting her. She hopes to take another step toward future higher education by attending a camp this summer at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.
“I sent my information on the first day you could apply so I hope I get in,” says Emily. “It is a three-week camp that allows you to take either a one-year high school course or a one-semester college course in the three-week period. My choices were Mock Trial, Origins of Modern Law, a medical class and a psychology class. I would like to take any of those classes.”
Sargent is aware of how many people have helped her formulate lofty future goals.
“My mother and my grandmother have been great to me and all the teachers at J.O. Kelly and Jones Elementary (where she attended second-fifth grade) have been helpful,” says Emily. “My teachers have all been supportive and have been helpful with whatever I need.”
Does she have a favorite teacher?
“I have liked them all,” she answers, “but my fifth grade teacher at Jones, Ms. (Ashley) Kasnicka has been special. I still go see her. She orders books for me with the points she has earned from Scholastic.”
She and the other J.O. Kelly students who took the ACT also have been inspired by Har-Ber High School sophomore Sojas Wagle, who recently scored a perfect 36 on the ACT.
“Sojas came and talked to us before we took the ACT,” Emily says. “He told us to make sure we knew how to use a calculator and to be prepared. He also told us there would be questions on the test that we would not be familiar with because we haven’t had any higher level math yet.”
Knowing seventh graders would not be ready for some of the math, J.O. Kelly math instructional facilitator Cassie Marquette helped prepare the students as did literacy IF Scott Dunn and head of science Josh Jenkins.
“Math was what brought her overall score down to a 25,” says J.O. Kelly principal Sara Ford. “She made a 27 in science. As she takes higher math classes and takes the ACT again, her scores will go up because she will be more familiar with the material.”
Could Emily Sargent be a future perfect ACT score candidate? Perhaps, but in any event, her future is very bright. She is another example of why Springdale Public Schools is #THE Choice.
At the beginning of his senior year at Springdale Har-Ber High School, Daniel Moreno had no idea what he wanted to do when he graduates. Now he’s only two months from graduation and he already has a job secured.
Moreno is thankful for the Construction Management program at Har-Ber and its instructors, Stowe Hoffius and Bob Maples. They helped him plot a path to employment at Marrs Electric in Springdale.
“At the first of my senior year a person from Multicraft came to our class and talked to us about apprenticeships,” Moreno recalls. “I gave it some thought and decided to pursue electrical rather than plumbing. I wasn’t enrolled in the Electrical Systems class and school had already started but my counselor helped me work out getting in the class.
“Then Mr. (Stowe) Hoffius and Mr. (Bob) Maples helped me earn an OSHA (safety) card and an interview with Marrs Electric. The interview went well, they hired me and I start in June.”
Hoffius adds, “Daniel is highly motivated, willing to work and wants to have a career. All we did was explain some career options and get him an interview. He is a great kid. We knew he would knock the interview out of the park.”
Moreno is happy to have his future settled. He notes, “I stayed up late at night and was scared about what I would do after high school. I thought about college but college isn’t for me. Mr. Hoffius and Mr. Maples helped settle my life.”
Moreno’s life has been very settled since his family moved from California to Springdale when he was in the third grade.
“My parents moved here because they wanted a better life for my sister and me,” he says. “Houses are so expensive in California. It is not as expensive to live here. The Springdale school system is so much better than what we left. It was an easy adjustment for me. I get along well with people.”
Moreno started his educational career in Springdale at George Elementary. He finished elementary school at Harp, then progressed to J.O. Kelly Middle School, Southwest Junior High and Har-Ber High School. His sister is at Tyson Middle School.
Now Daniel wants to finish strong at Har-Ber and get started on his new job. He will work during the day and take classes for his new profession in the evenings once he begins in June.
“The experience I’ve gained in the Construction Management classes has been a big help in preparing for the job,” Moreno says. “I’m excited to get started. Eventually I want to be a master electrician and own my own business.”
Moreno’s lofty goals combined with all he’s learned at Har-Ber make it evident that Springdale Schools is #THE Choice.
When Har-Ber senior Jenna Durfee received the news that she was a National Merit Finalist she was stunned.
“They gave me the news, and when I came out of the office I was in shock,” said Durfee. “This is a big honor for me.”
Durfee is an accomplished scholar and is in many Advanced Placement classes at Har-Ber. However, she didn’t feel very confident after taking the test.
“Compared to the two I had taken before, I was not as confident,” said Durfee. “I didn’t think I had made as high of a score because it felt like the reading especially was a lot harder so when they told me my score was a qualifying one I was stunned.”
Jenna studies a lot and spends time going over class material but attributes most of her success to something else.
“In large part I think it is the teachers” said Durfee. “I have really great teachers and have for several years. I always spend a lot of time studying and I have always been encouraged to take advanced classes. My teachers and the course material in my AP classes have helped a lot.”
One of Jenna’s main interests is the brain. Durfee loves to learn how the brain works and hopes to combine that with her love of helping others and become a clinical psychologist.
“Psychology is just interesting,” said Durfee. “Once you start to learn the way the brain works you start to analyze yourself and others and I just think that would be great to be able to help people with problems or anything else they are dealing with.”
Durfee’s teachers would be proud to know another one of Jenna’s interests is reading. Durfee says she reads “just about anything,” but her favorite book is George Orwell’s classic “1984.”
Jenna’s love for reading will be crucial as she transitions to college and while National Merit Finalists have the option to go to school most anywhere in the country, Durfee has decided on either the University of Arkansas or the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
Congratulations to Jenna on a fantastic academic career in Springdale Schools and for being a National Merit Finalist. #THEChoice
Har-Ber senior Alexander Eremiev dreams of one day becoming a cardiologist or neurologist and his chances of making that dream a reality just recently got a boost. Eremiev was named a National Merit Finalist and knew the positive implications that would have.
“I was super pumped,” said Eremiev. “It meant a lot of scholarships and opportunities for me in the future and it just made my application process to college much easier so I was very excited.”
Eremiev has grown up in a family entrenched in the medical field. His mother is currently a doctor in Northwest Arkansas and his grandfather is a former pediatric neurosurgeon. Both of these family members have influenced Alexander to help others as he has watched them.
“I see my mom’s passion for helping others and how she uses science and improves the lives of others and that is just something I have wanted to follow her in,” said Eremiev. “And the same goes for my grandfather, he was a pediatric neurosurgeon and I just see a lot of what I want in him.”
Having a qualifying score as a National Merit Finalist is no easy task. Eremiev is one of two students at Har-Ber to attain this honor and credits his performance to his effort in and out of the classroom.
“I think the biggest thing I have done is studyi hard in all of my classes,” said Eremiev. “The way I prepared for this test was pushing myself in my AP classes and my regular classes. I just made sure that I gave the most effort and learned everything that I could.”
While Eremiev says he enjoys studying and focusing on school, he also has time to do other things he loves.
“Outside of school I love going mountain biking with my friends and long boarding,” said Eremiev. I am on the swim team here at Har-Ber and love to workout, read books and especially watch Netflix.”
Alexander has his pick of most schools around the nation but has narrowed his list to the University of Arkansas where he has received the Fellowship Scholarship or Baylor University in Waco, Texas where he also has a full tuition scholarship.
Springdale Schools congratulates Alexander on becoming a National Merit Finalist and hopes to one day see “Dr.” in front of the name Alexander Eremiev. #THEChoice
Discovering she is now a National Merit Finalist hasn’t changed any of Mary Emma Hignite’s goals. The Springdale High School senior still wants to pursue history and creative writing when she continues her academic career in college.
“I’ve always loved learning,” Hignite says. “Reading has always been fun for me. I particularly love history. When I was in the eighth grade I got to make the Williamsburg trip (involving junior high students from Springdale schools) and it was amazing. Philadelphia was my favorite place. I loved seeing where our founding fathers met and made our country what it is today. Plus, the Liberty Bell was great.”
Hignite would like to combine her interest in history with her desire to write. Does that mean historical novels?
“I’m not sure yet how it will all come together,” she responds. “I definitely want to write but may need to do another job while I get started. Even though I love history and my mother (Marjay, long time SHS instructor) is a teacher, I’m not interested in teaching.”
Mary Emma does have other interests, though. She plays in the SHS band and sings in the school choir. She has been an all-region trombone player and recently was named to the all-state choir.
“I love music and always have,” she says. “I played the piano from the time I was in kindergarten until I finished the sixth grade. When I got into band in the seventh grade I selected the trombone. My dad (Mike, a Springdale police officer), played the French horn so I wanted to play a brass instrument. I liked the trombone because of the glissando (sliding motion).”
Hignite loved marching in the band at the Springdale High School football games and is preparing for spring band and choir concerts. While she tries not to focus on her high school career coming to an end, the realization hit her at the last football game of the season.
“We were getting ready to march and someone said, ‘Seniors, this is your last football game,’” she recalls. “I thought, don’t say that or I will get emotional.”
While Hignite isn’t getting too emotional yet about the conclusion of her senior year, she is grateful for the education she has received in Springdale and is looking forward to the next step.
“I’m honored to be a National Merit Finalist and grateful to my teachers and administrators for helping me get to this point,” Mary Emma says. “I’ve been blessed with great teachers who are always there when you need them. Counselors are available to help you think about the future. Springdale schools have a great support system.”
A product of Walker Elementary, Tyson Middle School, Southwest Junior High and SHS, Hignite is extremely attached to Springdale but also looks forward to “branching out” with her life. She is undecided on which college to attend but will choose from several quality schools.
“If I stay in Arkansas it could be Hendrix or the University of Arkansas,” Hignite says. “I’m also looking at Notre Dame, Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore. Wherever I go I definitely want to continue band and choir.” Mary’s older brother Jackson, who also was a National Merit Finalist, is currently at Notre Dame.
No matter what the next academic step is, she eventually wants “to travel and see the world. I love Springdale but I want to see many other places.”
As a National Merit finalist, Hignite is definitely going places. She is another reason why Springdale Schools is #THE Choice.
Jayden Minchew knew very little about Dartmouth when he received a personal twitter message from one of its assistant football coaches. He thought little of it until the same coach, Danny O’Day visited him in Springdale and recruited him to play football for the Big Green.
“I knew about a few of the Ivy League schools were but I didn’t know much about Dartmouth,” admitted Minchew, a senior at Springdale High School. “I didn’t know I was Ivy League material. My grade point is good, 3.7, but I made 25 on the ACT. I never dreamed an Ivy League school would recruit me.”
In fact, Minchew’s only dream about college football was someday playing at the University of Arkansas. His father, C.J. McLain, was a very good player for the Razorbacks under coaches Danny Ford and Houston Nutt.
“I just figured I would be a Razorback since my dad played there,” Michew said. “But, having the opportunity to go to Dartmouth is exciting. I took an official visit there. The school is in Hanover, New Hampshire and is pretty much the town. In fact, downtown Hanover is right next to the Green at Dartmouth. It looks like a community out of a Christmas movie.”
How did a school like Dartmouth find Minchew, especially considering the Big Green didn’t have a single player on its roster in 2016?
“They were recruiting Tanner Cross at Fort Smith Northside and they discovered Jayden,” said SHS head football coach Zak Clark. “They recruited him to play safety and hope he will grow enough to move to outside linebacker.” Cross, by the way, also signed with Dartmouth so there will be two freshmen from Arkansas on the Big Green football roster.
“This is the first time I’ve ever had a player recruited by an Ivy League school,” Clark added. “It’s a different process. They don’t give athletic scholarships. All their scholarships are based on need. Jayden will have nearly everything paid for. It is a great opportunity for him. He is very intelligent and works hard. He has a high level of maturity. At a school like Dartmouth everybody studies and goes to the library.”
The atmosphere figures to be stimulating to Minchew academically. Surrounded by so many academic minded peers, he believes he will excel in the classroom.
“I plan on going into engineering,” Minchew said. “I visited the Thayer School of Engineering when I made my visit to Dartmouth. I’m very excited about it.”
Does Minchew think Springdale schools have prepared him for the challenge of an Ivy League education.
“Definitely,” he responded. “I was able to take Algebra I in middle school at J.O. Kelly, then Algebra II in eighth grade at George Junior High. That prepared me to take the math courses necessary to get into AP Calculus and other AP math courses at Springdale High that are college level classes.
“The other great thing about Springdale is our diversity,” added Minchew, who attended George, Harp and Turnbow Elementary schools from his kindergarten through fifth grade years. “Springdale has always had a diverse culture but it allows you to be around people who aren’t like you but you can relate to them.”
Minchew knows it is important to surround yourself with well-behaving people. In fact, he shared that message with the entire Sonora Middle School student body at an assembly.
“He told our students to surround themselves with good people,” said Sonora Middle School principal Dr. Martha Dodson. “He told them how important his mother and his friends were to him when he went through difficult times. He also told them to keep up their grades and take plenty to advanced placement classes.”
What was it like to Jayden to speak at an assembly filled with sixth and seventh graders?
“It was surreal,” he said. “It reminded me of being at that age. I was just going with the flow and doing what my friends did. I wish I had been motivated earlier than I was. Maybe I could help some students get motivated and focused at an earlier age than I did.”
Minchew said football helped him get focused. He started playing for a team at George Junior High and was outstanding at Springdale High School.
“Once you are part of a team, everything you do carries over,” said Minchew. “It you get in trouble in school, it follows you to football. Football helped me learn the importance of staying focused all the time.”
Minchew will have to stay focused to be successful academically and in football at Dartmouth. He is ready for the challenge when he reports in August.
“Dartmouth is a magnificent campus,” said Minchew. “I am very thankful for this opportunity.” Minchew is another example of why the Springdale School District is #THE Choice.
Scholars dream of one day attending Harvard, football players dream about going to Alabama and musicians hope to get the chance to attend The Juilliard School. Hellstern seventhgrader Brady Billingsley is getting a taste of that opportunity as he has been selected to go to the Juilliard summer camp in Geneva, Switzerland.
Billingsley is a pianist and has been playing the piano for seven years but it is his skills on the instrument that set him apart. Getting selected to attend the Juilliard summer camp is what most would call a “big deal.” Only 80 children ages 10-18 around the world are selected to attend this summer camp and only 30 of them are from the United States.
“I had seen the camp through the Juilliard website and thought it would be something I would want to do so I applied and I recorded myself playing piano and sent it in to the professors at Juilliard,” said Billingsley. “We all knew there wasn’t a great chance of me getting in but when we found out I got in, everyone was thrilled. It’s a very big deal and I can’t wait for it.”
As seventh graders, many students aren’t thinking about the things they need to do to get into certain colleges, but Brady knew that getting into this camp meant getting closer to his collegiate goal.
“I really want to go to the Juilliard in New York for college and major in music,” said Billingsley. “The professors recommend trying out for these camps to see if you have a chance to get into the college and I know that this summer is really going to prepare me for college.”
Billingsley is also using his love for music at Hellstern. Brady is a part of the men’s choir and the Hellstern Hero band. Being involved in multiple musical areas helps fine tune skills while also assisting Brady’s ability to work with others.
“Choir has helped me get more experience with other people,” said Billingsley “Because with piano I have lessons individually and I am never with other people and when I am in band it is never about being by yourself it is about being part of a group and it has helped me grow.”
Billingsley is most excited about meeting other students from around the world that share his same passion and is excited to learn from the school’s world renown professors.
“The professors at the Juilliard are amazing and I can’t wait to get there and work under them and learn from them,” said Billingsley.
Music from Beethoven and Mozart are Brady’s favorite types of pieces to play and while it is tough to be the next Beethoven or Mozart, it is sure this Hellstern Hero is on a path to become a great musical success. #THEChoice
When Bronwyn Bresler was enjoying growing up on the coast of South Africa she had no idea where Springdale Arkansas is. Now a fifth grader at Young Elementary, she is enjoying the change of scenery.
“We lived close to the ocean in South Africa,” said Bresler, who has a sister at Har-Ber High School. “We don’t have the ocean here but Springdale is not a city like where we lived in South Africa. I like things different and I like not living in a big city.”
Bresler’s family moved to Springdale when she was in the third grade. Their grandmother, who lives in Springdale, was ill and required care. Bresler’s aunt moved to Springdale first, then her family came.
“We came to help my grandmother and we are still doing that,” said Bronwyn. “My dad was a pastor in South Africa and he is going to school to be certified to preach here. My mom was a hairdresser in South Africa and is working as a hairdresser here. “
What was such a dramatic move like for Bronwyn?
“At first I was the new kid on the block,” she answered. “It was a hard experience. I had never been the new one before. It was harder for my sister, Robyn, because she was in high school. She is doing fine now.
“At Young all the students and teachers were fascinated by my accent, which is British. They all wanted me to say words that are pronounced differently than they are here.”
She adjusted quickly academically, enjoying science and math.
“I especially like math because of my teacher, Mrs. (Becky) Bowerman,” said Bronwyn. “She makes everything fun. She helps you figure things out.”
What does she miss about South Africa, besides her friends?
“I miss some of the food,” Bronwyn responded. “We had a candy bar called ‘Bar One.’ It was like a combination of a Milky Way and Three Musketeers. I also miss Biltong, which is a dried, cured meat, similar to jerky.
“I also like rugby better than American football and we all wore uniforms to school in South Africa. You didn’t have to spend time choosing clothes to wear to school.”
Bronwyn knows her future opportunities are greater in the United States.
“I want to be a lawyer,” she said. “I always have a reason for arguing right and wrong.”
She wouldn’t trade her experience for anything. In fact, at a recent School Board luncheon at Young, she sang the song, “I’m Proud To Be An American.”
“I heard the song during President Trump’s inauguration and really liked it. I learned it and was happy to be able to sing it to the School Board members.”
Young Elementary students, teachers and staff members are happy the Bresler family moved to Springdale. She is a wonderful example of why Springdale Schools are #THE Choice.
Interning at a news station is rare for college students but interning as a high school student is unheard of Springdale Har-Ber senior, Ashlyn-Grace Brothers doesn’t care about norms. She is currently the only high school intern that has ever been hired in the KNWA sports department.
Brothers is an anchor and reporter for Har-Ber’s television department and decided last year that she wanted a chance to work in a newsroom and learn from the pros. But, she didn’t know that news stations don’t normally utilize high school seniors.
“I was filling out scholarship applications and thought it would be cool to intern at a news station,” said Brothers. “I just decided I was going to make a resume and cover letter, take them to the local news stations and go for it.”
After taking her resume to the local stations, Ashlyn returned home to tell her parents about what she had done and they were surprised but willing to help her make it happen.
“My mom told me about one of her former high school friends that was a reporter in the Fayetteville market at one time and I began talking to her and learning what I needed to do to get stations interested,” said Ashlyn.
Brothers made a resume reel and quickly got in contact with KNWA Sports Director Jason Carroll and things moved quickly.
“After talking with Jason I went to the station and met the team,” said Brothers. “It was just going to be short term deal where I would just shadow the team but I ended up falling in love with it and months later I am still there and my role continues to expand.”
Ashlyn worked with the Razorback Nation crew throughout football season which meant being up close and personal with the Razorback football program, working in the press box, interviewing players throughout the week and helping the Razorback Nation crew with their post game interviews and stories.
All of these things seem like a dream come true for an aspiring journalist, but Ashlyn can tell you she couldn’t have gotten this opportunity without the great teachers and classmates she has had at Har-Ber High School, especially Har-Ber TV professor Travis Sherman.
“Travis Sherman has been the biggest asset in my life,” said Brothers. “There are days when he is frustrated with me or pushes me hard but in the end I know he truly wants me to succeed and is always there for me.”
Ashlyn is currently in the heart of Razorback basketball season and stays busy with the Razorback Nation crew but can’t wait until she can call the U of A her college home next fall. It is no surprise, Brothers plans to study broadcast journalism and hopes to one day be a sideline reporter for ESPN. KNWA’s Carroll thinks that may not be too far-fetched.
“Ashlyn has been a positive addition to our team as an intern, said Carroll. “Her opinions and enthusiasm are rare traits in someone her age. The drive and determination she brings on a daily basis continue to make her an asset to the Razorback Nation. She has a chance with continued focus to be a star in the business.”
Brothers has made an impact at Har-Ber Television winning multiple awards, and she continues to churn out excellent work week after week. What she hopes to leave with her classmates and future students is the realization that they can accomplish anything they desire with hard work.
“I was just a girl with a crazy idea and went and made it happen,” said Brothers. “I have truly been blessed and know that any one of my classmates deserve the same opportunities I have.”
Charged with enhancing reading skills in the second largest district in Arkansas, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction (K-5) and Professional Development Dr. Kathy Morledge and a Reading Task Force started with basics. There are five components of reading that can be developed in the classroom and at home to develop superb reading skills for all students.
“The five basic components of reading are phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension,” Morledge said. “We start our district reading initiatives with those components and they are essential for parents to consider when they are supporting their children at home.”
Phonemic awareness involves manipulating sounds. Not all languages have the same sounds, making English a challenge for some students who live in homes where other languages are prevalent. How can parents help?
“Parents should talk with children beginning in infancy,” Morledge explained. “Make eye contact with them. As children grow, parents should continue to talk with them not at them. They should read to their children with expression. It sounds simple but it helps to show children how to hold the book and turn the pages.”
The next step is phonics, which is related to phonemic awareness. This is where children make connections between sounds and letters.
“A good tip here for parents is let their children use refrigerator magnets to sound out letters,” said Morledge. “Ask questions like what does a “B” say, then what does a “D” say. As children advance they can use the magnets to spell words.”
Fluency is next. It is the child’s ability to read with more speed and accuracy and with proper expression.
“Fluency is aided by reading to children with expression and, as they begin to learn to read, asking them to read their take home books to their parents or siblings,” Morledge said. “The more children read, the more fluent they become. In our elementary school classrooms we are increasing the amount of reading our students are doing to enhance fluency.”
Vocabulary, the meaning of words, is the next step. If students are to be able to read with more speed and accuracy, they must understand the meaning of the words they are reading.
“When teachers or parents use words that are new to students, they should help the children know the definition,” Morledge explained. “It’s important to use words that are new to a child when we speak, then either define the word or ask the student to define it using context clues.”
Finally comes comprehension. That is the ability to read, process what has been read and understand it.
“When reading to a child, the teacher or parent should stop periodically and ask the child questions about what is being read,” said Morledge. “It’s okay to ask them to predict what they think will happen.”
With the Arkansas Department of Education launching a Reading Initiative for Student Excellence, Springdale is way ahead of the curve. Morledge and district principals, teachers and staff members have been working on enhancing the reading skills of all district students for years. Parental support is also vital for the district to reach its goal of having all students at proper reading level by the second grade.