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Students who are outstanding athletes are often honored with trophies. Those who shine on stage might receive a standing ovation. And those who excel in the classroom could be recognized with award certificates or mentioned on the honor roll. But a Westminster, Athletic Director Todd Zell makes it a point to call out those driven, talented students whose hard work is paying off. What started with the social media hashtag #yupyoucandoboth has become a catalyst encouraging students to excel beyond one singular arena.
“Athletes are often stereotyped as dumb jocks,” says Mr. Zell. “But Westminster students are in fact extremely successful in the classroom as well as on the field. “I came up with the hashtag about three years ago in tandem with the announcements of team GPAs,” he says. “I wanted to communicate, ‘Yes, you can do both! You can be an awesome athlete and have a high GPA!’” From there, Mr. Zell says, the concept of #yupyoucandoboth continued to be embraced as more and more athletes started choosing to play multiple sports in a school year or participate in concerts or stage performances.
“We celebrate the fact that we are developing well-rounded students,” says Mr. Zell, who believes so strongly in a balance of activities that he has showcased his own talent through cameo appearances in several Westminster musicals. “In order for us to continue to be world-class in academics, the arts, and athletics, we want to recognize and encourage kids who work hard to develop their God-given gifts in all of these areas.”
Still, Mr. Zell works with the faculty to prevent the possibility of burn-out. “Teachers know that I want students to succeed in ‘their’ area as much as ‘my’ area,” he says.
Allen Schwamb, choir director, embraces this collaboration. “I love it when students are involved in music and sports!” says Mr. Schwamb. “They’re the ones who really get the idea that you’re in it for the success of your team, cast, or fellow musicians — not for your own personal gain. They understand that while it’s hard work, it’s also important to be involved in things bigger than yourself. They understand that everyone has to pull their weight in order for the [group] to be as excellent as possible.”
A shining example of doing both — or doing everything — is junior Zach Hughes. A tri-sport athlete in football, basketball, and track; an actor in improv and musicals, and a President’s List honoree, Zach is known among many coaches and teachers as the personification of #yupyoucandoboth.
“I love a lot of different things,” says Zach. “I’m goal-oriented and feel that if God’s given me a talent in something, I should strive to be as good at it as I can. I have a hard-work mentality and try to get the best out of myself.”
With so many commitments, Zach says, setting time aside to spend with God is a necessity. “Reading the Word in the morning is something I love to do,” says Zach. “You give up things you love for things you love more. So I ask myself, ‘Which do I love more? Twenty minutes of sleep or pursuing God?’ That usually clarifies things.”
At home, Zach sees examples of hard work and a love of learning on a daily basis. “In high school, my dad played football, competed in judo at a high level, and received awards in physics and Shakespeare,” says Zach. “He has shown me that you can be an athlete, be interested in the arts, and be an excellent student; you don’t have to sacrifice one for another. My mom, too, has a variety of interests and has changed careers a number of times, most recently working her way through an accelerated nursing program while maintaining her full-time job as a realtor,” he says. “For a while, we both had homework to do every night and were able
to encourage each other.”
Sophomore David Kerckhoff sees using his gifts as a form of worship. “I’ve loved soccer since I was little and have played it year-round since 4th grade,” says David. “It’s my passion, and I want to get better. I play to honor God through the gifts He has given me. Anything I love doing, anything I have talent in, I want to do to the best of my ability and enjoy it.” A passionate musician, David feels equally at home on stage as he does on the soccer field. He plays percussion in Westminster’s band and electric guitar in jazz band.
Students who seem to do it all are often asked how they manage. Many of them, like senior Kaitlin Kittelson, say their strength is not their own. “One verse that really motivates me is Isaiah 40:31, ‘but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint,’” says Kaitlin, who participates in volleyball, lacrosse, and swimming while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. “God always reminds me that my strength comes from Him. Whether I am running or swimming or playing any sport, I know that He will give me the strength I need to power through even when I think I physically can’t make it. He has blessed me so much, and I want to use the gifts He has given me to the best of my ability.”
Kaitlin says that playing three sports a year has also helped her learn time management and how to deal with stress in a healthy way. “With practices every night and tournaments on the weekends, I really have to work hard to stay ahead of my schoolwork,” says Kaitlin. “I know that when I get home from practice, I have to buckle down and study. The funny thing is, my grades are better when I’m in season because I know I can’t procrastinate and wait until later to do my homework. There is no ‘later.’”
In the Westminster Arena, you can’t miss the 10 Pillars of Athletics painted on the farthest wall. Student athletes continue to set a godly example for their peers as they live out number three: Good grades and conduct lead the way.
Follow Todd Zell on Twitter @wcasports.
Teachers, of all people, know the meaning of “busy.” Mallory Rohlfing, now in her sixth year at Westminster, navigates each day as chemistry teacher, orchestra director, and varsity softball coach. Coaching, in fact, is the reason Mrs. Rohlfing became a teacher in the first place. “I was an athlete myself, and I had the best coaches,” she says. “They made me want to coach, and the easiest way to do that was to become a teacher!”
A native of Grand Rapids, Mich., where she attended Calvin College, Mrs. Rohlfing majored in chemistry having attended a high school that, she says, closely resembled Westminster. “I admired my chemistry teacher because he set high goals for me,” says Mrs. Rohlfing. “He was confident; he was good at what he did; and he’d make time to come to my games.Read More
Plus coming from a family of scientists, I just really liked the subject.” Immediately following graduation, Mrs. Rohlfing started teaching at Westminster where, little did she know, she’d meet her husband with whom she’d already spent several years of her life.
Mike Rohlfing ’05 graduated from Calvin the same year as Mrs. Rohlfing, who happened to have been teaching Mike’s brother’s friends in her class. One of them, Kevin O’Leary ’12, introduced the two at a Westminster basketball game. Mike asked her to the symphony shortly after, and the rest is history. The couple will celebrate their one-year anniversary in June.
“We even had common friends at Calvin yet never knew each other,” says Mrs. Rohlfing, noting how they hit it off immediately with their shared love of music and sports. “I’m always in awe that God gave me a man who shares both of my passions!” she says. “Our stories are so interconnected — he knows this [Westminster] world; he knows my hometown; and he knows and understands my greatest joys. It’s a blessing to be married to him.”
At home in Grand Rapids is also where Mrs. Rohlfing cultivated her love of music, specifically orchestra. In a family of musicians who lived in a city where practicing music was a given, Mrs. Rohlfing attended a grade school where 4th grade students were required to choose an instrument to play for the next two years. “They knew we would never know if we were gifted in music, or if we even liked it, until we tried it,” says Mrs. Rohlfing, who took over the orchestra program at Westminster in 2012. When the options were spread before her, she chose the viola, fell in love, and has played ever since. “Music was just part of the culture — one which I hope to help continue to cultivate at Westminster.”
Every day, Mrs. Rohlfing went to school, went to practice, and went to rehearsal. How did she do it all? “My teachers and coaches,” she says. “They truly understood kids, understood that our lives were often as busy and stressful as some adults’, and knew how to encourage us. My viola teacher in particular knew when to push me to do more, and she knew when I was overwhelmed and just needed to have fun and enjoy music. I needed to love it, and she knew that,” says Mrs. Rohlfing, who realizes the same about many of her students and athletes.
“We all started doing something because we love it,” she says. “And if we think about getting rid of it, it’s because we’ve somehow lost the joy. It was always important to be reminded, ‘I’m good at this — God gifted me with this — and it brings me joy.’ At softball practice, if there are days we just need to play ultimate Frisbee to give the girls a break, it’s okay. Sometimes it’s okay to rest and not go, go, go. We must take a breath and remember why we’re doing what we’re doing — to share our very best with others and glorify God in the process.”
Mrs. Rohlfing says her favorite thing about coaching is the opportunity to set an example and talk with high-school-aged girls about what it looks like to be godly women. “Every day I have the opportunity to interact with young women who are trying to figure out what really matters in life,” she says. “We’re always asking, ‘How do we sincerely encourage our teammates when we’re so used to comparing ourselves to other girls?’ ‘How do we show God to our opponents?’ ‘How can we be confident yet humble?’ ‘What does it look like to work hard at something, even if we end up failing? How do we lose well?’ That’s a big one,” says Mrs. Rohlfing. “’How do we strive for success but refrain from losing our identity in that?’ It’s important for the girls to remember every day where their true identity lies. Sports is a wonderful way to teach these lessons.” The game of softball, she says, is merely a bonus.
“The beauty of being in the academic, athletic, and music worlds is that I feel like a complete person,” she says. “Every part of who I am is being touched, challenged, and refined. I’m not perfect in any of those areas; I’m just using the gifts God gave me, and I had people in my life willing to invest in me and bring those things out. That’s all I want to do as a teacher and coach.”
This high school junior will not make a basket, score a touchdown or hit a homerun. But as Frank Cusumano reports, Trevor Weststeyn is one remarkable kid.
Over the past two decades, the way we consume our news has dramatically changed. In a world of mass media, Westminster students are keeping pace with professional journalism under the guidance of journalism teacher Scott VonderBruegge and A/V Coordinator Han Kim. Beginning in 2015 – 16, the journalism program’s newspaper class will expand to include a broadcast journalism facet, which will allow students more opportunities to explore video production of the news story.Read More
“I know of few areas that have been more disrupted by innovation and technology than journalism,” says Mr. VonderBruegge. “The lines have blurred between writing, photojournalism, broadcasting, and other forms, yet one thing has not changed: the influence that the media has on our society. Journalism is still about telling the stories of the world around us, and I believe the sooner kids learn how to tell those stories using all the tools of today’s media, the better. The journalism classes at Westminster are, at their core, about kids learning to find their voice and say something significant with it. The ways to say it never stop changing.”
In January, the Westminster We the People team joined three other Missouri high schools in the We the People statewide simulated congressional hearings sponsored by The Missouri Bar at the State Capitol. Westminster celebrated a decisive victory there and represented Missouri at the national competition April 25 – 28 in Washington, D.C. There, the team was among the top 10 the first day, and Unit 2 won the national Unit 2 award.Read More
We the People is a nationally acclaimed civic education program helping students understand the history, philosophies, and evolution of our government. Following rigorous preparation in and outside of class, students compete in simulated congressional hearings in which they testify about and discuss issues such as the importance of an informed and engaged citizenry, constitutional rights, and the amendment process. A panel of judges comprised of lawyers, judges, educators, and political scientists evaluate the students’ knowledge and understanding of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Seniors Bo Thomas and Ben Linxwiller said they would encourage others to learn more about the U.S. Constitution. “My understanding of government was very limited,” says Bo. “But now, I’ve gained so much valuable knowledge and my interest is piqued as to how government functions play out in theory and in reality. I am now much more interested in politics and what actually influences public citizens and how they vote.”
Ben agrees. He says, “Through We the People, I’ve gained a sense of duty and a deep understanding of what principles our government was founded upon, how they relate to the modern day, and what responsibilities have been placed on us.”
Teacher and team advisor Ken Boesch says the students have worked diligently all year and he is proud of all they have accomplished. “The team worked incredibly hard this past year,” says Mr. Boesch. “We had a blast in D.C. and enjoyed both the competition and the touring!”
The Cyborg Cats recently partnered with Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Rehabilitation Hospital in Maryland Heights, Mo., to assist in the development of modified cars that provide a means of independent mobility that may help the young patients progress in their developmental motor, socialization, and cognitive skills. “As we complete our fourth year of the Westminster robotics program, the Lord continues to bless our involvement in FIRST Robotics,” says Lisa Harding, program director. “The outreach component of the program is giving our students amazing opportunities to change the world for Jesus Christ.”Read More
The partnership was born when Ranken Jordan contacted the Cyborg Cats about developing a program of their own, similar to the one created by the University of Delaware, “Go Baby Go.” As a part of this process, the team began work on their first modification project. With this first vehicle, the team made a number of adjustments. They modified the controls to ensure that a child with limited fine motor skills can easily operate the car simply by leaning an arm against a large red button placed in the middle of the steering wheel. The team also relocated the vehicle’s power switch for operation only by a supervising adult, which allows a supervising adult to easily power the car off with his or her foot in case of an emergency. The final adjustment to the car included the addition of a padded frame to provide enclosure for the child inside.
A few members of the team presented the motorized vehicle to Ranken Jordan in February and hope to modify and complete three additional cars by the end of the school year. As part of this first presentation, Westminster will also provide engineering documentation to Ranken Jordan’s safety and legal committees to establish a comprehensive program that fully meets the requirements of the hospital and its patients.
“In this partnership, the business development, financial, mechanical, and electronics skills that our team has learned in the course of the FIRST Robotics competition are enabling our high school students to be a part of changing the lives of these young children,” says Mrs. Harding. “We are honored that Ranken Jordan has asked Westminster’s robotics team to establish this program and provide powered mobility to children who would otherwise miss out on the important developmental benefits that come from independent movement.”
Changsoo Chun is one of countless alumni who is embodying Westminster’s mission to engage the world and change it for Jesus Christ. Changsoo grew up in Seoul, South Korea, before moving to the U.S. to complete his schooling. He enrolled as a sophomore at Westminster in 2000 as one of the school’s first international students. After graduation in 2003, he continued his education at the University of Missouri where he earned a degree in political science.Read More
From there, he enlisted for three years in the Korean navy before returning to Seoul to open his own Japanese restaurant chain, Hukuoka. With a successful restaurant underway, Changsoo’s business interests expanded and he joined a partnership to open a factory in Cambodia, a place where he sensed he could make an impact for Christ.
In 2013, Changsoo and his business partner launched Cambodian Harvest, which specializes in exporting produce and dried fruit products. He works as the executive trading partner, exporting and selling the company’s goods while his colleague remains on site to oversee the daily operation of the factory. As the company began to flourish, Changsoo desired more than financial success for his business; he longed to make the company distinctive and different from other businesses in the country. With a heart for people, he decided to open up employment to applicants with physically limited mobility.
This decision, which seems commonplace in the U.S., is unthinkable in Cambodian culture. “In Cambodia, disabled people are considered ‘cursed,’” says Changsoo. “Culturally, they believe that a person born with a disability is this way because of some sin committed by an ancestor. It’s similar to Karma. Whole communities shun people with disabilities because of this belief.” Despite this cultural mentality, Changsoo wanted to offer these individuals a new life while communicating to an international audience the Christian belief that all people matter to God. “It’s the best way to provide them dignified jobs,” says Changsoo. “Traditionally, they are not given any opportunity to work. I wanted to make a statement to show that business owners can make a difference.”
Changsoo instituted a new hiring policy and now employs 30 individuals with physical limitations. “He is the perfect example of an alumnus living out Westminster’s mission statement,” says Dr. Dani Butler, director of global partnerships. “After 15 years of relationship with him as a student, graduate, and friend, I can see the strength of Westminster in him. It goes beyond the school building and is true of nearly every student. When [graduates] go out the door, they don’t disconnect. It is very rewarding and humbling to see the fruit of what we do here — to know as teachers that what we’re doing in the classroom makes a difference in someone’s life,” she says. “You don’t always see it at first because you are just planting the seed. But eventually, the fruit appears — even in places as far away as Cambodia! That’s why we keep doing what we’re doing.”
After a successful college career at Samford University with a degree in biology and plans to pursue dental school, Tony Thompson followed God’s call to make a difference in the lives of children.
The Academy of E.P.P., an acronym of its mission to “empower students to succeed, partner with parents, and partner with community,” was founded by Tony’s mother Gay Thompson in 2005. It began as a summer camp and transformed into an official private school. When he graduated in spring of 2014, Tony became the owner and head of school. “While I had developed great relationships with well-established dentists and was very interested in becoming one, I knew God was calling me to something else,” says Tony. “Dentistry is something I could’ve done, but it would not have been my purpose. My purpose and passion is inspiring youth. I’m happy to have a job that I love and one through which I can glorify God.”
As head of school, Tony oversees the teachers and administration and believes his role is to motivate his students to value education and build character, as, he says, they need both to change the world. “I recognize that every kid learns differently, so I encourage the teachers to create lesson plans that will cater to each student – not just the majority. We also over-emphasize the importance of strong character and teach them self-affirmation daily.”
Over the years, Tony gained a breadth of knowledge by watching his mom. As he grew older, he became more and more involved, from doing janitorial work and camp counseling to facilitating transportation, tutoring, and administration. When he became head of school, Tony asked his own former head of school, Westminster Head of School Emeritus Jim Marsh, to mentor him and offer some advice on successful leadership. “I’m young and he’s wiser and more seasoned, so I asked him for insight on being an effective leader, ways to use resources, and how God works through those processes,” says Tony. “He didn’t hesitate to bless me with ideas, wisdom, and encouragement.”
Mr. Marsh visited Tony at The Academy of E.P.P. this winter. “Tony embodies the Westminster vision to prepare more young people to engage the world and change it for Jesus Christ,” says Mr. Marsh. “It was a personal joy to visit him at his school and see him working so hard to provide underserved children from St. Louis with a quality education founded on biblical truth and principles. Tony has taken on a tremendous challenge at a very young age with strong faith and character, energy, and excitement. He is truly changing the world of the children he serves.”
How did Westminster prepare you for your role as head of school?
At Westminster, I interacted with so many teachers, janitors, and administrators who showed me what it means to serve. Mr. Marsh in particular led by his humble service to students, parents, and teachers. If such a well-respected head of school can show great humility, who am I to be prideful about my title? It means nothing if I am not impacting lives. Additionally, Westminster convinced me of the need for the Gospel in education. Since becoming head of school at The Academy of E.P.P., I’ve placed a great emphasis on following Jesus. We pray, praise, and create a lot of dialogue about what it means to serve Christ here.
What have you learned from your former head of school Jim Marsh about being an effective leader?
There are so many things I’ve learned from Mr. Marsh. I think the biggest is when he mentioned he was always open to suggestions from his staff. He wanted to include everyone in the Westminster vision. That’s humility. There are some leaders who have a “my way or the highway” approach. That’s not Mr. Marsh.
How do you motivate your students to value education?
I do my best to show them where education can take them. For example, I was blessed to attend college, and just the other day, I told my elementary students that the things they are learning now are the things that helped me in high school, college, and in my current job. The majority of my students’ parents did not attend college, so I try often to share my own stories or experiences with them and pray that they would become the first in their families to go beyond high school. I try to make it “cool” to be smart.
How do you hope to make an impact in the lives of kids?
Through my role as head of school, I hope to push my students closer to Jesus. A lot of my students have very unfortunate backgrounds. They see and experience things that no child should. I recognize that there are no math problems, spelling words, or science books that are going to help them deal with the storms they have in their lives. My role is simply to show them someone – Christ – who can give them peace, love, and hope in the midst of tough times. At The Academy of E.P.P., we worship, pray, and talk about God everyday. I will never shy away from promoting Jesus in education. It’s the biggest impact that I hope I can make in any student’s life.
Follow Tony on Twitter at @tony_epp.
Holly Bergeson Cunningham ’91, owner of Hollyberry Catering, will open a new café/catering to-go market, Nourish by Hollyberry, in Warson Woods, Mo. Offering a host of products and meals available to go in addition to daily lunch service, the café is scheduled to open this spring. Read more
Aaron Krumsieg ’10 graduated from Wheaton College Conservatory of Music in May 2014 and received a full ride scholarship to Yale University. As a masters student, Aaron performs with the Yale Philharmonia and the Brick Haus Brass and is also an associate member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago for the 2014 – 15 season. Learn and hear more
Missouri State junior center fielder Tate Matheny ’12 was one of 54 Division I baseball players named as a preseason All-American by the publication Perfect Game in 2015. Read more
Two goals from Katie Matheny ’13 helped bring the Ohio State Buckeyes women’s ice hockey team to 6-0 win and sweep over Minnesota State. Read More
Bennett Lewis ’13, sophomore at Washington and Lee University, is a Division III Scholar All-American for the second straight season. Bennett completed the 2015 season with a 15-6 overall record while competing at 197 pounds. He won the 197-pound weight class at the W&L Invitational and placed third in the same weight class in the Washington & Jefferson Invitational. He has compiled a 36-19 overall record. Read more
St. Louis University sophomore center Sadie Stipanovich ’13 was named the Atlantic 10 Conference women’s basketball Player of the Week in February 2015. Read more
Brooke Cusumano ’13 helped lead the Southern Illinois University women’s golf team to a ninth-place finish at the FGCU Eagle Invitational in February. Brooke had the school’s lowest round of the weekend. She dropped a stroke off her score each day of the tournament and led the Salukis with an overall 234 (79-78-77) to finish, tied for 18th. Read more