Message from Leota students: ‘Be Kind’

  • Written by Deborah Stone
photo for Be Kind campaign
Courtesy Photo Leota students who spearheaded the campaign are left to right: Front row: Abi Burnett, Rachel Rosenbaum, Shailey Harris, Brenna Woods, Hannah McKenney; Back row: Christian Cline, Seth Hunt, Maddy Walker, Skylar Hein.
Bullying exists in our schools, some more than others.

At each building, administrators and teachers deal with the problem in a variety of different ways from giving large scale presentations to holding more intimate classroom conversations and discussions on the subject.

Sometimes students get in on the act, helping to spread an anti-bullying message throughout their school.

At Leota Jr. High, for example, a group of 8th and 9th grade kids stepped up to the plate and designed and implemented a “Be Kind” campaign to help improve school climate and culture.

The leaders who spearheaded the work – Shailey Harris, Maddy Walker, Skylar Hein, Rachel Rosenbaum, Christian Cline, Hannah McKenney, Seth Hunt, Brenna Woods and Abi Burnett – received mentorship assistance from Adam Zitzmann, Leota social studies and leadership teacher, and school counselors Michael Sauer and Heather Warme-Stead.

“The idea for the campaign came from discussions in my leadership class,” says Zitzmann. “Students identified the need to address the problem of ‘not being kind’ — not just bullying, but the general behaviors that exclude others such as rumors and gossip, as well as being mean on Facebook, etc. They created a committee to start a school wide ‘Be Kind’ movement at school and kicked off the campaign with a student-led assembly, which included a series of student made videos and a presentation by a guest speaker from Leota’s faculty.”

Zitzmann explains that during the course of the weeklong campaign, students received announcements about the specific theme for the day, which involved such actions as smiling at someone new, paying a compliment to a fellow student or giving high fives to others.

Additionally, counselors made visits to all social studies classes and led seminars on the importance of treating people with kindness.

At lunchtime, students could sign the Leota pledge to be kind, which involved promising to participate in the solution to stop bullying and to help make changes for the better, as well as to take steps to include others and encourage positive behavior.

Over 500 kids signed the pledge.

“Students were wonderful in their participation, from signing the pledge to reinforcing our theme by participating in holding doors for people, smiling and saying hi to people in the halls, to delivering compliments and high fives,” says Zitzmann. “Students know that being kind is a huge issue that impacts how people feel about themselves, their friends and their school.”

Eighth grader Skylar Hein, one of the leaders of the campaign, feels the campaign was a success.

She notes that almost everyone at the school signed a pledge and many did so independently and not as part of a group, commenting,

“We asked that kids make the decision to sign on their own as a way to make sure that it was something they truly wanted to do, and not because they felt pressured by their group.”

The 14-year-old student feels there is a real need for this type of message at her school. Although she emphasizes that the bullying problem is not pervasive at Leota, it still exists in less obvious forms.

“People think bullying is only physical because maybe that’s all they hear about or see on TV,” she explains. “But, it’s all the other little behaviors that are also bullying, like exclusion or gossiping and saying negative things about other people. We want students to be aware that these things are bullying, too, and that they can be just as damaging.”

Skylar knows about bullying personally as she was a victim of it in elementary school.

She describes the feeling of being excluded by two girls in her class, saying, “I felt like I didn’t belong and it made me very sad.”

Thankfully, the teen talked about what was happening with some other kids who went to her aid by confronting the bullies.

The girls apologized for their behavior and later even became friends with Skylar.

Although Seth Hunt hasn’t been a victim of bullying, he has seen it happen to others.

The Leota ninth grader explains: “I’ve heard comments made about other kids’ appearances, for example, comments that were very negative and insulting. Kids sometimes think they’re joking when they say these things, but I know these kind of comments can really hurt.”

The teen, who also helped to spearhead the “Be Kind” campaign, notes that being kind is something students at his school need to work on, adding, “Kids want to feel cool and be a part of the ‘in’ group. They think smiling isn’t cool. It’s not part of our culture. We need to change this. If smiling and trying to make others feel good about themselves are a part of our culture, then more people will do these things automatically.”

Though the official campaign only lasted for a week, there will be follow-ups throughout the remainder of the year to help perpetuate the message.

Seth explains that the “Be Kind” signs will remain up in the school and all those students that signed a pledge will receive special “Be Kind” wristbands when their pledges are later returned to them.

He says, “We’re going to wrap up the pledges with the wristbands so everyone will have something to remind them of the campaign.”

He adds, “We need to continue with the message because if we stop, everything will stop.”

Zitzmann hopes to build on the themes of kindness in order to lower the number of students who feel disconnected to school because of bullying, as well as to empower others to keep up the momentum of the movement.

Leota principal Obadiah Dunham was very impressed by the campaign, noting that the ideas, planning and work were all carried out by students.

He says, “Messages always seem to have the greatest impact when they are created by students.”

He adds: “The students’ ability to recognize the impact of how they treat each other and wanting to remind everyone how to be positive was the power of the entire week.”

Though it’s too early to know if the campaign will have lasting impact, Dunham believes that anytime there is a positive student-focused message, it has a positive impact on school climate.

“Both students and staff benefitted from the reminder regarding the impact their actions have on others,” he comments. “The students delivered the message in a manner that resonated with everyone. Because Leota has a culture of a kind and caring school, an activity like this is more an outgrowth of that culture rather than an attempt to affect the culture.”

In step with WHS’s foreign exchange students

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Lisa Witzel
Courtesy Photo. Lisa Witzel
There are two foreign exchange students enrolled at WHS this year, Lisa Witzel and Rasmus Jorgensen.

Witzel hails from Cologne, Germany and is currently a sophomore. She arrived last August and has been staying in the home of host parents, Kim and Kirk Eldred.

The teen’s interest in other cultures, combined with a desire to improve her English speaking abilities, were motivating reasons behind her decision to study abroad.

“I had done weeklong exchanges before in France, England and Israel,” she explains, “but I really wanted to spend a year someplace and get to know the culture. As I had never been to the U.S., I thought it would be cool to come here.”

The Eldreds chose Witzel based on her Aspect Foundation application, which is how she ended up in Woodinville. And she’s glad she did. “It’s a really nice place,” she says. “People are very friendly and I like the scenery here.”

Jorgensen Seattle marathon courtesy
Courtesy Photo Rasmus Jorgensen after finishing the Seattle Marathon
As to the rain, she notes that Cologne can be damp, too, but not quite as gray as this area. Though it’s been many months since that first day of school back in fall, Witzel still remembers her emotions vividly. “I was very nervous,” she comments. “I thought no one would like me or that no one would be able to understand me.”

It was a relief for her to discover that the students were friendly and that her English was more than passable. “I adjusted easily,” she adds, “because everyone was helpful, both students and teachers. They made me feel very comfortable.”

During the course of the school year, Witzel has taken an array of classes including Spanish, English, tech drama, math, history, ceramics and aerobics. She has also served as a teaching assistant in a German class. Her favorite courses have been Spanish and tech drama.

“I like learning languages and I especially like the sound of Spanish,” says the multi-lingual teen, who also speaks German, English and French. “Tech drama has been very interesting,” she adds, “because it’s shown me that there is so much work that goes on behind the scenes.”

Culturally, Witzel notes that there are a few differences between the two countries. She points out that Americans are more open than their German counterparts and friendlier at the first encounter. They also don’t mind sharing personal information; whereas, Germans tend to keep such facts to themselves until the relationship has had time to solidify. As for education, she says, “We have more required classes in high school in Germany. Also, the schools are more separated. After fourth grade, your teacher advises you about the next school you should enter, where you will then stay until you graduate high school. High level academic students go to a university bound program.

Then there are those who go to a secondary school and then there’s another choice for others who are less academic-minded.” Witzel also notes that teachers here take more time and effort to ensure that students understand the material.

“That’s not the case in Germany,” she adds. The teen feels that her study abroad experience has been very valuable on many levels. “I’m much more confident speaking English,” she says. “I’ve made good friends. And I’ve learned a lot about American culture, which makes me understand it better.”

When she leaves the U.S. in late June, Witzel explains that she will truly miss the people she has met here, especially her host family. “They’ve been great,” she says. “They treat me like I’m one of their kids and have made me feel a part of their family.”

Rasmus Jorgensen, the other foreign exchange student at WHS, is from Thyboron, Denmark, a small fishing village with a population of about 3,000.

Originally, he was supposed to attend Aviation High School in Seattle, but an issue arose with his host family situation that altered these plans. “My host family had cats and I found out that I was very allergic to them,” explains Jorgensen. “I was temporarily sent to Bellingham where I stayed with two different families for two weeks before I was sent to Woodinville to live with the Berkey family. At first, the school wasn’t going to let me in because I was starting late, but they did.”

Jorgensen wasn’t too disappointed to learn that he would not be going to Aviation High School, despite his career plans to be an airline pilot.

“Woodinville offered lots of sports and activities that Aviation doesn’t,” he comments, “and I like sports and wanted to be involved in them while I was here.”

The teen adapted to his new surroundings relatively easily, but he admits that hearing English nonstop was like “being smacked in the face” in the beginning. After a while, though, his language skills improved and he no longer felt communication overload. His course load at school has included a variety of subjects including French, drama, English, U.S. history, precalculus and aerobics. Most challenging have been English and precalculus, but both have gotten more manageable during the course of the school year.

Drama has been one of his favorite classes, primarily because of the people involved in the acting program. “I have a ton of friends there, and it’s like being a part of a family,” he comments.

As for the teachers, Jorgensen notes that most are very passionate about teaching and care about their students. He adds, “But, they have a lot of control in the classroom, compared to teachers in Denmark. Here, the environment is more restricted and teachers have a lot of power. In Denmark, teachers are more on an even level with students.”

As for the students, the teen says that everyone has been friendly and outgoing, though he points to the tendency of people to stay on the “surface.” He explains: “They say ‘hi’ and ‘how are you?’ but then that’s it.”

He has also noticed that American teens are more modest about their bodies than their counterparts in Denmark. Playing sports has been one of the highlights of Jorgensen’s experience at WHS. He has been involved with both the cross-country and soccer teams. “We don’t have school sports in Denmark. If you want to play, you have to find a team outside of school. Here, there are tryouts and cuts and it’s very competitive, but I like it. I also like all the school spirit that the students show for their teams.”

Life in the U.S. has basically agreed with the teen, with the exception of Seattle’s rain and American food. He thinks there is too much fast food in this country and all of it is “awful!” Since he’s been here, Jorgensen has done some traveling around the state, as well as to California and Las Vegas. This isn’t his first time to the U.S., as five years ago, he and his family took a trip to the East Coast and Canada. Visiting a country as a tourist, though, provides a very different experience than actually living in it. “You really get to know the culture when you live in a place for a while,” comments Jorgensen. “You can understand why people do things, why they think and believe certain things. That’s why I feel that being a foreign exchange student is such a good opportunity. It’s a chance to see the world and open your mind.”

Tuition-based preschool/prekindergarten registration deadline nears

  • Written by Woodinville Weekly Staff

The registration deadline is May 1 for Northshore School District’s Tuition-Based Preschool/PreKindergarten programs which is accepting registrations for the 2013-14 school year. These programs, housed at Arrowhead and Hollywood Hill elementary schools, provide developmentally appropriate activities with a balance of art, music, science, math and fine and large motor skills. Preschool programs for three-year-olds are on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Pre-kindergarten programs for four-year-olds are on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.Both programs have morning and afternoon sessions available. Enrollment is limited.

For more information: Karlie Kirkham (425) 408-4628 for the programs housed at Arrowhead; for the programs housed at Hollywood Hills, call  Pamm Franzwa at (425) 408-4224. Additional information and registration forms:

Money and felines are focus of two exhibits at BAM

  • Written by Deborah Stone
“Maneki Neko: Japan’s Beckoning Cats – From Talisman to Pop Icon,” is a collection of over 150 examples of the proverbial fabricated cat.
Two unique new exhibits are currently making a splash at Bellevue Arts Museum.

The first, “Maneki Neko: Japan’s Beckoning Cats – From Talisman to Pop Icon,” is a collection of over 150 examples of the proverbial fabricated cat.

Long considered a good luck charm that brings good fortune to individuals and businesses, the beguiling cat with its upraised paw is a common sight in Japan, as well as in other parts of the world.

The collection on display at BAM was donated by Billie Moffitt to the Mingei International Museum in San Diego.

Moffitt’s passion for maneki neko began innocently enough more than 25 years ago when she received one of the figurines from her mother. Later, she encountered a group of fine porcelain maneki neko in an antique shop and it was love at first sight. She became an avid aficionado and collector and over the years amassed what is arguably the finest and most diverse collection of maneki neko outside of Japan.

The humble beckoning cat is part icon, part kitsch and part talisman. More than just a decorative sculpture, it is regarded as a special object possessing the power to fulfill wishes for prosperity, happiness, longevity and other expressions of well-being.

There are many legends about the origins of maneki neko. A popular one tells the story of a poor monk and his cat, named Tama, who lived at a small temple, where the Gotokuji Temple in Tokyo stands today. One day, a nobleman caught in a storm took shelter under a tree near the temple and spied a cat near the entrance, which appeared to be beckoning him to enter. He followed the cat and as he did, the tree he was standing under was struck by lightning. The man credited the cat with saving his life and as an expression of his gratitude, he became the temple’s patron, eventually bringing it great wealth and notoriety.

“Love Me Tender,” explores people’s obsession with money. Boggs_JSG - Affairs_Affair
When the cat died, it was buried in the temple’s cemetery and maneki neko sculptures were made in its honor. The collection on view at BAM consists of a variety of different pieces from the 19th and 20th centuries and features examples from most regions in Japan. The artful and enigmatic felines range in size and medium, from miniature to behemoth, and from simple carved stone and wood to ornately decorated porcelain figurines. Many were made by ancient kiln families in Japan; each known for its own unique style and technique.

The Hanamaki Kiln, for example, produced maneki neko with a more serious or somber appearance; a result of the deep purple coloring used by the potters and the dark shadows they created around the cats’ facial features. Those of the Shigaraki Kiln portray the cat’s face as more fox or dog-like with the ears situated far back on the head and face slightly outward.

The most iconic and recognizable version of the Japanese beckoning cat – chubby faced, large round eyes, perky ears and a rounded body – comes from the Tokoname Kiln. To celebrate the exhibition, BAM invited several contemporary Northwest artists to create their own interpretations of this Japanese folk art tradition. Working in a variety of media such as paper, clay, felt, steel and wood, the artists offer their whimsical takes on themes of cuteness, luck, cattiness and “kittyness.”

The second exhibit at BAM, “Love Me Tender,” explores people’s obsession with money –long-considered one of the most fetishized mediums in the world.

Over 25 contemporary artists from six countries use currency as an artistic form of expression to address cultural history and a variety of social issues. They exploit the physical beauty and imagery of monies from around the globe to explore such themes as social injustice, the erosion of cultural values, corporate greed and the American dream. The 90-plus pieces on display feature bills and coins that have been transformed into tapestries, paintings, photographs and sculptures. They employ imagery from history to pop culture, while utilizing an assortment of processes including painting, collage, weaving and soldering.

Featured artists include Yasumasa Morimura, Banksy, JSG Boggs, Scott Campbell, Mark Wagner, Stacey Lee Webber, Tahiti Pehrson, Oriane Stender and Daniel Carr, among others.

Though the work of these individuals is unique, the practice of embracing money as both subject and medium is not new. It’s an age-old phenomenon that dates back to at least the Renaissance times, where monetary symbols became mixed with religious iconography. In years past, a number of notable artists such as Andy Warhol and Marcel Duchamp explored the subject of currency in their work.

BAM’s exhibit contains many fascinating works that are approachable due to their playful quality, though at second glance, the visitor realizes they address more serious questions of value and values in society.

Tim O’Neill fashioned jewelry out of currency, silver, credit cards and USDA food stamps to create his “Financial Crisis Rings,” with labels like “Pyramid Scheme,” “Brother Can you Spare a Dime?” and “Let Them Eat Cake.”

Stacey Lee Webber honors the laborer and hard work with her “Craftsman Series,” containing items such as a saw, tape measure and full-size ladder, all made from coins.

Paper notes from around the world are stitched together on a frame to make Susan Stockwell’s “Money Dress,” which resembles an old-fashioned ball gown. In Robin Clark’s “Large Wall Group,” currency ink dust has been collected and put into glass test tubes which hang next to the remains of the scraped $1 bills that were utilized in the process. The viewer is left to contemplate a series of ghostly images and ethereal vestiges.

The artist’s “Tree 3,” also made with currency and currency dust, appears almost Impressionistic in style. “Dollar Bear,” by Johnny Swing, is exactly what it appears to be – a Teddy bear – that proverbial object of comfort and security – made entirely of stitched together dollar bills.

One of the more prolific artists in the show, Scott Campbell, draws largely from tattoo illustrations in his work. A well-known tattoo artist, Campbell spent six weeks documenting the tattoo culture within a maximum security Mexican prison. His pieces infuse images of Catholicism in the country, particularly that of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the symbol of all Catholic Mexicans.

Of special note is a piece, “Untitled,” that features a copper box containing a skull, complete with teeth, and covered with a shroud. The display is made entirely of uncut U.S. currency sheets that have been carved to resemble the aforementioned objects.

Grant Wood’s iconic, “American Gothic,” one of the most familiar (and most parodied) images in 20th century American art is depicted as a currency collage in Mark Wagner’s “Took for Granted.”

Nearby, is the artist’s mind-boggling “Liberty,” a reproduction of Frederic Auguste Bertholdi’s famous sculpture, “Liberty Enlightening the World.” Made of 81,895 pieces cut from 1,121 U.S. dollar bills, the work is astonishing in scope and detail, with elements of humor, beauty and spectacle. It addresses the pertinent issues of economics, civil liberties and American self-image.

Accompanying the collage is an archival trunk containing Wagner’s drawings, a time-lapse video, reference and organizational documents and the actual tools he used in the construction of “Liberty.”

The materials help provide insight into the artist’s unique process, serving as both educational and inspirational fodder for viewers.

It’s hard to miss the other large scale piece in the room, “Shredded Money,” by Sebastian Errazuriz and Thomas McDonell. It’s one of a series of ten sculptures that comprises the artists’ “Million Dollar Project.” Each of the pieces in the project were made from one million dollars’ worth of shredded U.S. currency, purchased by the artists from the U.S. Bureau of Printing and Engraving.

At the New York debut of the series, each piece was offered for sale at a daunting price of $100,000.

According to Errazuriz and McDonell, the proceeds from the sales were intended to allow them to “recover the hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in their art education and to palliate future unemployment.”

Both “Maneki Neko” and “Love Me Tender” are exciting new exhibits that are guaranteed to provide visitors with both visual and intellectual stimulation.

“Maneki Neko: Japan’s Beckoning Cats – From Talisman to Pop Icon” runs through August 4th and “Love Me Tender” runs through May 26 at Bellevue Arts Museum.

For more information: (425) 519-0770 or

Timbercrest students experience the gift of giving through soccer

  • Written by Deborah Stone
sierra Leone soccer players
Courtesy Photo Timbercrest Junior High teacher Audee Gregor wrote the following in regards to this picture:“I don’t have all the specifics on the picture other than this is an example of how powerful something as simple as a soccer ball can be in an impoverished country. This is a small village in Sierra Leone where the man in the back (Matt Raney with Adventure Soccer) threw out a soccer ball and instantly kids appeared from every corner of the village to come play.”
Timbercrest Junior High students are experiencing the gift of giving through a unique project that benefits youth on the other side of the globe — in Sierra Leone.

The Sierra Leone Soccer Project got started in December through a connection with Adventure Soccer and Timbercrest P.E. and health teacher, Brigitte Wheeler.

Wheeler is an advocate and volunteer with the nonprofit organization, which works to spread its message of hope to others through the game of soccer.

Founded in 2003 by Matt and Kymm Raney, the association holds skill-based soccer camps throughout the region to help build character, while emphasizing the importance of team play and sportsmanship.

The curriculum is rooted in Bible teachings.

Proceeds from the local camps are used to fund the couple’s ministry in Swaziland, Africa, which serves children who have been negatively impacted by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

The ministry operates a feeding station in Emkhuzweni, Swaziland, holds free outreach events for children in poor rural areas and supports The Sandra Lee Centre orphanage in Mbabane, Swaziland, in addition to other activities.

Matt approached Wheeler with an opportunity to support the youth and adult amputee soccer leagues in Sierra Leone as a friend to FC Seattle and Greatest Goal Ministries, both Seattle area nonprofits.

Sierra Leone Timbercrest
Courtesy Photo TJH students involved in the Sierra Leone Soccer Project include (back row from left to right): Bella Senturia, Naomi Hughes, Jordan Matthews, Olivia Banks; (front row from left to right): Alyne VanWinkle, Brooke Musburger, Ciara DeGraff, Mondona Behroozian
Wheeler brought the idea to Audee Gregor, another teacher at TJH.

Gregor, who has been at the school for five years and teaches 7th grade Washington State History, 9th grade Pre-AP World History and a Leadership class, was very excited about becoming involved with the project. She saw it as an ideal activity for her Leadership class students to spearhead.

In explaining the focus of the Leadership course, she says, “It’s a semester-long class where students learn, develop and hone leadership skills, characteristics and qualities. We use the ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens,’ by Sean Covey, as the backbone of the curriculum to help students develop those habits of successful teens and leaders.”

Gregor notes that students are involved in leadership roles within the school by holding fundraisers, working with ASB, putting on the Martin Luther King, Jr. and Veterans Day assemblies, encouraging school spirits and maintaining poster boards, among other activities.”

The original goal of the Sierra Leone Soccer Project was to outfit 15 to 20  teams in Sierra Leone with uniforms, shorts and socks.

For Timbercrest students, the objective was to show how it’s possible to support others in need with something as simple as secondhand or leftover uniforms and a soccer ball.

“We want our students to think bigger than themselves and that even though they are young, they can make a difference in our world,” comments Gregor.

The school began accepting donations of new or used soccer gear through its P.E. Department in early December.

Then the project expanded to accept monetary donations and to include fundraisers through the sale of Sierra Leone T-shirts.

Three students rallied support from outside sources: Olivia Banks reached out to UW and Lakeside FC, Maiya Boswell contacted Arch Bishop Murphy and Ciara DeGraff worked with Mt. Rainier FC. The response was overwhelming.

Thus far, 41 sets of jersey tops (a set can outfit a team of 20), 8 sets of shorts, 208 pairs of socks, 66 soccer balls, 183 pairs of cleats, 45 pairs of shin guards, miscellaneous keeper jerseys, keeper gloves, ball pumps, backpacks, ball bags, posters, sweatshirts and more have been collected.

About $1,200 has been raised through monetary donations and the sale of the T-shirts.

These funds will be used to purchase the additional items to round out the necessary supplies to completely outfit a team.

“We see this as an ongoing project,” says Gregor. “The Leadership class would like to pick it up again next year with new students and make it a tradition at Timbercrest.”

She notes that efforts are continuing throughout the remainder of the year through Adventure Soccer, and the school will continue to accept jersey donations through the P.E. Department.

The students will be able to see the direct responses to their efforts via pictures and videos that Matt Raney will supply once he has completed his trip to deliver the items.

Gregor views the project as a wonderful teaching tool.

She says, “Students learn empowerment to do something for someone that they never met. It allows them the joy of giving hope and life to a poverty stricken community through a sport that most love.”