#1StudentNWI: Portage High School kicks off fall festivities

#1StudentNWI: Portage High School kicks off fall festivities

What’s recently happened?

The 2023-2024 school year for Portage Township Schools (PTS) has officially started. Though there are a lot of changes happening throughout the district, the newest and biggest change resides in Portage High School (PHS). The Academic Resource Period (ARP) is now implemented into the school schedule. Similar to homeroom, students will report to their homeroom teacher and do daily activities while in the future ARP time will be used for so much more.

Students are hard at work catching up on their assignments during ARP time.

“The ultimate goal of ARP is to provide an extra layer of individualized emotional and academic support for students that they otherwise would not receive,” ARP Coordinator Marcia Hobart said. “My son also had a resource period at his high school, and I saw how many extra opportunities it provided for him. I then realized how much our students had to gain with this extra time.”

The ultimate goal for ARP is to help get students whatever they need for a successful quarter or semester. If a student needs more assistance with Algebra II, then during ARP they can receive that assistance. If a sports team needs to have a team meeting about an upcoming game, then the whole team can meet because ARP happens at the same time for all grade levels.

“Other than added instructional time or individual support from a teacher, coach, or sponsor, students can make up missed tests or quizzes, work on group projects—anything that can’t be accomplished during the regular class schedule,” Hobart said. “We will eventually get to a point where students select their own sessions to attend.  As long as students meet minimum grade requirements, they can pursue their interests by choosing to participate in sessions that offer “fun” activities, such as sports,  gaming sessions, cartoon drawing, poetry slams, yoga, playing/listening to music–it is limitless!” 

What’s coming up?

Homecoming at PHS is fastly approaching. The official Homecoming week is from September 18 - September 22, and the planning has already begun. The highly beloved parade is set to take place on September 20 at 6 p.m. down Airport Road and lead toward Lute Road. There will be various clubs, organizations, schools, sports teams and first responders marching with Portage pride as the 2023 PHS Football Team finishes off the parade with hope for a grand victory.

Portage football team getting ready for the second half of the game vs. Merrillville.

For some, the most exciting parts of homecoming don't even involve the game, but the Homecoming Queen nominations and campaigns. Each club and sport nominates one senior girl to represent the group. The twenty-two candidates were narrowed down to the top 8. Those 8 women will be in the parade and will have a week to campaign for the crown and title. The last day of voting will be on September 21 and the winner will be announced during the football game the following day.

The Saturday after the Homecoming game is the Homecoming dance. The dance will be held at PHS from 7:00 - 10:00 p.m. Students are very excited to attend and dance the night away after a week full of school spirit. As the past few weeks have gone by, many Homecoming proposals have taken place and the quest to find the perfect outfit has heads spinning. 

The homecoming game kicks off at 7:00 p.m. at PHS with homecoming festivities and performances for the entire community taking place at halftime. Tickets are $7.00 and can be purchased at the gate.

The students and staff are looking forward to a week of fun and school spirit!

Staff spotlight:

If you take a look inside the new Levenda Learning Lab on any given day, you’ll find PHS STEM teacher Dessa Kelley leading fun science experiments and lessons. Not only is Kelley one of the kindest people at PHS many students think she is the coolest science teacher around. Even though Kelley’s classroom is at PHS, she is not a typical high school science teacher. In fact, she doesn’t even teach high schoolers; she teaches elementary students instead. Kelley oversees the Levenda Learning Lab (L3), which is a multi-use learning space built with STEM activities in mind. 

Dessa Kelley enjoying her time while lakeside.

“I want kids to learn about science and technology, improve their group work and communication skills, and learn to ask more questions,” said Kelley. “Most of the time the activities  are hands-on learning.  We’ve made erosion tables, flown gliders, and modeled the water cycle.  But we also use technology!  We’ve coded silly stories and alphabet movies, we’ve simulated ecosystems, and we’ve tracked the movement of the sun.”

With the help of Kelley, students in elementary schools get to take field trips to the high school to learn more about science and technology and how the world revolves around it. Throughout her entire educational career, Kelley has always taught science in an engaging activity-styled manner. Kelley makes sure that all students have a great experience while learning something new because having fun is part of the experience. 

“I think it’s so important for kids to be engaged in their learning, and when they are engaged and interested, it is connected in their brain,” said Kelley. “Having fun is certainly one avenue for that, but another one is helping kids know why they’re learning, what they’re learning and why it’s important for what they need to know.”

When Kelley is outside of the L3 classroom, she can be seen cheering on her kids while they play sports, and relaxing by the beach or pool. Though she isn’t the biggest fan of coffee, she is a big fan of the ice water from Starbucks. Kelley claims it’s magical in all ways.

Student spotlight:

It takes time and energy to be a student athlete at PHS, but all that time and energy doubles when also being dedicated to band. That is the life of Timmy Brewster, captain of the boys tennis team and first chair trombone player in the Wind Ensemble. Although some would crumble under the stress of being an involved student, Brewster’s methods to balance are key to a productive day.

Brewster serving up the heat on the tennis courts.

“I try to portion out my day,” said Brewster. “I usually leave school related things during the school day. Whenever I have extra time I go to the band room and practice whatever music we are playing at the time, whether it be for a concert band, jazz band, or pit orchestra. After school is for sports, practices, games, lessons, etc. I also allow time for rest and recovery at the end of my days so I'm ready to be productive the next day.”

Brewster’s afternoons during the summertime and fall are dedicated to the tennis season, where he takes his role as a team captain very seriously, but always makes sure his teammates have a good time during practices and matches. Brewster’s leadership style is a good mix of laughter and empowerment.

“I take my role seriously, " said Brewster. “I feel like it is my job to keep everyone motivated and help them stay at their best. I want my team to be able to look up to me and come to me if they need any help or are having any trouble, even outside of the tennis courts. There are times where we have a rough practice or game, and I want everyone to know that that's okay and a part of the process.” 

Throughout the day, Brewster is constantly listening to all types of music, as he claims it can sometimes even control his mood for the day. Brewster has an appreciation for all types of genres and artists like Elton John, Led Zeppelin, jazz music and performance styles. He currently holds the position of first chair in the top band at PHS and continuously pushes himself to be the best he can be. His bright spirit and positive attitude towards music makes it a better place too. 

“My favorite part of band is definitely the feeling of being a family,” Brewster said. “Everyone knows each other, nobody judges anyone, and everyones very accepting of everyone.” 

The singular band class is not the only band class Brewster is taking during his senior year. The PHS Jazz Band has gained Brewster as their newest addition to the trombone section and it doesn’t stop there. The Big Red Basketball Band (Pep Band) and pit orchestra have the privilege of Brewster joining their groups.

“I enjoy the atmosphere of Pep Band the most. When it's a close game and we have the impact of throwing off the other team or helping out on our own is amazing,” Brewster said. “I decided to join the pit band for the challenge. I knew it wasn’t going to be like concert band, and I wanted to use it as an opportunity to become a better player. I will 100% do it again this year. Besides the getting better point, it was honestly a great time learning all the music and hanging out with the same people so much. It was very fun and I would recommend it to anyone that gets the chance.”

There is nobody at PHS that is more dedicated to their in and out-of-school activities. If Brewster does find some free time for himself, he will most likely be working on cars, hanging out with family, eating chicken wings, or cheering on the Chicago Bears. In the future, Brewster would like to travel back to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, but as of now, Portage residents can find him in the Wind Ensemble and on the tennis courts.