#1StudentNWI: Portage High School settles in for upcoming second half of the school year

#1StudentNWI: Portage High School settles in for upcoming second half of the school year

What’s recently happened?

Portage High School (PHS) students have completed their first semester of the school year and are looking forward to jumping into the second semester. For many students, the second semester resets their minds and challenges them in new ways to push themselves academically toward the finish line in May. 

One thing that keeps students interested throughout the semester is the opportunity to enroll in new classes. These classes can range from an art class to an English class, all for students to choose in order to direct them toward deciding what they want to do in life. 

These second-semester classes can even count toward college credit. The Advanced Speech and Communication Honors course counts as Dual Credit through Indiana University and is a great way for students to get an early start on credits for college. Students enrolled will have to publicly speak on their topic of choice multiple times throughout the semester and will have to quickly react and answer questions asked by their fellow students after the speech.  

Those interested in criminal justice can sign up for Crimes of the 20th Century. The course will take students through the Holocaust and two world wars amongst other events. The goal is to learn why these events happened and how to learn from them. The project-based class has been hugely popular and spots for the second semester are filling up quickly. 

Students interested in tickling the ivories can enroll in Piano and Electronic Keyboarding. This class will help students develop specific performance skills to improve their piano-playing abilities. This class culminates with a piano recital at the end of the semester. 

With so many classes to choose from and more coming next year, there is sure to be something to interest everyone at PHS.

What’s coming up?

The highly anticipated PHS Winter Formal is right around the corner. On February 10, students will again dress to impress for an evening at Duneland Falls Banquet Center that is sure to be remembered. Students interested in attending will have to fill out the Google Form sent out on January 19 regarding their interest, and tickets will first be sold to these 600 students. 

Before everyone jumps to their feet in excitement, there is a slight catch as to who can attend this year’s event. Students can only have 50 tardies or absences to be eligible to attend. They can also not be on social suspension or have any type of discipline issues that would prohibit their attendance as well. 

“This will be my 10th year planning winter formal,” said Student Council Sponsor Katerina Koutouvas Stam. “Every year has had its difficulties and has been a lot of work, but honestly, when I get to see all of our students having a wonderful time it makes everything worth it. This is one of the last real winter events to take us to spring, but as a teacher who has attended most of the dances, it is one of my favorite parts of this job. You get to see kids in a different element.”

Staff spotlight:

PHS alumnus Scott Hufford still makes his mark in the community to this day. He currently serves as the Principal of Crisman Elementary School and continues to make the city a place filled with Portage spirit.

Hufford grew up in Portage and has spent his life living, working, and raising his family there. He has four grown sons, Tyler, Trevor, Bryce, and Blake, all PHS graduates. His wife, Beth, is a third-grade teacher at Jones Elementary School. He also has two dogs, Asics and Ranger. 

Since beginning his teaching career at the high school as a biology teacher in 1992, he has climbed the educational ladder serving as an assistant principal at Fegely Middle School for five years before landing at his current role of elementary school principal in 2010. Throughout this journey, there have been many influential people in his life who have served as role models for him. 

“I have had lots of role models over the years,” said Hufford. “Former PTS educators made a huge impact on me, some of those are Dave Baker, Jim Samuel, Caren Swickard, Mary Tracy, Mike Berta, and Dr. Frattacia. There are many current PTS teachers and administrators who I still learn from every day.”

During his years as a student at PHS, Hufford was involved in athletics, running cross country for all four years. Once he graduated from high school, Hufford attended Washington University in St. Louis, getting his degree in biology. It was there that he signed up for an elective that allowed him to be in a high school biology classroom assisting students with the class. There, he realized he enjoyed helping students and set on the journey to become a teacher. He later received his teaching license from Valparaiso University and his administrative license from Indiana State University.

“I enjoy helping students, teachers, and families to work together so that students learn and grow,” said Hufford. “It is fun watching students develop from kindergarten through fifth grade, and then seeing them return as young adults years later.” 

The Huffords spend much of their free time at their church and being physically active. At Liberty Bible Church in Valpo, they work with the youth group and also teach in the children's classes. Hufford is also involved in a men's group at Liberty. The Huffords enjoy hiking and running local trails. Despite not having a bucket list of items to check off, Hufford enjoys visiting beaches and national parks with his wife and family.

“I have been to about 25 of the 62 and hope to go to more. I also enjoy sports and hope to attend games in new cities and arenas with my four boys. I don't have a favorite city but like to travel to new places in the United States,” Hufford said.

Hufford has never been a coffee drinker but his favorite meal would most definitely include a Ribeye steak. When choosing a genre of music, Hufford would most likely be found listening to 80s Rock, Country, or Christian Rock. Another interesting fact about Hufford is that he is afraid of heights.

Student spotlight:

Look out world; Jacklyn Wozniak is diving in head first and there’s no stopping her. This senior is not only breaking boundaries in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) field but is also president of National Honor Society (NHS) and captain of the Girls Varsity Swimming team. She does it all with a smile on her face.

Photo Credit: Captures by Kira

Wozniak’s love of the STEM field roots from playing with Legos and helping her dad with projects while growing up. Later on in middle school, the engineering-based class Project Lead the Way (PLTW) taught Wozniak how to code and build real robots. Since then, her dream of becoming an engineer has grown immensely. To further her studies, Wozniak takes time to be the Journaler on the Porta-Botz 2567B - Big Brained Robotics Team, where she has been a member for five years. 

Though typically the STEM field is male-dominated, Wozniak does not let that discourage her whatsoever, but it empowers her to be the most genuine, STEM-loving version of herself. She hopes she can be an encouragement to other women who have been scared in the past to join the STEM spaces. 

“Don't be afraid to be assertive,” said Wozniak. “For the most part, STEM spaces are a lot less toxic for women now, but you have to learn how to stand up for yourself. If you want to be involved fully with STEM, you have to be assertive, bossy even. You probably won't be the most popular girl in the room, but you will get chances to work on projects, rather than just getting pushed aside by the other guys in the room. Don't be afraid to be the bossy girl they will label you as, and don't be ashamed of being loud and assertive.”

The winter season for Wozniak means swimming season. She is considered a distance swimmer, so the 500-yard freestyle and the 200-yard freestyle are her go-to events. Most swimmers do not like the 500-yard events but it’s Wozniak’s favorite because the most peaceful seven minutes of her life since the only thing she has to worry about is swimming fast. Although morning and afternoon practice can seem like a lot, Wozniak found her teammates to be the funniest and most uplifting people to have by her side. As one of the senior captains this season, Wozniak tries to emulate that uplifting spirit for all her teammates and it is apparent that she is an effective captain.  

“I've tried to help our new swimmers adjust to the sport, as well as keep up our team traditions,” said Wozinak. “I cheer for everyone during their races and give out hugs frequently throughout our meets. I hope that the younger swimmers can see me as someone they can come to when they need help and a good friend to my fellow upperclassmen. I really do feel like swimming is a family, and this year I get to play the role of mom.”

Looking back on her high school career, Wozniak advises students to surround themselves with the people they can be the most comfortable with. For her, being with people who can eat Irish nachos from Schoops and sing Taylor Swift constantly is more important than popularity. 

“Do it all. Get involved, make friends, and don't be scared to push yourself,” said Wozniak. “I've been able to have a lot of amazing experiences through swimming, NHS, and robotics, as well as make some great friends. Don't let honors classes and their course loads scare you either because at the end of the year, you're going to be grateful for everything you've learned. Doing the hard thing is hard, but it's also rewarding.”

As Wozniak wraps up her busy senior year, she lives out her days as a lyric by Prince: ”Let’s go crazy.”