Remembering Rosa Parks With Unity Walk

The 60th anniversary of Rosa Parks' historic bus ride is coming up onDecember 1st. To mark the occasion Topeka Public Schools recently held Unity Walks for our students and staff.

Now is your opportunity to participate in a Unity Walk! This Friday, October 2nd at 5:30 pm, a community Unity Walk will begin at Great Overland Station. Participants will walk across the Kansas Avenue bridge, arriving in NOTO where they can enjoy entertainment, food trucks, activities and an art gallery exhibit.
All are welcome to join this event to remember the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement, Rosa Parks.

Cyclist Rides to Robinson Middle School

Throughout their years in school, TPS students will inevitably listen to many guest speakers. However, few have stories quite as exciting as Chris Figureida’s. A professional adventurer, Chris stopped in at Robinson Middle School yesterday to talk to the students about his travels around the world. He is currently on his seventh trek across the country on his bicycle, and he took time out of his journey to speak to the kids about making healthy choices in their lives.

Having... cycled over 30,000 miles in the United States alone means Chris has seen his fair share of inclement weather. His adventures have included cycling just outside Greensburg, Kansas, during the 2007 tornado, pushing his bike through mud during Hurricane Irene, and biking through a blizzard in Alaska. His longest journey was when he biked from the lowest sea level point in North America-- Death Valley, CA-- to Mount Denali in Alaska (the highest point on the continent), which he then climbed. Upon his decent, he mounted his bike and rode back to California. The trip spanned 7,700 miles and took five months.

Chris also showed the students his high-tech gear, including a solar panel that he uses to charge all of his electronic devices. He also carries a GPS and a tracking device in case of an emergency. Though Rotary members often host him in their homes during his travels, he frequently camps out in a tent as he makes his way across the US. He showed the students his lightweight, state-of-the-art camping equipment, all of which folds up or compresses to make it easier to carry on his bike.

In addition to telling the students about his experiences, Chris also told them the many ways he uses math, science and technology when he’s riding. From calculating his mileage and routes, to working with the gears on his bike, to utilizing the latest gadgets, Chris is always using the skills he learned in school.
The kids loved hearing about Chris’s fantastic journeys and had lots of questions for the adventurer. We hope they were inspired to partner their knowledge with physical activity in their own lives.

Ross Students Get Hair Cuts

Ross Elementary’s 5th grade boys recently got the opportunity to read to guests and get spiffy, new haircuts at the same time.
Thanks to the efforts of Ross’s Community Liaison Timothy Smith, the boys were treated to a visit by five local barbers. The barbers volunteered their time to give haircuts to the young men in exchange for a story. While the boys read, the barbers went to work, trimming and cutting each child’s hair.
One of the stylists was Wanda Collins, owner of Center Stage barber shop. With nine years of experience, Wanda is a pro who loves working with kids. “Kids are very talkative and they ask a lot of questions, so I love to work with them,” she said.
The event was a fun and different way for the boys to practice their reading skills. “We’re always trying to find different educational experiences for our kids. Some of the things that we have to do in school can get a bit stale, so anytime we can think outside the box and provide a different experience for our kids, we’re open to that,” Smith said.
Not only did the boys get their hair cut, they also got to see that folks in their community care about them. Smith noted, “We have a fabulous staff here at Ross and they work extremely hard to help the kids achieve their academic benchmarks, but any time we can get community stakeholders to come inside the school, it’s a win-win situation. We have people in Topeka that care about the children growing up here and want to give something back to them.”

Thank you to the barbers who volunteered their time this morning!

Students Help Fight Cancer

Students at French Middle School are doing their part to raise money for children and families dealing with childhood cancer.

We caught up with several students at last night’s French MS volleyball game, where they were selling candy apples to raise money. Serenity Meyer, one of the students who organized the fundraiser, said the kids in her Advisor Base (AB) came up with the idea. “We saw a video on YouTube and thought it was really sad that kids
with childhood cancer sometimes die, so we thought if we could make a difference it would be better. We started selling cookies and chocolate bars and sodas at school games.” So far, the students have raised over $100.
Serenity was assisted at last night’s game by Gage Bermauer, Jayvian Jones and Kathryn Dugan. Mrs. Downs, French science teacher and the students’ AB teacher, said she and the kids worked as a team to gather the supplies and coordinate the sales. Other students have participated in food sales at other games.

The money raised will go to the Love,Chloe Foundation, which assists students who miss school due to cancer and helps fund research to find a cure.

Way to go, Falcons!

WU Athletes Visit Sheldon

The students at Sheldon Child Development Center received a visit from Washburn University students this morning. Members of the Washburn men's and women's basketball teams stopped by to read to the youngsters. The little ones loved having guests in their classroom and listened eagerly as the college students read them several books.

Thank you to Tyas Martin, Tom Huppy, Felisha Gibbs, Jada Lynch and Erin Dohnalek for taking time out of your busy day to spend time with our Sheldon friends!

Fun at Family Fitness Night

The 6th annual Family Fitness Fun Night at Hummer Sports Park was another huge success.  The event focuses on fun, healthy activities for students, staff and their families.  Each school had an activity for kids. Local organizations had tables set up to provide information about healthy living. Highland Park High, Topeka High and Topeka West students showed off their dance steps, their drum playing and cheer leading. Everyone had a great time and we are looking forward to next year's event.

Freedom Week March

Students throughout Topeka Public Schools celebrated Freedom Week and Constitution Day the week of September 14-18.   A great deal of the emphasis was on the life of Rosa Parks.  It was 60 years ago that Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

On Friday of that week, students either marched around their school or to a nearby location as part of the week activities.  Quincy Elementary students made signs and marched from their school to NOTO.  Students also went from room to room to see the activities each class had participated in during
the week.

ELL Students Hear From Author

Author, educator, activist and motivational speaker Reyna Grande was in town recently to discuss her award-winning book, “The Distance Between Us” at Washburn University. While in town, she stopped by Topeka High School to meet and talk with the school’s English Language Learners, or ELL students. Over pizza, she shared with them her own immigrant experience in the U.S.

“It’s a way to use my story to inspire them and to give them a little bit of guidance because they’re going through the things that I went through. I want to let them know that they’re not alone in their struggle, that there is hope, and with hard work and perseverance they’re going to get ahead in life and really learn the way of life here,” she said.

Rayna’s book, “The Distance Between Us,” documents her immigration from Iguala, Mexico to the United States to seek a better future, and the harrowing journey behind it. Iguala, in the Mexican state of Guerrero, is where 43 students, on September 26, 2014, were kidnapped and presumed killed sparking massive national and international outcries of Mexican government involvement.

In her book, Grande paints a vivid picture of loss, poverty, and the will to survive, to make her way to “el otro lado,” or “the other side,” referencing the United States. The inspirational memoir gives insight into the hot button topic of immigration. The Los Angeles Times hailed it as “the ‘Angela’s Ashes’ of the modern Mexican immigrant experience.” The THS students were given a copy of her book as a gift from the Tonantzin Society.
In addition to Grande visiting Topeka High, there was also a college fair held at the high school to encourage Latino students to pursue higher education. Representatives from Washburn University Multi Cultural Affairs, Kansas State University Ethnic Studies, Kansas University Latin American Studies Outreach and University of Missouri Kansas City Latin Studies were all in attendance.

Sponsors for these events were AT&T of Kansas and Washburn Multi Cultural Affairs. For more information on this inspirational Latina author visiting Topeka for the Tonantzin Society's Hispanic Heritage Month event, go

Region 2 Kansas Teacher of the Year

The Region 2 Kansas Teacher of the Year Banquet was held yesterday in Topeka.  Region 2 includes most of northeast Kansas.  Elementary and secondary teachers were selected by school districts in region 2 as their KTOY nominee.  Representing Topeka Public Schools in the elementary category was Pat Nash, a physical education teacher at Scott Dual Language Magnet School.  Topeka High special education teacher Erich Singer was the district’s secondary category nominee. 

Selected as region 2 finalists for the 2016 Kansas Teacher of the Year award were Jolene Pennington, a fifth grade teacher in Paola and Lucinda Crenshaw, a seventh grade science teacher in Lawrence.  The Kansas Teacher of the Year will be named in Wichita in November.

HPC and Capitol Federal Continue Long Partnership

For the nineteenth year in a row, Capitol Federal has signed on to provide volunteers to Highland Park Central Elementary School.

The volunteers have been coming to the school regularly for nearly two decades to help out around the building and work with students. This year they will also begin a lunch reading program with the kids.
Capitol Federal president and CEO John Dicus was on hand recently to officially sign the agreement with Highland Park Central. Dicus and HPC principal Kelley Norman spoke to a group of third graders about the partnership and what it would mean for the students. Also in attendance was a group of five Capitol Federal volunteers who came to meet the students and kick of the 19th year of volunteer work with the school.

Thank you to Mr. Dicus and the volunteers who offer their time to our students!

Lions Club Members Give Books to Youngsters

Members of the Sunflower Lions Club of Topeka celebrated Children’s Dignity Week by donating books to Pine Ridge Prep.  The pre-school students at Pine Ridge got to select a book to take home with them.  There were books in English and Spanish. 

Bobby Duvall of the Sunflower Lions Club said Children’s Dignity Week brings Lions from around the world together to share in service activities that promote the dignity of the most vulnerable members of society, children.

At a later date, Lions Club members will return to Pine Ridge to give vision tests to the youngsters.

ROTC Building Name Honors Topeka West Graduate

Many heroes emerged after the events that took place on September 11, 2001, and one of those heroes was honored at a recent school board meeting.
Kyle Thomas was a 1998 graduate of Topeka West High School. Inspired to serve his country in the wake of the terrorist attacks, he enlisted in the Army. Sadly, he was killed by an improvised explosive device near Tikrit, Iraq on September 25th, 2003.

When TWHS JROTC officers were notified that Ft. Riley would be donating a building to their school’s program, they decided to honor Kyle by naming it after him. At the school board meeting, with his parents in attendance, the building was officially named the Specialist Kyle G. Thomas Leadership Education Training Center by the Topeka Public Schools Board of Education.
Topeka West Senior Army Instructor LTC Richard Hodgson said, “While I didn’t know him, by all accounts from the teachers who remember him, Kyle was an exceptional young man in all respects. He lettered in several sports and was also very active in industrial arts, stage craft and dance. There are still several teachers here who knew him well and, without exception, they all tell me he exemplified the qualities of a leader and good citizen we try to instill in our young men and women in the JROTC program. I feel naming the JROTC building in his honor is very appropriate.”

Kyle Thomas was a true American hero and Topeka Public Schools is proud to call him one of our own.

Purple With a Purpose

The Capital City got a bit of a spruce-up, thanks to the elbow grease of about 75 TWHS students.
The T-West student body was recently treated to an assembly led by Greg Tehven. Tehven is the co-founder of Students Today Leaders Forever, a national non-profit that has hosted 25,000 students to serve 336,000 hours of community service across the U.S. He believes that students have the power to create the communities they want to live in and encouraged the students atTopeka West to become active in their community.

Following the assembly, about 75 Chargers boarded busses and headed for Wanamaker. There, they split up into teams to pick up litter from one of Topeka’s busiest thoroughfares. Paper scraps, discarded cups and even wayward hubcaps made their way into the students’ large trash bags. Despite the messy work—not to mention the heat and humidity—the kids were upbeat and cheerful as they made their way up and down Wanamaker.
The kids had a great time helping out their community and our city shines a little brighter today because of them. Way to go, Chargers!!

TPS Foundation Honors Security Benefit

The Topeka Public Schools Foundation held its annual community breakfast at the Ramada Inn Downtown this morning.  Foundation Executive Director Pamela Johnson-Betts bestowed the foundation’s Patron Award to Michael Kiley of Security Benefit.  The Topeka-based company has been an active partner with the TPS Foundation for many years. 

Johnson-Betts thanked community members for supporting the foundation and its goal of providing educational opportunities for students for educational projects not funded by the school district budget.

Those attending the foundation breakfast also heard
from Superintendent Dr. Julie Ford about the recent accomplishments of Topeka Public Schools.

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