Monday, July 19, 2010

Sandpoint Teens Raise Money for Mission Work in Uganda

Sandpoint High School students Aubrie Perry and Bailey Scrimsher, both 15, have a plan. A very expensive plan.

Their families each sponsor a child from Uganda through International Children’s Network and both girls would like to travel to visit their sponsored child as well as participate in mission work.

The cost of the two- to three-week trip? Approximately $3,000 each. But that is not deterring these girls from doing all they can to achieve their goal.

“I did a bake sale when we had our yard sale,” said Scrimsher. “I made $80, but a lot of that was just donations.”

A couple of months ago the girls brainstormed and came up with the idea of putting on a week long day camp for girls.

“My parents then came up with the idea of making it an educational camp because parents like that,” said Perry.

So they went to work designing and printing their own colorful brochures for Camp Fun ‘n The Sun, which took place the week of July 5.

The result? After expenses, the girls each earned approximately $400 and will put that money toward their trip, which they hope to take next summer.

The girls worked hard planning various lessons and crafts for each day of camp and carefully shopped for supplies so they could maximize their profit.

“Our moms were a big help,” said Scrimsher.

With a different theme and an average of 10 campers each day, the girls had to carefully plan their activities for the five hours the kids were in their care.

“We did not want them running around in circles. We wanted them to be safe,” said Scrimsher.

The first day was eco-friendly day. The girls instructed and assisted the campers on how to make pine cone bird feeders and they each decorated an aluminum water bottle that they could use throughout the week.

“That way they didn’t have to use paper cups the whole week,” said Perry, emphasizing that the project was in line with the lesson on conservation.

When researching their lesson plans for the week, the girls relied heavily on the Internet and the video sharing website You Tube.

“It is so nice to actually see how it (the crafts) all is done,” said Scrimsher.

The second day was spa day where the campers learned how to make their own scrub using sugar and baby oil and Scrimsher massaged each of the girls’ feet while Perry painted their toenails and fingernails.

“They kept telling us they felt so spoiled,” said Perry.

On Wednesday, the teens introduced a unit on nutrition. Each of the girls received an apron which they decorated, and made homemade granola and pretzels.

“We showed them it is better to make your own food so you know what is going in it,” said Scrimsher.

“It also showed them that things that taste good are still good for you,” adds Perry.

On science day the girls led the campers in experiments crafting volcanoes out of clay and then using baking soda and vinegar to simulate a volcanic eruption.

The week culminated with water day on Friday where the kids decorated their own fish bowl and each was given a goldfish to take home.

Lunch was also provided by the girls who gave the kids a choice of peanut butter and jelly or a turkey sandwich in addition to a cheese stick, fruit and drink.

Scrimsher said the most challenging aspect of the experience was organizing and purchasing all the things needed for the various activities throughout the week.

“But then you see all our hard work pay off and it is worth it,” said Perry. “The pros definitely outweigh the cons,” adds Scrimsher.

One of the most rewarding aspects was to see how some of the more shy kids were able to make new friends.

The girls said they hope to travel to Uganda with their mothers next summer, but if that doesn’t work out, they will go not it will be sometime before they graduate in 2013.

While in Uganda, Scrimsher would like to help out at a medical clinic. Perry said she would like to interview some of the kids, take their picture and put together the information packets to share with families back home.

“I really want to help the kids get sponsors,” said Perry.

But whether they travel to Uganda next summer or later, they plan to host the camp again next summer.

“We’re hoping next year will be bigger and better,” said Scrimsher, who adds that she is hopeful this will also help land some babysitting jobs.

“It’s really hard work, but it all pays off in the end,” said Perry.

Economic Downturn Gives Sandpoint a Chance to Plan for Next Growth Spurt

It appears there is an upside to the downturn in the economy after all. According to Sandpoint’s city planner Jeremy Grimm the lull in growth has allowed the city and its citizens to work diligently on its comprehensive plan – a map that will help steer Sandpoint’s development and growth for the next 20 years.

“It (the economic slowdown) has been a perfect storm in a good way for us,” said Grimm, adding that the plan is in response to the rapid growth experienced earlier this decade. “It allows us to prepare ourselves for the next wave of growth.”

The last time Sandpoint’s government prepared a comprehensive plan was 1977. But since Grimm was hired in the spring of 2007, his primary focus has been on working with the community to develop a plan that will take the city through the next two decades.

Grimm and his committee sought input from a large cross section of the community through many different approaches – large public meetings, surveys, and being present at many community events such as the Bonner County Fair and the Festival at Sandpoint.

“It (the rapid growth) really woke people up,” said Grimm, adding that the result was additional funds being allocated for various plans including the Urban Area Transportation Plan, a Parks and Trails Plan and a Comprehensive Plan.

The comprehensive plan was presented to the Sandpoint City Council in the spring of 2009 and after a total of 23 meetings and workshops, the council unanimously adopted it in February 2009.

The 122-page document addresses several topics including property rights, school facilities and transportation, land use, population, economic development, natural resources, public services, facilities and utilities, recreation and housing.

“But the zoning is really where the rubber meets the road,” said Grimm.

According to Grimm, back in the 1920s the Supreme Court granted cities the power to protect its citizens’ health, safety and welfare.

“Welfare has been interpreted by the courts to also mean the character of a community,” said Grimm.

The previous zoning laws did little to ensure consistency with the comprehensive plan, said Grimm. But parking lots, landscaping, residential space and building height were all part of what he and others deemed important to ensure that the Sandpoint area became a desirable place to live and visit.

“My charge was to bring to the planning commission the skeletal framework (of the plan),” said Grimm.

From there the commission used its own personal knowledge of the community, its history and desires for the future to fine tune the plan. Grimm provided the research on various codes throughout the country which had resulted in the type of community Sandpoint strives for.

“We had at least 10 public meetings on the development of the commercial code,” said Grimm.

In a meeting last month, the city council passed the first part of the zoning revisions that were addressed in the comprehensive plan – the commercial zoning laws.

The language of the new law was an effort to strike a balance between bringing incentives to downtown developers as well as ensuring the city did not over regulate growth.

In an effort to bring more residential properties to the downtown corridor, the new zoning law allows for buildings up to 65 feet high so long as at least 50 percent of the structure above 35 feet is devoted to residential use.

Also, all buildings must be capable of accommodating a second floor. Therefore, if a new structure is built as a single story, its walls and infrastructure must be such that it can accommodate an additional story in the future.

Grimm said it was the goal of the comprehensive plan to make Sandpoint unique among other western mountain towns and to make Sandpoint a place where people can walk to work, church or to do their shopping.

He said several areas, such as Hayden, have several strip malls and big box stores. Sandpoint residents want something different.

“We are trying to make our commercial areas attractive and a place where people want to be,” said Grimm.

Under the new zoning law, parking may not be built in front of new structures; instead it must be built either behind or on the side of a new building thereby allowing passers-by to enjoy a window shopping view. Buildings must be up against the lot line with the exception of public art or a civic area – a place where people can congregate and relax on a bench or enjoy a cup of coffee – between the building and the sidewalk or street.

Grimm said that if they prove to be highly successful with their plan, the result will be a desirable place to live, work and play.

“The challenge then becomes affordability,” said Grimm. “We have to be vigilant to be sure it does not become a playground for only the wealthy.”

But even after three years, Grimm said there is still much work to be done. “We have another year worth of code reform and regulatory development.”

Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center Honors WWII era Women Pilots

Ask anyone what role women played during World War II and the answer is likely to be that their jobs were diverse – working in factories, providing support for the soldiers, and some serving as nurses on the front lines. But chances are no one will tell you that civilian women served as pilots flying military aircraft for the United States Army Air Forces.

More than 1,000 women were trained as aviation cadets, which enabled the male pilots to serve where they were needed most – in combat. The women were civilians who received approximately 27 weeks of training. And their role, which included flying over 60 million miles in fighter, bomber, transport and training aircraft, was equally important.

Known as the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), it is said that the group helped pave the way for women to serve as military pilots today. But the women were never recognized for their contributions to World War II.

In fact, it was not until 1977 that the women were granted veteran status. And when 38 of the 1,074 women pilots lost their lives while defending their country, their bodies were flown home in poorly made pine caskets and the funerals were paid for by their friends and families, not the government. None of the families received an American flag.

After the WASPs were disbanded in December 1944, the women’s military records were sealed and labeled secret – keeping them out of the reach of historians. But in the 1980s the records were declassified and people began to learn more about these heroes in American history.

On Saturday these women will be honored in a special tribute hosted by the Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center in Sagle, just south of Sandpoint. The event, Women of Courage 2010, is open to the public. More than 20 of the nearly 300 still-living women pilots from World War II will be on hand to share their stories of overcoming gender bias to serve their county.

Pamela Bird, of the Bird museum, said she first learned of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots when a former FAA helicopter pilot visited the museum last fall.

“He asked me, had I ever thought about having an event for the WASPs?” Bird recalled. “I responded that I had not as I didn’t know much about them.”

Coincidentally, Bird met two of the women who had served with WASPs. One, Alyce Rohrer, got her pilot’s license in the early 1940s before receiving her driver’s license.

“She wanted to serve her country in a special way and do something she was great at, and that was flying,” said Bird. “She wanted to be a fly girl and ferry and transport every type of plane the military flew all over the world to the fighter pilots so their time would be freed up to do their job. When the recruiter came along, she signed up and was on her way to serve her country.”

One woman, Betty Jo Streff Reed, writes in her biography that she was barely out of high school when she began to take flying lessons. Of the $18 weekly paycheck she received from working at the Marshall Field department store in Chicago, Reed devoted one half to her flying lessons. After joining the WASPs, Reed writes, she helped pay for the bodies of her 38 fallen comrades to be sent home since the government would not.

“We marched everywhere, we did calisthenics, aerobatics, and all the things the boys did – except for combat training,” writes Reed. “I would have gone into combat though. We were so proud of our country, and we were going to do what was right.”

Mary Ann Martin Wyall writes in her biography that people are now more aware than ever of the important role she and her colleagues played in America’s history.

“Our senior years have enhanced our reputation as true pioneers of women in military aviation,” said Wyall. “The generation of women now in the military realize what the WASP program accomplished in order for them to become part of military aviation in all branches of military service.”

The more Bird learned about these women, the more she wanted to do something to honor them.

“There are less than 300 alive in history. Two have passed away within the last 10 days,” said Bird. “It is time to do something to educate those of today so history won’t be lost, as well as to honor, to thank in a proper way these incredible ladies who have changed history forever.”

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Washington Elementary Students Get Art Lesson From Resident Artist

With budget cuts being a predominant theme in schools, an art program can often be one of the first things to be dropped from the curriculum.

But thanks to Sandpoint’s Arts Alliance, a nonprofit organization formed in 2006 and devoted to providing arts education, artist services and advocacy, students at Sandpoint’s Washington Elementary School were able to receive instruction from a professional artist over the last several months. The end result? A piece of public art for the entire community to enjoy.

The alliance’s Artists in Residence Program allowed nearly 100 fourth- and fifth-grade students to work with a local artist to create a public mosaic mural, the theme of which was “Protecting Our Local Waters.” Students crafted handmade ceramic relief pieces in the form of plants, bugs, animals and plankton, which were then incorporated into a ceramic tile mosaic mural on the side of the school.

Lizzy Hughes, the executive director of the Arts Alliance, said the program is intended to teach students the manner in which a piece is created.

“It focuses on the process more than the product,” said Hughes.

When planning this year’s artist in residence project, Hughes said she wanted to ensure that the Arts Alliance worked closely with the schools to integrate the project with their curriculum.

“It gives them (the students) a more well-rounded understanding of their subject matter,” said Hughes. “And I really wanted to make sure that we did a project that was either environmental or social justice oriented so the students have a better understanding of caring for their environment.”

Teacher Sally Loveless said that the fifth-grade students do a project each year called Waterfest, which teaches them about water and various habitats. It provided a perfect opportunity for kids to incorporate what they learned in their classroom with the art project.

“Being able to do art once a week was phenomenal,” said teacher Ellen Darling, adding that it was amazing to see the process go from a pencil sketch to a beautiful mosaic mural.

For the past several months local artist Lynn Guier has worked with the students, teaching them everything from the importance of public art to the process involved in creating a mosaic mural.

There was a unit on healthy water where the Arts Alliance brought in scientists who work with fish, local Lake Pend Oreille, and water collection systems. The students were involved in fish identification, creating fish prints, learning about sedimentation, macro invertebrates and water quality.

After doing research in library books and on the Internet, the students eventually chose the animal they each wanted to draw to be a part of the mural.

Fifth-grader student Ben Schwartz described the process.

“First you draw what you want and then you trace it onto (tracing) paper. You put the paper onto a slab of clay, apply details, glaze it and then you bake it,” said Schwartz, whose creations included a chipmunk, a turtle and a fish.

Fourth-grader Burke Palmer-Fullerton said the message the students wanted to convey is the importance of the environment. “We tried to put out a good note on conserving water,” he said.

Guier said as murals go, this creation rivals some of the better pieces of public art. “I wanted this to be the most spectacular piece of art they’ve seen in Sandpoint,” she said, adding that both the students and teachers were wonderful to work with. “The students all took it very seriously.”

Fourth-grader Sam Diercks said before this project, he typically enjoyed just sketching in a book he has at home. “I didn’t think of myself as an artist before this. Just as a drawer. Now I’m a little bit of a painter,” he said.

Sam and his classmate Rachel Meyer agree it is important to have art in public places where many can enjoy it.

“It might remind someone of their childhood and may make them think of Disneyland,” said Sam.

“It can bring back memories,” added Rachel.

One important lesson Darling said the students have learned is that they each have their own creativity.

“It really allowed each of them to blossom,” she said.

Everyone involved in the project said it was a joint effort by many in the community who came together to teach the children everything from science, to conservation to art.

“It’s more than just art,” said Darling. “It’s thinking about our environment and history. It adds another dimension.”

Decades After High School, Friends Maintain Close Relationship

In the age of e-mail, Facebook and texting, it is fairly easy for friends to stay in touch. But for Sandpoint resident Loris Michael, it is a letter or a phone call that mean more to her than anything.

“I like to stay in touch with people, but on a personal level,” said Michael who admits that while it may take more time than simply sending an e-mail, it is well worth it.

It is that philosophy which has enabled Michael to stay connected with her friends with whom she graduated from North Platte High School in Nebraska 52 years ago. There were 265 students in her class, but it is Michael’s connection with 10 of the women that has helped the group through decades of life’s ups and downs.

“Over time these are the women who stayed in touch,” said Michael.

But communication was not always easy. With only four of the 11 staying in Nebraska, they did not see each other as often as they liked and they were all busy raising children.

“No one called in those days because (long distance) phone calls were extremely expensive,” said Michael.

So instead the women began writing round robin letters in the early 1970s.

“One would write and mail it to the next person,” said Michael. “It would sometimes take from May to September by the time it got around to everyone.”

The letters would arrive at least twice a year and Michael still enjoys reading them.

“There’s a lot of history in some of those letters,” she said.

As their children grew older, it became easier for the women to reunite every couple of years. It was during one reunion in 1984 when they dressed up in old time costumes and had their photo taken.

Deciding they needed a name, they began to call themselves the Floozies and gave each other nicknames. They even wrote out a Floozie Family Tree – a testament to the bond that is as close as that shared by sisters.

Michael said that when the women get together there are always crazy gifts exchanged, time to reminisce over old photos and a lot of laughs.

“We don’t have to do anything special,” said Michael. “We revert to being 17 when we’re together. We laugh, put on our pajamas and slippers.”

Michael recalls one reunion she attended with her Floozie friends when she arrived at the Denver airport and was greeted by the women who were decked out in tiaras, boas, wands and balloons.

“I almost got back on the plane, I was so embarrassed,” jokes Michael. “They are way crazier than I am.”

The reunions are like a giant slumber party with sleeping bags and girl talk until early mornings.

At one reunion, one of the women had handcrafted a porcelain doll for each of her friends that resembled the recipient in her younger years. It is a gift Michael treasures.

But it isn’t always fun and games. When one member of the group suffers, there is no hesitation on the part of the others to lend a hand. When Michael was diagnosed with cancer approximately five years ago she visited Nebraska upon completion of her treatment. All her friends came to check on her, some traveling several hours just so they could see she was OK.

“That tells you a lot about your friendships,” said Michael.

Two of the women have died and as the others celebrate their 70th birthdays this year they are realizing it is more challenging to travel.

Since moving to Sandpoint in 1999 Michael has wanted her friends to visit North Idaho. But some of them now face illnesses or are taking care of their spouses who are ill, making travel difficult. This weekend however, four of them traveled to North Idaho to visit Michael and explore the place she calls home.

“I want to show them what a beautiful part of the world this is,” said Michael.

Through the years these women have helped each other through divorce, losing a spouse and more. It is that support and the bond they share that has made the difference.

“They’re a strong bunch of women,” said Michael as she shared a story of how one of the members was determined to make it to one more reunion before she died. She made it and died one month later. “They’re brave and strong.”

As Michael reminisces about her friendships in life, she said she wishes more people would reach out the way she and her friends did so many years ago – through phone calls and letters or cards.

“There’s nothing like old friendships,” she said.

Sandpoint High School Graduate Lives Life With Positive Attitude, A Lesson Learned from His Mother

If there is one lesson 18-year-old A.J. Smith has already learned, it is that attitude is everything.

“Life is full of good and bad things, but life will only get you down if you let it,” said the Sandpoint High School senior.

It was a lesson Smith learned from his mother, Norma Taylor, who died last year from pancreatic cancer. “My attitude towards life I learned from my mom,” he said.

It is that attitude that got Smith through his senior year, excelling both academically and athletically.

A.J., whose given name is Abinadi John, is the second of four children. An outstanding athlete, he played football all four years at Sandpoint and has played lacrosse since seventh grade.

Never afraid to try new things, Smith tried out for basketball for the first time this year and made varsity.

“I went from knowing nothing at all to going to someone they could count on to put in if need be,” said Smith, who had his best year academically this year with a 3.7 grade-point average. He encourages others to try new things. “Don’t wait until the last chance to take a chance to do something you might really enjoy.”

When Sandpoint made it to the state championship in football this year, Smith said it was one of the most exciting moments of his life.

That excitement is likely to continue. He will play football at University of Montana Western in the fall on a scholarship and was also offered a scholarship by Montana State University Northern – something he knows would make his mother proud.

The memories of his high school years will always be special. But not just for the reasons that most young people cherish those years. For Smith it will always bring back memories of times spent with his mother.

“She was the most encouraging person,” said Smith, who said his mom would make every game her health would allow. But when she couldn’t attend his mom was the first person he would call after a game.

“She’d never ask if we won or lost. She’d ask if I had fun.”

When she was reaching the end stages of her life, Smith and his mom would spend a lot of time talking.

“We would sit and talk about things we wouldn’t normally,” he said.

During the last few months of his mother’s life, Smith said he struggled with whether to quit the lacrosse team. He was worried about his mom, but his teammates and coach encouraged him to play so he stuck with it. The day after she died he had a game and made the decision to play what was the last game of the season.

“She always said she would make it to a game and she never was able to,” he said. “The game I played the day after she died, that was the last game. I guess she finally got to see me play.”

During his years at Sandpoint High School, Smith received several football honors including all state, all league and all North Idaho honors his junior year and all league and all North Idaho honors his senior year. It was after football season his junior year that his mom started expressing her desire to buy Smith a letterman’s jacket. But they are expensive – about $400 – and due to her illness, his mom was not able to work regularly.

He assured his mom he did not need it, but it was something she kept talking about. When Smith’s friend Mike Hubbard asked why he didn’t have a jacket, he confided in him that his mother had wanted to buy one but never got the chance. So the kids and their moms got together and surprised Smith with the gift his mom never got the chance to give him.

“Right before we went to the playoffs (senior year) I got my letterman,” he said. “It is definitely one of the nicest things anyone’s ever done for me.”

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sandpoint High School Newspaper and Year Book Receive Awards at National Conference

For Sandpoint High School junior Jesse Webster Merwin, love of writing began at an early age.

“I grew up having my mom and papa read to me,” said Jesse. “When I was 8 years old, I started to write stories. A friend and I wrote a 12-page mystery back then.”

But it was when she was in seventh grade and started to read the Sandpoint High School student newspaper, the Cedar Post, that Jesse became interested in journalism.

“Bailey (her sister) would bring home the Cedar Post and I would read every word,” said Jesse. By the time she reached her freshman year, Jesse said she read it cover to cover right when it came out and would eagerly await publication of the next issue, usually about three weeks later.

Now, as she finishes her junior year at Sandpoint High School, Jesse is proud to say that next year she will be the editor in chief of the Cedar Post, an award-winning publication.

Students from Sandpoint High School’s Cedar Post and Monticola, the school’s yearbook, attended the National Journalism Education Association High School Convention in Portland recently and both publications came home with several awards.

“There were about 3,000 people at the conference and I believe there were about 500 schools,” said Jennifer Prandato, this year’s editor for the Cedar Post. “People came from pretty much every state in the U.S.”

According to Barbara Tibbs, the staff adviser for Monticola, this was the first time in 10 years the yearbook staff attended the conference because Cedar Post staff typically attended the fall conference.

“The newspaper staff returned to going to the spring conference and we (the yearbook staff) could go together,” said Tibbs. “Fall conferences are difficult for spring-delivery books to attend.”

The Cedar Post placed seventh in the nation for the December 2009 edition in the eight-page-and-under division, something Prandato attributes to the perseverance of a group of young writers.

“We had a very young and inexperienced staff this year, so the fact that we were able to learn so fast shows that they really have a talent,” said Prandato.

Merwin said they may compete next year in the 10-page-and-over category, but adds that will remain to be seen. She does have a goal, however, and she intends to achieve it through a variety of ways.

“Hopefully we will get in the top three next year,” she said.

One of the changes she will implement as editor is to make the paper more visually attractive to high school students.

“Instead of writing longer stories, we will break it up with color fact boxes and photos,” said Merwin, who adds that the editorial staff will also take strong positions on issues. “Hopefully we’ll get more letters to the editor.”

One prestigious award was received by Sandpoint junior Connor Griesemer who placed second in an unrelated photo contest through the Edward R. Murrow College of Journalism at Washington State University.

“The (photo) contest was open to high schools in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska and they received over a hundred entries,” said Prandato.

Something unique about the Cedar Post is that it is a student-run newspaper. While they do have an adviser, William Love, the administration does not dictate to the students what should and should not be printed.

“But at the same time we do recognize that we are a high school paper and not everything is appropriate for freshmen or the seventh-graders who may be reading it,” said Merwin, who hopes that students who read the paper will be inspired to write.

“You might not use it in calculus, but writing is something you’ll always need,” she said. “Students may not want to write a 10-page English paper, but if you tell them they can write a no-nonsense story, they usually like it.”

But don’t think the Cedar Post will be the last place you will get the chance to read Merwin’s articles.

“I want to go into political journalism,” she said. “My dream job is to write a political column for the New York Times.”

Stay tuned. My bet is that she will do just that.

Other awards won by Sandpoint High School students

Blaine Shultz, honorable mention in yearbook copy/caption: sports; Barry Wilson, honorable mention in literary magazine: poetry; Jennifer Prandato, honorable mention in newspaper layout; Evan Metz, excellence in editorial cartooning; Amanda Hayes, honorable mention in news writing; Graham Cole, honorable mention in feature writing; Jessie Webster Merwin, excellence in editorial writing; Eddie Ogle, excellence in sports writing; Dylan Vogel, excellence in yearbook student life photography (one of his winning photos is shown on the front page of the JEA website); Kendall Stratton, honorable mention in computer design: photoshop art.