Category Archives: FOCUS

Titan Trailblazers


It’s that time of year again, and this year’s senior class is about to graduate. These chosen seniors portray all that this school has to offer with being involved in sports, fine arts, or clubs. Although these seniors are leaving and are off to bigger and better things, they will always have one thing in common: being a Titan.

Brandon DavisBRANDON DAVIS, Diesel Technology, Central Community College

“I learned a lot of leadership from being in band, and that kind of helped me find my strengths and weaknesses.”

“I want band to stay fun. Things are changing and it’s becoming more about the numbers and performance instead of having a good time and enjoying what you’re doing. I hope it keeps it’s school spirit.”

“Stay headstrong and keep your head high, but not too high.”

Lauren FedenLAUREN FEDEN, Art & Chemistry, Hastings College

“I’ve learned how to manage my time and I’ve made some amazing friends.”

“My legacy is the Titan Legacy (oh).”

 “My most memorable moment was my sophomore year for student council, we decorated our corner for homecoming as Forest Gump, and it was fantastic and I was so proud.”

Nick HettingerNICK HETTINGER, Psychology, UNL

“Everyone deserves a chance no matter where they come from. Everyone has the ability to become something great if they allow themselves to.”

“[School] instilled a strong work ethic in me.”

“I always tried to reach out to all sorts of people and I tried to talk to a variety of people and always tried to accept people the way they are and not be a different person around people.”

Miranda KuzelaMIRANDA KUZELA, Russian & computer science, UNL

“Being involved helped me to learn time management skills and made me appreciate free time more.”

“I canceled my birthday dinner with my family the night of Titanium rehearsal, so my friends surprised me and the whole group with cake and then sang happy birthday to me. I cried, but tears of happiness.”

 “I want to be remembered for my dedication to learning, especially languages, and hopefully it might help people stay motivated about their own educational goals.”

CAITLYN COTTON, Nursing, Hastings College

“There are a lot more people that care about me than I think. Everything I’ve learned from coach Cooley will forever impact my life.”

“I want my legacy to be for people to remember me as a great person to be around and to look up to.”

 “I gained mostly leadership skills and a lot of life lesson from school.”

Jordan DavisJORDAN DAVIS, Psychology, UNL

“Everyone comes from different places and you can’t judge someone from an outside point of view because everyone has a different background.”

“For DECA when they elected me was one of the best feelings of my entire life.”

 “Take in all that you can and don’t forget that life goes on after high school because I think that people can forget that.”

Triston FairchildTRISTON FAIRCHILD, Business, Colgate University

“DECA really helped me in pursuing my scholastic goals because a lot of subjects didn’t interest me but business did, and it opened me to opportunities that I can use in the future.”

“Sacrifice now, pleasure later.”

 “Has to be when we beat Millard North my junior year when we won on a last second field goal.”

Adam GadsdenADAM GADSDEN, Emergency management, UNO

“Biggest thing I’ve learned from high school is that grades don’t define a person, there’s much more to them than that.”

“Probably when Mike Smith came to speak to us was one of the most impactful things that happened in high school”

 “Don’t be afraid to chase your dreams no matter what people are telling you. You’re the one that has to die when you die so live the life you want to live.”

Nate Koeppe copyNATE KOEPPE, Engineering, UNL

“If you want to do well, all you have to do is work hard.”

“During finals I brought a sleeping bag to school and took a nap after every final.”

“I was number one.”

Jenna WinklerJENNA WINKLER, Biology, Morningside

“I learned how to multitask and prioritize.”

“Even when you don’t think you can go any further, someone will believe in you, and if they don’t, believe in yourself.”

“If you want to do it, do it. Try out for the basketball team, take a choir class, ask that boy out. As Mr. Haselhorst often says ‘fail forward.’”

What is Titan Spirit?


According to senior Matt Parker, school spirit at PL South feels like “a moist towel that was once hot, but now is merely lukewarm.”

School spirit can be hard to measure due to the fact that it means different things to different students. But many students feel that the atmosphere at PL South is certainly not all out.

But before we can measure it, we should have an idea of what it is. To freshman Ruth Munoz, school spirit feels “welcoming, like you are a part of something.”

Senior Xanna Galgerud believes spirit is “cheering on fellow teammates, even if you are not feeling it or had a bad day. You are not just classmates, you are their supporters, It means a lot.”

Junior Josie Doxzon ties school spirit to involvement. She defines spirit as “being proud in your school and everything you do that involves school.”

To Parker, spirit looks like “human beings decked out in a variety of clothing that is blue, black, silver or a mixture of any of the three. The clothing is often branded with a ‘T’ as well.”

How much spirit do we have? Of the definitions above, the student body is most judged by support at games. The size of the student section is often equated to the amount of spirit in the school.

Judging PL South’s spirit by this measure, sophomore Logan Lawrence said, “it can improve,” Sophomore Logan Lawrence said. “More people coming to all events would definitely help.”

Galgerud agrees, saying, she counted himself among those who could do better. “I have not been the most dedicated Titan fan this year. I understand stuff comes up, but that is not an excuse to not make it to a single game all year. Even if you don’t go, you can at least talk to an athlete, a performer and tell them ‘Good luck.’ Tweeting, telling them, just that little act of support goes a long way.”

Defining school spirit by support at games often leaves out a large chunk of the school. A lot goes on other than the big spectator sports. There are plays, musicals, show choir competitions, math competitions, student council conventions, dances, track meets and so much more.

The spectator sports may “reflect poorly” on our school, but what hurts the spirit at the school most is the attitude smaller activities have that they do not matter as much to the school as the larger activities. With so much going on at South, it is often difficult for students to keep track of what and when activities are happening.

At the beginning of this year, dance team attempted to reach out to these lesser known activities to show support. This effort was spearheaded by senior Jenna Winkler. “I got locker signs together, we got Oreos for some activities. I wanted to show support to the rest of the school’s activities, not just the ones everyone supports and the ones the cheerleaders go to,” Winkler said.

The dance team put up locker signs for several organizations until they received discouragement and stopped.

It may seem like a trivial thing, but the gesture of the locker signs was not lost upon the receivers. “It was nice to be recognized. It made me proud to run for such an encouraging school,” senior Leah Ely said.

Galgerud would like to remind the student body that, “You spend as much time at school as with your family, so school is like your family, and you should look after them as you would your family. Support activities that go on around here.”

Does America do student life better?


School spirit here is uniquely American. America celebrates its teams like no other country, school districts and universities banding together to wear merchandise and compete nationwide.

School merchandise? Cringe! For the English, wearing your mandatory uniform is enough school spirit for a lifetime. No way was it cool to find, after learning that I was enrolled here, t-shirts with Titan logos on them in stores – they were laughable, until I saw that people actually wore them.

Don’t get me wrong, three years here and I’m now a proud owner of Titan merch. I’m not bashing your team spirit; it’s fascinating. Fierce student bodies are like microcosms for your competitive, highly capitalist economy.


1116155_699817106710977_192255056_oWhile the English potter around in pleated skirts and tucked in shirts, Americans rock up to school in different clothing everyday. Where Physical Education is just a lesson for games in the UK, choosing athletics and sports are viable educational pathways for the Americans. The countries handle their students very differently, and the students think differently of their schools in return. Nationalism is never wracked up in England, for a pledge to the Union Jack isn’t recited. For you lot, you rise at 11:45am to do so to the Stars and Stripes.

We, the Titans, are coming under flack for not having enough school spirit. Compared to the state of affairs of the English, though, you guys are doing fine. In fairness, Brits do have less to support – with English high school students (in my hometown) being from ages 12 to 16, we’re still at the age where it’s cool to hate everything. Sports and school orientated clubs just don’t get funded, either. For my old school, extra-curricular activities were few and far between, although they started trying to kick things off as I left. Icknield High School have a Debate team who now have won several competitions! They’re not celebrated much beyond the English department, though.

No matter what country you’re in, schoolwide celebrations are hard to enthuse. In the US, though, you really try – Pep Rallies don’t exist where I’m from. Half of our student body love getting out of class and feeling some atmosphere, making some noise. The other half (mostly the Seniors) watch with cynical disdain. Coming from the pep-less England, I say loosen up! A little spirit, however silly, ain’t bad.


* Pictured: Alexandra Haynes herself in Icknield High School’s art department, Luton, England. She came to Nebraska in 2013.

Brothers inspire: ‘Live Your Dash’


There are certain moments in life when we are obligated to make a choice. This is a choice of attitude. A choice that determines the set viewpoint we as human beings will peer from. A choice of what our outlook on life will look like. A choice to be an optimist or a pessimist. Every day we have a choice.

Stefen and Rueben Rice made a choice to live their dash. To understand the meaning behind this metaphorical statement one would have to know the Rice brothers. Rueben and Stefen were both diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy; a group of genetic diseases that cause a progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass.

Currently there is no cure. The Rice Brothers could have approached this in many different scenarios. They could have lived their life with a pessimistic attitude, but they didn’t. “Live Your Dash” started as simply a metaphor. This metaphor transformed into an idea. This idea bloomed into a memorialization.

Nate Cain, head of the special education department referenced a discussion the Special Education Team had about how to memorialize Stefen and figure out a saying that captured the Rice brothers. This meeting sparked an idea. An idea about that simple yet symbolic little line -that dash- that separates a person’s date of birth and date of death. Sometimes the simplest things mean the most.

brothersWEBThe “Live Your Dash” motto originally came from a pastor at Stefen’s church, delivered in a speech at Stefen’s funeral service, last spring. The pastor spoke of the Rice brothers and how they lived out their dash, even in their short time. ®ueben passed away a year before Stefen.

Matthew Hager, a part of the Special Education department said the Sermon was significant to determining the motto. “It was something that hit home with everyone in the church and philosophy that we found fitting to describe the boys and their character,” Hager said.

The fundraiser was then born in spring 2015 and given the name “Live Your Dash”. A fund was set up through Papillion La-Vista South’s foundation. According to Cain around $3,000-4,000 has been raised.

Wristbands inscribed with the motto were sold, and currently are available for purchase for $1. The Special Education Team also started a coffee business, Titan Brew, a student driven business. During 2nd hour special education. students deliver coffee or tea to staff members. It gives kids a chance work on meeting people and experience in running a business; the profits go to support “Live Your Dash”. Events for “Live Your Dash” will also be held at Buffalo Wild Wings.

Junior, Talia Rice, Stefen and Rueben’s sister was moved and inspired by the outlook her brothers had on life. “It impacted my brothers because they were always living to the fullest, and making peaiple smile. Everyone loved them because they were being who they were, they weren’t being anyone else and they lived their lives to the fullest,” said Talia.

Cain said Stefen and Rueben left and unforgettable legacy, a legacy that showed there are no limitations unless you put them on yourself. Stefen and Rueben were both really good at making friends and for them even the sky had no limit. “The impact was showing people that having a disease isn’t the end of all things,having a disease doesn’t mean you can’t do things, does’nt mean you can’t have friends, doesn’t mean you can’t go places. It doesn’t mean you can’t experience life,” Cain said.

Cain was amazed by how Stefen changed the school environment. “It’s so cool to see from Stefen a culture shift in our building of people who have disabilities all over the place,” Cain said.

Hager hopes the motto will carry on in the PL South hallways for years to come. “Not only as a reminder of the Rice Brothers but also to help students to persevere through any obstacle.”



Congratulations, Papillion-La Vista South students! If you’re reading this, it’s not too late. You’ve officially survived the tetrad of lunar eclipses, otherwise known as the blood moon. As the weather continues to battle with its own case of bipolar disorder, the choice of whether to go as a swimsuit model or the abominable snowman for Halloween is still a toss up. But, who knows? If you ordered a Homecoming dress online, you may be able to reuse it Halloween night.

With the increased prices for activities and parking passes, you can’t logically be expected to purchase a costume for Homecoming and Halloween.

The demands being put on students this year are becoming outrageous. “What does the ‘Titan Way’ mean to you?” How should you know? Every app on your phone is blocked, so it’s not like you can Google it. It’s not written in twenty-first century lingo (like last year’s “Titan Tru”). Opening your eyes and looking around at the thousands of posters hung around the school and actually listening to the announcements clearly isn’t an option for you hipsters.

Nevertheless, now that students have been attending school for a while, it’s pretty obvious the majority are adjusting sufficiently. The marching band has new uniforms to help cope with the loss of summertime. Papio South’s brains are reeling from the results of ACT and NeSA testing. For student athletes, however, the biggest adjustment may have been remembering how to balance leg day and math quizzes.

Students’ struggles aside, there has been one addition to the Titan way that will forever memorialize 2015-2016 at Papillion-La Vista South: milk bags. Bags o’ milk. Accidents with risky packaging and shady-looking straws waiting to happen. It’s evidently because people of this generation require more than a label to identify the type of milk they’re purchasing. Teenagers need to be able to see what they’re buying. They need to be able to feel the liquid with their own two hands. Reading the carton of milk was clearly just too much work – it was backing up the lunch line.

Custodian WEBWith the recent custodial cutbacks, our school may have to start embracing the practices of many schools in Japan, where students do the dirty work usually reserved for janitorial staff in the US of A. Cleaning may have to become part of the lesson plan… and that includes mopping up exploded milk-bag balloons in the cafeteria.

At least you’re not the Monarchs – having to mop up after a leaking pool and milk bags.

Over the summer, some Papio South students had the opportunity to attend a leadership workshop to discuss what they thought our school should be known for. Just be glad that happened before the milk bags were introduced to the district.

Next thing you know, it will be milk bags instead of beach balls being passed around at football games. The new Cycling Club will use milk bags to replace the usual cycling hydration backpacks. The nurses will use warmed milk bags as heating pads and frozen ones as ice packs. Forget punch at Homecoming this year – milk bags are being served!

Keep in mind, you do live in Papillion – you should be proud. You reside in one of the best places to live in the United States, according to Money magazine. You only need to remember two things as you continue your blissful existence here. One: Conserve your data – use it wisely. Two: Beware the milk bag.

When a student dies…


Many would like to believe that funerals are held for the dead, in honor of their life, but the truth is funerals are for the living, to help them cope with the inevitable process that comes with loss. Sometimes death can be big and scary, because many people live life wondering what comes next. The unknown is often feared; perhaps it is the idea of an end that cannot be controlled.

It is difficult accepting the temporary absence of a person – when they move away for college or work, or other life events; but, a person’s death is the ultimate absence.

GRIEF info boxSince death is naturally reserved for the elderly, when it reaches youth, especially in a school environment, the whole situation seems to become more complicated. It becomes a difficult topic to discuss because it’s touchy. Say one wrong thing, some people think, and everything might come crashing down.

Our school district has a crisis team in place to deal with difficult situations that might disrupt or endanger student lives. Jim Larson, a former Papio South administator and current IDEAL principal who serves on the crisis team, says the district works to anticipate and prepare for the unforeseeable. “It is important to know that no two situations are ever the same, so the tools need to be flexible to adjust to whatever the current situation calls for,” Larson said.

In the case of student death, no two students are likely to respond in the same way. Senior counselor Ms. Pat Terry said counselors and other school staff keep this in mind when talking with those affected. “Every one of us has different needs when it comes to grief,” Terry said.

Sophomore Sydney Marshburn, whose friend died last year, says she is still learning to cope with that loss. “What many people fail to realize is that there are different stages of the grieving process, such as denial, isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. And they don’t always happen in that specific order or in a set timeline,” she said.

Mental health expert Kevin McKenzie, a licensed clinical social worker who has worked with Sarpy County schools for the past 15 years, agreed that the grieving process can be “all over the place” for different people. “The key,” he said, “is accepting others for whatever stage they are currently in.”

Senior Haley Wert added that the tools needed to cope with grief aren’t one-size-fits-all. “Teenagers are amazingly resilient. We have an amazing capacity for dealing with grief, and, for some, a counselor is the best thing for them, but others [feel] time and silence are the only things required to heal,” Wert said.

Whether a death is sudden or the result of a long illness, students feel a sense of loss when one of their classmates is no longer around.

Senior Juliette Morales said she thinks the school does a good job of letting the student body know about a death and having resources available. “I feel comforted by the fact that they acknowledge death has an impact on everyone,” she said.

Still, others said the days after a tragedy are often confusing and sometimes frightening.

Junior Chase Gregerson said student death is difficult to handle and even more difficult to discuss. “It’s very hard to talk about a kid who died at such a young age. I think it scares a lot of people,” he said.

Wert described the feeling as affecting the whole school. “There is a resounding quiet through the halls the day after a student dies. It’s almost too quiet – as if everyone is holding their breath,” she said.

Why is talking about death so scary? We as students talk about it all the time. English is a prime example. Many of the books students read in high school end in some sort of tragedy. Students openly discuss fictional deaths, but when it comes to reality, some become silent.

McKenzie said that silence can be damaging in itself. “Talking literally changes the chemisty in your body to help you heal,” he said.

The sooner, the better, McKenzie added. He also emphasized that students should start by talking to an emotionally healthy adult whom they trust. “You should talk to someone as soon as possible,” he said. “The earlier you address it, the sooner the grief process can begin and eventually be resolved.”

Head Principal Mr. Jeff Johnson said the message he wanted to get out to students was that the school needs to hear from them when they are struggling with something. “At Papillion-La Vista South, we want to respond to the needs of our students. We also want our students to talk with us and tell us what they need,” he said. “Our counselors, social workers and crisis team members are trained to deal with any issues they may have or connect them with professionals in the community who can help. These services are always available through our counseling office. We just need to hear what our students need.”

McKenzie said students need to look out for one another, too. “If you’re concerned with someone, no matter how small it may feel, tell someone.”

10 Titan trailblazers


Seniors come and go, but their legacies are reflected all throughout our school. Every student has had a role whether as an athlete, artist, scholar or other type of individual who has left a mark. This mix of seniors was chosen because of achievements in high school as well as plans for the future.

Kendra Boyd

WEB BoydFuture – “I’m most excited to be joining a drum corps during the summer. It’s a continuation of marching band, in which I perform on the color guard.”

Past – “I’m most proud of my science fair project for the Zoo Academy. I got second in my division and learned a lot of valuable skills for what I’m planning on going to for college.”

Learned – “That you get out what you put in. You get to decide how to live your life.”

Jackie Jaramillo

WEB JaramilloFuture – “I’m most excited to play college softball at Wayne State – and meeting new people.”

Past – “Making it through my AP classes and being the captain of the high school varsity softball team.”

Learned – “I learned that you have to be able to organize your time well if you want to sleep, get good grades and still have a social life. And that you don’t always come out (of high school) with the same friends that you came in with.”

Maggie Murtha

WEB MurthaFuture – “I’m really excited to go to college because I’m going to be in Washington D.C., so there are a lot of opportunities out there that I think would be pretty cool.”

Past – “I think I’ve worked really hard academically, but then also I’m really proud of how involved I am with the theatre department, and how I still maintained my rank while still being involved.”

Best memory – “My most memorable moment would be performing West Side Story as the character Anybody, the tomboy, because I got to flip around the stage and stuff, it was pretty fun.”

Danielle Pham

WEB PhamFuture – “Definitely going to college and just meeting new people.”

Past – “Making it into National Honor Society and getting different awards for my academic achievements.”

Learned – “What I learned from school is that it’s definitely okay to not be the best at everything, that it’s okay to fail and it’s definitely okay to explore what interests you and what doesn’t.”

Cody Redford

WEB RedfordFuture – “Just living on my own and the whole freedom aspect of it. Being able to make my own decisions.”

Past – “I’d say that I’m proud of a lot of things that I’ve done at this school, but I think it all boils down to being proud of the school itself. Just being able to be a part of it and all the things that are school has done.”

Best memory – “As a school just being able to build a community over time and will continue, hopefully, even after we leave just be a domino effect, that we’ll all support each other in all parts of the school.”

Nick Robbins

WEB RobbinsFuture – “I’m looking forward to going to college and having my own space.”

Past – “I’m most proud that I’ve been involved in Titanium show choir and was the captain of the swim team for two years. So that was a lot of fun for me and it’s just great to be a part of a group of people like that.”

Learned – “By my senior year I learned that you have to do things for yourself, even if you are part of a team. Just make sure that it’s for you and not for everyone else, and when you’re in the classroom do things for yourself, for your grades, for your future.”

Jack Smith 

WEB SmithFuture – “I’m looking to go to college at Lincoln, and I want to get my degree in accounting.”

Past – “I’m most proud of the people that I have met and doing sports all four years and leaving with a positive reputation.”

Learned – “It’s important to take every day as it comes and to go to high school with a positive attitude because it makes everything better.”

Bradley Spencer

WEB BradleyFuture – “I’m looking forward to starting a career … and a family. I’m going to, most likely, the University of Northwestern St. Paul.”

Past – “I was on varsity for basketball sophomore through senior year and baseball junior and senior.”

Best memory – “Probably the most memorable was when we got back to school after we lost at districts last year in basketball. It was an end to my career here, and … my emotions hit me. I was probably the most thankful I’ve ever been in my life for all that my coaches have done for me. I will remember that forever.”

Jon Thow

WEB ThowFuture – “I’m going to get a full time job at Midlands working as a CNA tech, but this is also supposed to be the summer of our lives, or whatever, so I want to have fun, but at the same time I want to learn how to be mature.”

Past – “I am the president of band and I was a section leader, and band has helped me grow as a person, and I’ve helped a lot of kids like, I give them rides, or if they’re having a bad day I talk to them, and so I’m proud of how I’ve grown as a person through band.”

Learned – “Don’t try to bring your cat to school.”

Raina Watson

WEB WatsonFuture – “I’m taking a year off, but I’m also looking forward to figuring out myself and what I want to do because I feel like most of us have no clue. I’m just looking forward to getting out and starting my life and getting a job that has to do with what I like to do.”

Past – “My self growth, like how much I’ve grown and how much I’ve matured and how strong I’ve become in a matter of four years.”

Learned – “One thing I learned is that you’re not going to get along with everyone. You just have to accept the way things are.”

How do we love thee? Let’s count the ways


1. Funny Valentines

As much as we love a Valentine with Harry Potter’s Neville Longbottom saying “I’ll Neville let you go,” funny valentines can be an obvious sign of playing it safe, no matter how incredibly enjoyable and entertaining the cards are. If you want to impress your significant other, these funny valentines located on Twitter and Tumblr can produce mixed signals of sarcasm, friendship, flirting, and possibly laziness. Buying a box of Valentine’s at the local Target and printing off funny Valentine’s is a great way to get the conversation to spark, but a horrible way to make a move.

2. Coupon Book

The number one go-to gift seen every year is the dreaded coupon book. People will make up their own coupons to give to their friends, families, and significant others. Things like “one free hug” or “one free back massage” are seen all the time, and coupon books are becoming very boring. Junior Ellie Milton is not a supporter of the coupon book gift, “I feel like a coupon book is something you give when you’ve waited to the last moment to get a present.” Although the idea is very sweet, the gift is very lame, and shows procrastination. If you plan on wooing your significant other, your coupon book better be something amazing and not basic.

WEBchocolate3. Flowers and a Box of Chocolates

Basically everybody loves chocolate, and pretty much anyone can agree flowers look super pretty and are a classy gift. There is nothing wrong with going for flowers and a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day. Yes, it is pretty basic, but it’s a classic tradition that every generation has passed down and is still popular to this day.  Senior Kaitlin Swantek is a fan of the classic gift, “The cutest thing a guy has ever done for me was probably when I received my favorite flowers and a box of chocolates just because. Cheesy but cute!” A bouquet of flowers and a box of delicious chocolates are a traditional Valentine’s Day gift, and if your date refuses your iconic gift, there is something wrong with them, not you.

4. Romantic Dinner and Movie

Everyone’s favorite date is the classic romantic dinner and a movie. Take advantage of the amazing restaurants around you and treat your date to some awesome food. You can never go wrong with a delicious meal and a great film.  “The perfect Valentine’s date would be to be taken out on a date or out to eat or to the movies! Something simple,” says Swantek. Senior Kaleb Ethington believes the perfect date needs to be planned specifically for your special someone, “The perfect Valentine’s date is when the girl has no clue what the plans are. The date doesn’t have to be fancy or anything, just focus on doing cute things that you know your date will love.”

5. Concert Tickets

Although concert tickets can get a bit pricy, they are always a great date and gift for the people you care about. Learn which artists your significant other enjoys, and if you happen to love the same band, take them out to a concert you both can have a great time at. “I think concert tickets are a good present. It’s something you both can use instead of flowers that die in a week,” says Milton. Search for upcoming bands playing at local venues and see if you can steal a good deal on tickets!

6. Serenading

For some people, serenading can be really enjoyable and very special, but for others, it may be uncomfortable. Senior Cole Lempke says, “If you serenade someone, it better be good.” Before you pull out the guitar and start belting your favorite love songs, ask your friends for their honest opinions so you don’t make a fool out of yourself. Senior Andrea Torres says, “Serenading someone is either incredibly sweet or really creepy. There is no in-between.” You never know what the outcome will be, but if it’s good, the moment can be very special. “I think being serenaded by someone would be really impressive and adorable. It would take a lot of courage to sing and/or play an instrument for your crush,” says Swantek. Serenading your loved one can be either a good or a very poor decision, so make sure you’re ready to brace for whatever outcome.

WEBbear7. Giant Teddy Bears

Now we begin to venture into the realm of ridiculous gifts and expectations, and behold…the giant teddy bear. Everyone loves a cuddly stuffed animal, but giant teddy bears can be super ridiculous. First of all, they’re super duper expensive, and usually are above $75. Second, once your special someone gets a giant teddy bear, all it will do is take up room and sit there, because what else do you do with a massive stuffed animal? Senior Eric Rasmussen says, “Giant teddy bears are always a good idea only if you get to spend ten dollars or less on them.” Instead of wasting many dollars on a huge stuffed animal, use those dollars to find a more meaningful present for your significant other.

8. Puppies and Kittens

We see it all the time on Twitter, and especially during Homecoming and Prom season, people will give their dates a puppy or a kitten with something sweet written on the animal’s collar. “I wouldn’t be opposed if someone got me a puppy,” says Milton. “If my boyfriend handed me a puppy I’d be like, ‘Okay! This is the best Valentine’s Day ever.’” Let’s be honest: puppies and kittens are awesome, and a super cute gift, but giving animals to your date is a big responsibility and a poorly timed decision for high school students. If you receive a puppy during high school, you only have a few more years left with it before you leave for who knows where, and suddenly it’s not your puppy anymore but your parent’s.

9.   Tiffany’s

Another item seen all over the “relationship goals” account is the iconic baby blue box. Girls seem to retweet pictures of jewelry and boxes from Tiffany’s all the time, and it’s a bit ludicrous that they expect a gift like that for Valentine’s Day. Rasmussen says, “Getting something from Tiffany’s is one of those things that girls tweet about but if someone actually did get it it’d be over the top and weird.” Spending a lot of money on jewelry is a risky move that will continue to raise your significant other’s expectations for better, pricier gifts. Milton says, “You shouldn’t expect your boyfriend to get you something from Tiffany’s if he doesn’t have a job or something to buy you $300 jewelry, but if you’re dating someone like Chuck Bass then yes, you should expect that.”

10.   Promise Rings

As the years go by, we tend to see promise rings become a common thing, and you begin to wonder if people are actually making the commitment because they like the idea or because they seriously want to get married. Promise rings are an iffy subject, and it very much depends on your relationship. Ethington says, “Promise rings are stupid. Being in high school, chances are you’ve been dating for a month or so and don’t know everything about the other person.” People need to take in mind that a promise ring is basically saying that you plan on marrying that person in the future, and that’s a big decision to make when you’re only in high school. Torres says, “I love the idea of promise rings, and if a couple has been together for a long time and know that they want to be engaged in the future, then I don’t have a problem with it. It’s those naiive couples that rush into it.”

10 Questions with ROTC’s Brad Pelham



On Jan. 31, senior Brad Pelham won first place in his solo performance at an NJROTC drill meet held at Abe Lincoln High School. Along with the first success of this drill season, he has a great record of participation in Papillion-La Vista South’s National Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and has competed and placed in national meets.

1. How has it been being a part of a NJROTC with such a great reputation?

It’s been the absolute, best privilege just because of the fact that there were so many people who have built this unit before me. It’s a rewarding feeling knowing that I can continue to help build and lead this unit.

2. What are your responsibilities as commanding officer of the unit?

I oversee the entire unit as a whole, but a lot of my focus goes towards my staff because the officers and high ranking enlisted cadets train our new cadets and our teams. So basically I do what I can to manage the unit.

3. How did it feel when you won first place on your solo performance at the first drill meet of the 2015 season?

I felt proud but mostly grateful. I couldn’t believe the support that I had. All my teammates, all the drill parents, my instructors, my parents, and even people from other schools were there to watch and support me.

4. What is your favorite section to compete in at drill meets?

My favorite sections are armed exhibition with my team, which is the team that spins rifles in sync, and solos.

5. What was it like winning fourth place out of 81 soloists at a national drill competition?

It was honestly unbelievable that some Nebraska kid even placed to the finals when it’s usually made of people from big drill states, like California and Texas. It motivates me to do even better this year.

6. After you won fourth place at nationals, the international drill champion, Sam Gozo, invited you to compete at the professional level in world drill championships. Do you plan on competing?

Most high school kids graduate and never touch a rifle again. Then there are those who continue their passion for drill, like Sam Gozo. I haven’t competed at this level yet only because I’m still in high school. However, the only way that you can compete at this level is if you win at certain regional competitions or get invited by professionals.

7. How has being a member of NJROTC affected your life?

Let’s put it this way…If you were to take ROTC out of my high school career, it would be like putting Nicki Minaj and Lil’ Wayne in front of a country audience. It just wouldn’t work. All I’ve ever been around is a military life because I come from a very heavy military-based family. NJROTC was my first step to acquiring any kind of knowledge of the military.

8. What has been your favorite memory of the NJROTC program?

I remember last year as a drill team commander we were at Daytona Beach, Florida for Nationals and we were on the beach after a really long day of stress and constant practice and prepping. I remember seeing all the people on my team and my friends laughing and having a good time. Even though it wasn’t a crazy event or memory, it was just a crazy reality check that we’re still in high school and accomplishing so much. It was a beautiful and proud moment and after doing so well at Nationals, it made the memory ten times more memorable.

9. Along with being a part of NJROTC, you are also a part of the health academy. Do you see yourself potentially heading into the medical field and/or incorporating your health knowledge in future plans?

As of right now, I’m not for sure. When I first started the health academy, I wanted to be in the Navy as a Navy doctor. Now that I’m closer to graduating, I’ve realized that all I’ve ever wanted to be was a Marine. The Marine Corps has no careers in the medical field as of right now. No, the medical field isn’t my route.

10. What are your plans and goals for after you graduate high school?

After high school I plan on attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln this fall. There I hope to one day graduate and commission into the United States Marine Corps.

For great gifts, think Washington Street


Check out our local stores for gifts unique to Papillion. All of these stores can be found in downtown Papillion, located by Sump Memorial Library on 84th/Washington Street.

KajomasWEBKAJOMA’S 104 E. 1st St.

This boutique is the place to go when shopping for the female fashionista in your life. They have everything from clothes to jewelry to cowboy boots. If you don’t know what the person would like, or are running low on time, a gift card is always a great option.

For something truly unique, check out their destination charms.They are clear charms with a map magnified on one side and the name of the city on the other.

“These are handmade in portland, Oregon. We have ball chains to hang them on, or you could put them on a charm bracelet. I’m the only store that sells them in Papillion,” Kim Ahlers, owner of Kajomas, said.

Another unique accessory is their charm bracelets.

“We have these Titan bracelets, they can say anything you want. Titan cheer, Titan basketball, Titan track, Titan band, anything,” Ahlers said. Not sure what message to put on the bracelet? They sell premade Titan and Husker bracelets.

If you can’t find what you are looking for in Kajoma’s, stop in to pick up a historical downtown map. They list all of the stores in the Historical Downtown Papillion Business Association.

Cheesehaus WEB newNORTHWOODS CHEESEHAUS 310 N. Washington St.

Relatively new to Papillion, this store has a wide selection of meat and to no surprise, cheese. While you can’t leave this gift wrapped up underneath your christmas tree, it would make a lovely and suprising gift. Though if you do want something to leave below the tree, they have gift cards, which may keep a little better.

Some popular choices are their chocolate cheese, bison, elk and venison, frog balls or their artisan crackers.

Yes, they do sell frog balls and chocolate cheese. Frog balls are “beautifully seasoned pickled Brussels’ sprouts” according to one of the owners Darleene Evitch. They are not for the faint of heart.

Chocolate cheese is exactly the name, and is delicious, too. It is light and fluffy with little chunks of nuts in it. It tastes like a chocolate mousse, except it is cheese.

If you are planning on buying a gift from Nothwoods Cheese haus, make sure you know little bit about what the person likes. “If they know the person’s palette, if they like spicy or sweet, we can put together a better gift,” Diana Rayment, one of the owners,  said.

Twisted WEBTWISTED VINE COLLECTIVE 123 N. Washington St.

When looking for the perfect gift for the artist in your life, look no further. This store sells not only vintage and handmade items, but a memory too.

For $38 you can purchase a ticket to a class that you can give as a gift. You will be giving the recipient an opportunity to create their very own work of art that they can take home with them.There is no experience required, you can give this gift to anyone.

“You could give them a gift certificate to a canvas session. It is 2 hours on a Saturday night. It is a fun group activity or a fun date night,” Cara Ehegartner said.

Besides classes they sell “a little bit of everything” according to Ehegartner. They have candles, items made by Papillion artists, and even vintage sock monkeys.

“A lot of our handmade things are made by people in Papillion,” Ehegartner said. “We sell painted wine glasses or regular glasses that are cute. We have a variety, we  are a lot of different vendors under one roof.”

Fedengifts8SAWDUST FACTORY & SAUCE SHOPPE 134 N. Washington St.            

A little known shop is the Sawdust factory & sauce shoppe, located inside the Bell place shoppes. They have chocolates, 112 brands of hot sauces, chocolate wine sauce, and custom made laser engraved boxes.

The boxes are unique to papillion, the owner, Lonnie Theer, makes them himself. “Whether they are for a guy or girl I find out what they are interested in, then I create a custom laser engraved box unique to that person,” Theer said.

Theer has other gifts too. “For a girl I have some very nice heart shaped trinket boxes. I have other boxes that play music” Theer said. “For a guy I have some nice boxes with wildlife engravings on them and with a pocket knife inside. For the macho guy I have hot sauce.”