Start of a new year
Students begin first, last years of school
The following stories about Sydney and Rebecca are the fist of a yearlong series. The Signal will continue to follow the kindergartner and senior, highlighting different aspects of the students' school year.
5-year-old enjoys first days of kindergarten
Sydney Clem seems to be easing into kindergarten with relatively few problems. In fact, the 5-year-old appears to be right at home in her class at Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center though she's only just completed her first week of school.
"She's very comfortable," Dana Clem, Sydney's mother, said. "She just walks right in. She thinks she owns the place."
Ask Sydney what she thinks about school and she'll flash a smile before telling you it's fun.
"They teach me stuff," she said. "And we got to go to the gym and dance, tippy toe and gallop, gallop and screaming, running and screaming."
Dana Clem said Sydney had been looking forward to kindergarten months before school started.
"All summer long she was like, 'I'm five, I'm in kindergarten,' to everybody she saw," she said.
Sydney finally got her first taste of kindergarten at the beginning of last week when she and Dana and her father, John, visited her new classroom and her teacher, Marcia O'Neil.
Sydney was rarely without anything to say during the visit, making sure O'Neil knew she was five, and that she had been to McDonald's, and that she had an older brother and sister in school.
Sydney's first day in school was last Thursday, and after a week, her mom said she still seems to enjoy it.
"She's excited, and I'm thrilled she's so excited," she said.
Though Sydney doesn't go into great detail about her days at school, she is willing to talk about some of the activities she does.
"My teacher tested me," she said. "They teach me lots of stuff like some crafts and making stuff. We did chalk on the sidewalk."
She also holds up her hands into the shape of the letter "P" and tells how she learned about Polly Panda.
One of her favorite activities so far is being read to by O'Neil, who uses puppets while she reads to the students.
In one week of school, Sydney has also managed to get her first scraped knee at recess. She said she fell twice, the second time going to the nurse to get her scrape cleaned.
"It didn't sting," she said. "And she gave me a sticker."
O'Neil said Sydney has adjusted to school well, and is a typical kindergartner.
"She fits right in," O'Neil said. "She has seemed very interested in everything we've done, and she's excited to do the activities. She pours all her energy into it.
"She comes in so happy with a smile on her face," she said. "That stays with her all morning."
Dana Clem said the first few days of kindergarten have been easier for both Sydney and her because her daughter has enjoyed it so much.
"She seems real happy," she said. "I'm relieved she seems to enjoy it. It makes it less stressful on me knowing she's happy.
"We're going to have a great year."
Senior looks forward to final year
Rebecca Verhaeghe returned to school last week along with all of the other Baldwin students. But this year is different for Verhaeghe.
Oh, she still has to go to class, and she has homework, and she participates in after-school activities just like her previous years in school. But this year is special because Verhaeghe is a senior.
And like a lot of other seniors, the 17-year-old has mixed feelings about her final year of high school. Though she's thrilled to nearly be finished, she's a little anxious as well.
"We're finally at the very end," she said. "There's so much to do before graduation, and so much to look forward to. I'm nervous and excited."
One thing is for certain about her final year of high school. It's going to be a busy one.
Not only will Verhaeghe take a full load of high school classes, including U.S. history, advanced math, physics, French IV and modern literature, she's also making plans to take a college English class from Johnson County Community College.
She's also been busy learning and memorizing her clarinet music and marching routines for the high school band as it prepares for football games and its trip to Orlando in November.
And every day after school, Verhaeghe hits the volleyball court to practice for at least a couple of hours with the rest of her teammates. Though practices aren't always easy and require a lot of extra time, she said it's worth it for a chance to play volleyball.
"I just think it's a lot of fun," she said. "I like how it's mentally and physically challenging. And it's just fun to get out there and play with my classmates and friends."
As part of Verhaeghe's graduation requirements, she is required to complete a senior project. Verhaeghe, who eventually wants to become a pediatrician, has opted to do her senior project on the day in the life of a doctor.
"It's the field I want to go into," she said. "This will help me find out if it's what I want to do."
She actually started shadowing a Lawrence doctor this summer, and will continue with it throughout the school year.
On top of trying to accomplish everything in order to successfully complete her senior year and graduate, Verhaeghe is also having to plan for life after high school.
She's currently in the process of applying to some colleges and is making plans for campus visits. She's considering schools like Northwest Missouri State and Kansas State University, where she can enter a pre-med program and major in psychology.
Loretta Verhaeghe said her daughter's projects and activities made it an exciting time not only for Rebecca, but for her entire family as well. But Loretta Verhaeghe said there is also the sad realization that this is Rebecca's final year in high school.
"I'm not looking forward to the day where she walks out and moves on," she said. "I'm going to miss these moments.
"But I know she's ready to move on, and she's excited," she said.
Though she's anxious about what waits for her after high school, Rebecca Verhaeghe said she's going to take the time to appreciate her senior year.
"I just want to have a lot of fun," she said. "I want to make everything count, and do as much as I can and just enjoy it."