Local high school named to national award

A local area high school was nationally recognized for achievement in performing arts.

The National Federation of State High School Associations and the Kansas State High School Activities Association have selected Washburn Rural High School as the National Performing Arts School of Excellence.

“Kansas got to choose the school for the award this year,” said Penny Lane, WRHS athletic and activity director. “The [state] high school activities association got together…three professional groups from the state.”

After the Kansas Music Educators Association, Kansas Speech Communication Association and the Kansas Thespians worked together with the KSHSAA, WRHS was selected from other high schools in the state.

“They took a look at scores over the last five years with schools across the state and then they chose 15 schools,” Lane said. “There were three finalists and 11 commended schools.”

Former WRHS students are proud of the recognition. Brady Slatten, a current nursing freshman at Washburn University, was a part of the vocal department at WRHS.

“It just makes me feel really honored,” Slatten said. “Our [class’s] hard work and commitment has paid off to get this sort of award.”

Ashli Ahlf, radiology freshman student agrees. She feels that this is award helps her feel like the time she put into the performing arts programs at WRHS was worth it.

“There were so many hours that we worked,” Ahlf said. “We also were a part of the musicals and those were really hard but also really fun. All of our hard work really paid off for all of those [hours].”

Lane sees this as a great accomplishment for the school and not just for the students.

“It recognizes all that our students put into the program, all of the coaching that our teachers do to help to support that kids and move them along in the performing arts,” Lane said.

She also sees what this can do for programs that don’t always get recognized.

“It brings great recognition to the fine arts, which is so important in curriculum for all schools at any level,” Lane said. “Whether that be elementary, middle school, high school and at the university level because fine arts is such an important part of education.”

According to Lane, the award is also something that is shared with those outside the classroom.

“It really exemplifies the support that our board does for our performing arts and fine arts programs,” Lane said. “It certainly recognizes the support the parents give to their students to be a part of the fine arts program.”

KSHSAA issued a press release Sept. 24 where Craig Manteuffel, assistant executive director, acknowledged the performing arts programs in the state and announced this won’t be the last time performing arts will be recognized in Kansas.

“Being recognized nationally is a wonderful testimony to our schools’ professionalism and efforts with students,” Manteuffel said. “Even though this NFHS award is for 2018-19, the KSHSAA has decided to make this an annual state award, as we continue to celebrate our tremendous performing arts programs in our schools.”

The WRHS performing arts program was recognized at halftime of the school’s football game Sept. 28, where James Weaver, NFHS director of performing arts, was on hand.

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