What’s recently happened?
Valparaiso Parks hosted its annual free Fourth of July celebration on July 4. The Urschel Field Fireworks Celebration featured a variety of entertainment. Patriotic activities, live music by Serendipity, and food trucks were accessible to anyone who attended. Around 9:15 p.m., Valparaiso had a high-quality firework display by ACE Pyro. The annual Fourth of July Celebration was a hit, as a large crowd gathered to see the fireworks.
In addition to the city gathering people to celebrate, Porter County also held its annual fair. Various activities were available for guests who attended, including competitions, grandstand concerts, animal shows, carnival rides, and much more.
“The fair helps the whole community have fun,” Leo Gonzalez, Porter County Fair worker, said. “I like the concerts and the rides the most.”
Gonzalez highlights his job at the fair and how his job influences friendship-building.
“I hold cotton candy on a stick and sell it at the grandstand when there is any type of show,” Gonzalez said. “I have talked to a lot more people than I usually would have if I didn’t work at the fair.”
Finally, as the 2023–2024 school year approaches, Valparaiso High School (VHS) held a parking permit drive-through event. From July 31 to Aug 2, sophomores through seniors attended this event from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. to receive a parking permit for the upcoming school year.
What’s coming up?
While summer is coming to an end and school is looming, Valparaiso is continuing the summer fun throughout August.
Guardians of the Green Mile will host its ninth annual Woofstock celebration on Aug 18 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Well-behaved dogs on non-retractable leashes are welcome at this event. This event will have 50/50 tickets, raffle baskets, craft vendors for both the owner and the dog, live music, and much more. Guardians of the Green Mile is celebrating thousands of pets' lives saved.
Regarding school coming up, teachers are thrilled about the outcomes of a new year.
“My favorite part of a new school year is the fresh start and the chance to get to know my new students. I also love seeing former ones, getting lots of hugs, and catching up over the first few weeks. I like that I teach 10th through 12th grade because I get to have repeat students, and it’s great to watch those students grow and flourish each year,” English Teacher Erin Charpentier said.
In addition to a new year coming up, Charpentier feels both excitement and anxiety for the first week, as many students do too.
“I always get so nervous every year. The first day/week is hard for me because I don’t know my students yet, and they don’t know me. Learning names is also really hard. I always joke that I want to fast-forward through the first month because I love when it’s September, and I know names and personalities. It’s also very exciting, though. My classroom is next door to the Life Skills room (some of the best kids in the school), and I am so excited to see everyone and hear how summer was,” Charpentier said.
Charpentier is also very excited to jump back into administering extracurricular activities, specifically Team LEAD. Last year, Team LEAD had a significant shift. Charpentier and Assistant Principal Michelle Bush tweaked the extracurricular activity to focus inside VHS instead of going to Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Benjamin Franklin Middle School.
“I am very excited about our Team LEAD changes. We are working on more outreach for new students. VHS is a huge school, and we hope to assign new students a Team LEAD ‘mentor’ to be their buddy until they learn their way around and get settled,” Charpentier said.
Along with extracurricular activities, Charpentier is very excited about special days during the school year.
“I love spirit days! I always have fun dressing up and love seeing everyone else. Halloween at VHS is fun too, with costume competitions between the departments. I also really enjoy Winter Formal because it’s low-key compared to Homecoming and prom, and it’s always so neat to see everyone all dressed up,” she said.
Lastly, Charpentier mentions her favorite aspects of teaching.
“Relationship building - it’s the most important thing I do, and I feel like building relationships with your students goes hand-in-hand with an engaged classroom. If students know you care about them, they are more likely to want to learn and grow. I try to stand at the door and greet each student as they enter the room. Although it’s a small thing, it gives me a chance to see how everyone is doing and let them know I care,” Charpentier said. “I also love when I see something click for a student. Sometimes, my students will struggle with a certain concept, so we keep working on it. Then all of a sudden, a lightbulb goes off and they get it. I love that moment.”
Community member spotlight:
Cailynn Harris was a Class of ‘23 graduate from Wheeler High School. Harris owns a lash business called Lashesbycae and received her certificate for lash extensions from Moda Academy. Harris highlights how she became interested in doing clients' lashes.
"I really enjoyed watching social media videos on them, and I started to practice and noticed I was pretty decent at it, so I decided to take it seriously and get my certification," Harris said. "Lashes usually take about two hours, depending on the client’s natural lashes. There are multiple different styles you can get with lashes. The basics are the classic 1:1 ratio, so every natural lash gets one fake lash. Hybrids and volume are a couple of fake lashes on one natural lash."
Harris notes that her favorite part of doing lashes is her clients’ reactions.
"I love connecting with every client differently and seeing how happy they are after each session," Harris said.
Although Harris loves doing lash extensions, she finds some aspects challenging.
"The patience it takes for each set is challenging. One minute everything is going perfectly, and the next it could be a struggle. I realize it all takes time and dedication," Harris said.
Harris may find challenges during an eyelash session, but owning a lash business at 18 is her biggest accomplishment.
Not only does Harris own a lash business, she is also employed at Parlor Doughnuts (Parlor).
"I have to interact with and help customers every minute of the day at Parlor. I usually work at the front of the house, making coffee or drinks or packing up customers' doughnuts," she said.
Many things bring Harris joy while she works at Parlor.
"My coworkers, as well as my managers, are so sweet and careful," Harris said. "I love greeting people with a smile every day, knowing a little bit of kindness can go a long way."
Besides working, Harris lives on a farm with no animals. She loves spending time with her friends and family. Her favorite food is macaroni and cheese, and she loves the color emerald green.
Not only does Harris love spending time with family, her biggest inspiration is also her sister.
"She is the sweetest and kindest person ever and a very successful young woman," Harris said.
Harris also believes that the harder you work, the more it pays off. Harris’s cousins had given her that advice two years ago, and it stuck.
Finally, Regarding working hard, Harris has a big career plan for her future.
"I would like to open my own salon with my friends that are going to cosmetology school and hopefully go from there," Harris said.