The Bearcat Theater Company has been hard at work all summer. The summer production is Words, a play written by a Wheeler alumni, Lauren Aldaba. Words is directed by Jessica Ball and is not yet formally published, so the group is taking the opportunity to workshop the piece.
Words is a play that focuses on a group of teenagers in a small town. Life seems to be perfect for them at first, however, three main characters will reveal that it is not the case. The production features love and loss in the character’s lives. Words also touches on teen suicide and mental health. Ball shared that it is important to build awareness to the community, both students and adults. She explained that anyone can be affected at any point in their life.
Ball said, “It’s a topic that has impacted this community and it’s something that every student needs to be aware of.”
The show features a wide range of ages from middle school to young adults. Each cast member brings something different and unique to the show.
“They are all really hard working and have been able to tap into the emotion of the show,” shared Ball.
The production will run from July 27th to the 29th in the Wheeler High School auditorium. The Friday and Saturday performances will begin at 7:00 p.m. while the Sunday performance will begin at 2:00 p.m. Ticket prices will be $7 for all ages.
Social studies teacher Jessica Ball keeps herself busy in and out of the classroom. Alongside teaching US History, Economics, Sociology, and Psychology, Ball has a large impact in the arts at Wheeler.
Ball is an Olivet Nazarene University graduate. There she received a Bachelor’s degree in Social Science Education and, later, a Master of Education in Education and Psychological Foundations from Valparaiso University.
Teaching had always been something Ball could see herself doing. She shared that as a child, her and her sisters always played school, and she would be the teacher every time. Ball explained that teaching takes patience, but the “light bulb” moments make it worthwhile.
“Even if I don’t get to see all the results, I hope that I am making an impact on lives even in a small way,” Ball said.
Ball began teaching at Wheeler in 2007. During her second year of teaching, students discovered Ball took part in the arts while she was in high school. Ball then became involved with the show choir and the theater department at Wheeler.
She first began helping with music and choreography in the theater department, but willingly took her first directing position in spring of 2010.
Ball shared, “It was an amazing experience and sort of gave the me the directing bug.”
After being a part of the Wheeler community for eleven years, Ball has been able to experience what a phenomenal place it is.
“I have seen some incredible people walk these halls, and I know that it’s because of the opportunities they are afforded by the multitude of programs,” explained Ball.
Porter County Youth Committee
The Porter County Youth Committee consists of a group of students from throughout the region whose goal is to promote leadership, volunteering, and awareness of substance abuse. The committee is run by the Porter County Substance Abuse Council.
The council has met a handful of times this summer. At their June 19th meeting, a guest speaker was in attendance. The speaker was Courtney Robinson from South Shore Leadership Center.
Robinson’s presentation focused on different forms of leadership. She talked about the several ways you can work and lead with others. Robinson touched on different ways of communicating and listening.
The group then participated in an activity where they were split into smaller groups to create a PSA. Each group was given a different substance abuse issue that is present in Porter County. Their goal was to create a 1-minute PSA that addressed their issue.
The group is also planning a few events for youth in Porter County. Among these events are Sticker Shock, the 3-Dune Challenge and the Porter County Youth Festival.
Part of the Porter County Substance Abuse Council’s goal is to educate the community of the dangers and consequences of substance abuse. During Sticker Shock, members of the council and youth group travel throughout Porter County to drug stores, grocery stores, and liquor stores. They then place stickers, each stating the fine for providing alcohol to minors, on grocery bags or cases of alcohol.
The 3-Dune Challenge is a 1.5 mile challenge trail that allows students to work on team building skills.
The Porter County Youth Festival is an event for students throughout the region. Students are able to participate in multiple activities, and there will also be live music and food vendors.
Community Student Highlight
Upcoming Valparaiso High School senior Alex Clanton has been keeping himself busy this summer.
To Clanton, leadership has always been an important aspect of his life.
“Leadership is very important to me because I think it is the first step into becoming a responsible citizen,” said Clanton.
Because of this importance, Clanton has taken up several leadership positions both within his school and community. He is the president of the Valpo High School student council, president of the Indiana Association of Student Councils, a youth member of the Human Relations Council of Valpo, and a youth sector leader of the Porter County Substance Abuse Council.
Within his leadership positions, Clanton’s goal is to spread leadership to others. He hopes they will share unique qualities and skills they have learned with their peers.
“I hope to lead students into becoming amazing leaders,” shared Clanton.
With such involvement in the city, Clanton has a positive perspective of Valparaiso’s community.
Clanton explained, “Valparaiso is a unique environment, mostly due to its embracing nature towards serious topics, such as socioeconomic, racial, and other items that are crucial to converse about in order to have a functioning society.”
As senior year approaches, Clanton already has a clear focus of what he would like to pursue after high school. He hopes to attend Indiana University to study Law and Musical Education. With this education, he plans to become involved in politics and eventually retire to be a music teacher.
In his free time, Clanton enjoys hanging out with his friends, meeting new people, singing, and playing the violin.