1 in 10 SHS students qualify for Nationals

The end of the school year is near and is busy as always.  But for the 20 Southeast High School students who qualified for 23 National events it has been even more hectic.  They are finishing up homework, competing in Spring sports, studying for finals, some are preparing for graduation, but all are prepping and fundraising for Nationals, each planning to spend anywhere from 3 to 5 days in Nashville, Salt Lake City, or San Diego.

“To earn a place at a national competition is a rare and tremendous honor for a single student, but to have 20 students from a small rural district all qualify in one year is almost unbelievable,” said USD 247 Superintendent Brad Miner.  “We are very proud of our students for their hard work and dedication which has allowed them to be a part of these prestigious events.  We are also very fortunate to have many dedicated teachers willing to push students to do more than they ever thought possible.  For our students to leave Southeast Kansas and compete at the national level fills my heart with Lancer Pride.  I wish them all the best of luck and know they will not only represent Southeast High School with honor, but he state of Kansas as well.”

Speech & Debate

“Confidence is absolutely the greatest thing that it gives them, the confidence to stand up in front of people whether its peers or adults and to be able to speak and articulate an opinion on whatever it is, that’s the greatest asset that I see that they get out of it,” Southeast Debate/Forensics coach Gary Leiker said.  “They get great critical thinking skills.  Debate and Forensicators are well known for that.  Just the ability to speak, the ability to think, the belief in themselves; all of those are amazing skills they get from the activity.”

From June 13-17, three SHS students will be at the 2016 National Speech & Debate Tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Senior Ashleigh Fleck will compete in Congressional Debate Senate.  This is Fleck’s third year at Nationals.  Fleck also qualified for Nationals in International Extemp, but the NSDA only allows students to compete in one category.  Seniors Will Chrysler and Sara Goins will compete in Lincoln-Douglas Debate.  This is the first year Chrysler and Goins have qualified for Nationals.

“They all had their own unique challenges,” Mr. Leiker said.  “For Ashleigh (Fleck), the fact that she had already qualified two previous years I think put a lot of pressure on her to do it again, and you saw that manifest itself, especially when it came time for our District qualifying tournament in Congress because that is her love.  That is the event that she wanted to go to Nationals in more than anything else, and so she worked her tail off to prepare for that because she knew she had been there two times before and she put a lot of pressure on herself to try to make it happen a third time and fortunately she did.”

Leiker explained that the State and Nationals competitions for Debate/Forensics are two different things.  Students are allowed to compete in up to eight regular season competitions and if they take 1st or 2nd at one of those events, that qualifies them for the State Tournament.  However, there is only one district qualifying event for Nationals – and students must place 1st or 2nd in that event.

“For Sara (Goins), just coming to a new school, a new squad, learning a new system was definitely a significant learning curve for her and I think maybe I probably pushed her maybe harder than what she was used to being pushed and I think that was a challenge that had a positive net result actually – a State Champion and a National qualifier.”

All three – Chrysler, Fleck and Goins previously qualified for Nationals, and on April 29-30 they competed at the State tournament.  Chrysler, last year’s Kansas Class 3A State Champion in Lincoln-Douglas Debate, came away with 5th place in that same category.  It was Goins who came away the State Champion this year.  Fleck, competing in Original Oratory, left this year as the State Champion.

“For Will (Chrysler), he was just very busy with all kinds of different things.  He was spread between a lot of different activities, and finding the time he needed to prepare for what he needed to work on to prepare for Nationals, that was his greatest challenge.”

In addition to qualifying for the Debate Nationals, Chrysler also qualified for the FCCLA Nationals competition. Chrysler plans to attend the University of Maine.  Fleck plans to study Political Science Education at Washington State University.  Goins plans to attend Labette Community College for a year, and then transfer to the University of Kansas to pursue a pre-med track with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry.

To learn more about the Southeast Debate & Forensics Team, email Mr. Leiker at gleiker@usd247.com


From June 22-25, two SHS students will be at the 2016 Future Health Professionals (HOSA) National Leadership Conference in Nashville, Tennessee.  Sophomore Caitlin Low will compete in Behavior Health and sophomore Sydney Nippoldt will compete in the Healthcare Issues Exam.  This is the first year Southeast has had a HOSA chapter, so it is the first HOSA Nationals for both Low and Nippoldt.

“Students in HOSA want a career in the health field and each event is some aspect of different heath care fields,” said Southeast HOSA sponsor Jessica Mayfield.  The conference not only exposes them to the various health care fields, but since it is so rigorous it teaches them the importance of becoming a leader and prepare for their events.”

For HOSA, there is no district competition.  Everyone is eligible for the State competition but at that competition they must score above a certain threshold in their event to qualify for Nationals.

“They have had to learn how to time manage and prepare adequately for their events in the midst of their other academic, home, and extracurricular activities,” Mrs. Mayfield said.

In addition to qualifying for the HOSA Nationals, Low also qualified for the FBLA Nationals.

To learn more about Southeast HOSA, email Mrs. Mayfield at jmayfield@usd247.com


From June 28-July 2, six SHS students will be at the 2016 National Technology Student Association (TSA) Conference, also in Nashville, Tennessee.  Junior Caleb Fenimore and seniors Colton Paasch and Caleb Thompson form Team 1 to compete in On Demand Video; and, sophomore Jake Burns, senior Bryson Spahn and sophomore Kyler Spahn form Team 2 to compete in On Demand Video.  This is Fenimore and Paasch’s 1st year to go to Nationals, but it’s Burns, and the Spahn brothers 2nd year, and Thompson’s 3rd year.

“TSA teaches kids to use technology,” said Southeast TSA chapter sponsor Brad Coots.  “The majority of the students I take to state/nationals move on to college to major in a technology program.  It also teaches teamwork, attention to detail, and importance of following directions.”

While everyone is eligible to compete at State, only the top two in each event qualify for the National competition.

“We’ve had a great run in Video but that is because we have had a line of kids that is extremely passionate about it, specifically Gage Fox, Nick Junior-Galindo, Caleb Thompson and Bryson Spahn,” Mr. Coots said.

Colton Paasch plans to attend Independence Community College.  Bryson Spahn plans to study Film & Media Studies at the University of Kansas.  Thompson plans to attend Pittsburg State University, where his father is a professor at the Kansas Technology Center.

To learn more about the Southeast TSA, email Mr. Coots at bcoots@usd247.com


From June 29-July 2, nine SHS students will be at the 2016 Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) National Leadership Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.  Zoey Ball will compete in Sales Presentation.  Sophomore Daisy Burns, junior Kyra Stewart and sophomore Hannah Williams will compete in the Social Media Team event.  Sophomores Sarah Clausen, Wyntr Jacobs and Caitlin Low will compete in the Business Plan Team event.  And, freshmen Megan Colvin and Peyton Simpson will compete in the Introduction to Business Presentation Team event.  This is the second year Burns has qualified for Nationals – last year she was a top 15 finalist at Nationals; and, this is the 1st year all other students have qualified for Nationals.

“Every Southeast student who has qualified for Nationals has qualified in a speaking event and effective communication is vital to being successful,” said Southeast FBLA chapter sponsor Cherie Witt.  “This is their first opportunity to work on that communication skill through public speaking.  Nationals is also an opportunity for our students who have worked hard, to see the world while in high school.  Not only will they be able to compete and have pride in representing the state of Kansas, but they will also be able to experience the big city life.  Coming from a small town, it’s good to experience the big city.  It makes you appreciate what you have when you’re home.”

Mrs. Witt said this year competitors had to place in the top 3 in their event at District to qualify for State, and then had to place in the top 4 at State in order to qualify for Nationals.

“Most of these students had to learn how to effectively take criticism – they could either fold and get discouraged or take it and improve,” Mrs. Witt said.  “Also, because they’ve all been a finalist in their respective events, they’ve had to present in front of an open audience.  This can be nerve-racking but obviously they’ve handled the challenge.”

Ball plans to study Business Management at Pittsburg State University.

To learn more about the Southeast FBLA, email Mrs. Witt at cwitt@usd247.com


From July 3-7, two SHS students will be at the 2016 Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) National Leadership Conference in San Diego, California.  Seniors Will Chrysler and Courtney Ross will compete in Food Innovations.  This is the first year for both students to qualify for Nationals.

“Students learn life skills through their projects such as creativity, innovation, teamwork, collaboration, partnership, and work ethic,” said Southeast FCCLA chapter sponsor Sonora Jones.  “They are also working to meet deadlines which will be an important skill for college and for life, and it just so happens that Will and Courtney are both interested in becoming FACS teachers so this project is helping them to get a glimpse into what it would be like to be an FACS teacher and an FCCLA advisor.”

To qualify for the FCCLA Nationals, students must not only score 85 or better out of 100, they most be one of the top two individuals or teams in their category.

“Will and Courtney’s project was to develop a main dish containing a minimum of 10 grams of fiber in a one cup serving, which appeals to families with children between the ages of 2 and 15 – they had to create their own recipe that met these qualifications, make appealing product packaging, test their recipe on their target audience, and make changes based on suggested,” Mrs. Jones said.  “The students also presented to their peers multiple times in class and made changes based on their suggestions and suggestions given by judges at districts.”

Ross plans to study Graphic Design at Labette Community College.

To learn more about the Southeast FCCLA, email Mrs. Jones at sjones@usd247.com

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