Friday, March 8, 2013



Building community is on the mind of Principal Kit Rea as she and a newly formed leadership team and Parent Teacher Student Association work hard to get ready for the opening of Mallard Creek High School on Aug. 27.

"We have embraced the entire community of Mallard Creek," she says. "From the naming of the school, to the mascot, to the school colors, the community has jumped in full force." In order to insure a buy-in for those growing up and living in the area, meetings have been held, ballots mailed, and consensus formed on key school issues. A team is working on the design of the school seal and ring.

The PTSA and Athletic Booster Clubs have met throughout the spring. The PTSA hosted an "Invest In Your Child" membership drive, and more than 80 families joined via membership fees and donations.

"Parents and students are excited, and there is great camaraderie and a coming together between the families from Vance and North Mecklenburg high schools," membership chairman Cheryl Jefferson said.

The new Mallard Creek High School, at 3825 Johnston-Oehler Road, will draw students from both Vance and North Mecklenburg to alleviate overcrowding at those schools. Seniors will stay at their respective schools, but a large number of sophomores, and juniors will be moved to Mallard Creek, home of the Mavericks.

Mallard Creek is expected to enroll about 1,300 students for the 2007-08 year. But as anyone who lives in the University City area knows, population growth is booming, and that number will change throughout the summer months and academic year.

Prospective students are already active in school events. Rising sophomore Adam Jefferson just returned from Gen. Hugh Shelton's Leadership Camp and will participate in future leadership activities at the school.

All is a go for moving in fully by mid-July. The occupancy certificate has been filed, student furniture and the administration's furniture have been moved in, and telecommunication equipment and other supplies will be delivered over the next couple of weeks, Rea said.

Most of the staff has been hired and the PTSA and Athletic Booster boards are elected.

"We're ready to have students arrive, start our work, receive input, correct our mistakes, move on, and become an outstanding high school," Rae said.

Based on the commitment and hard work of the administration, faculty, staff, students and community members who have already dedicated themselves to the school's success, there is no doubt that Mallard Creek High School will be the buzz of the community for some time to come.



Brian Foster says he didn't know any of the students in the halls at Mallard Creek High until he got involved in the musical "Grease."

Now he's Kenickie, second-in-command of the T-Birds. "Now I know everyone and am known to break out in dance when I see one of the cast members in the hallways," said Foster, a junior, with a wide smile and twisting feet.

Smiling, singing, twisting and turning, Danny (Raymond Bowey), Sandy (Sarah Shetler), the Pink Ladies and the T-Birds light up the stage and fill the auditorium with the song "Summer Nights."

In all, 42 freshmen, sophomores and juniors have worked together for eight weeks to ensure that the school's second play is a hit.

Director of theater arts Aimee Jordan, who is directing the play, thinks this show will be better than the first.

"The majority of the students I have worked with this year have never performed before, and it is exciting to see them grow as performers and young adults," she said.

Focusing, staying in character, and being responsible for lines and choreography, the students learn life lessons through play practice and the play's themes.

"I really enjoy teaching and directing high school theater because it gives the students an opportunity to focus their talents in a positive manner," Jordan said.

Freshman Dustin Mapes, who plays the role of Eugene, said he has always wanted to be in a high school play.

"It is something good to do with my time and keeps me out of trouble," he said.

"I like to socialize with a group of people who are here for the same goal - to make a good play," adds junior Nicholas Hailey, who plays Roger.

"Everyone's grown through this show, pursuing talents each one can do, such as acting, singing and dancing," says the play's stage manager, junior Marissa Gainey, as she looks up from her clipboard where she keeps a list of the day's tasks.

Asked what he got out of being in the show, junior Addison Prophet said: "The thrill of being on stage and having the Maverick community look up to us and be proud."



High school is winding down, and those of us with teenagers in our homes are excited about not waking up in the dark but anxious about teens with too much time on their hands.

Summer is a land full of milestones - small and large, good and bad - for teens and parents. My next-door neighbor told me her preteen son was not signing up for the library reading program this year. The look of sorrow on her face reminded me how I felt when my kids no longer wanted to enroll in arts and crafts camps.

This marks the time when they're too old to attend camps and too young to get jobs in them. That's when we cajole them into taking a course or two in science or writing and get them to volunteer at nursing homes or community centers.

We're lucky if we have a pool nearby and have flextime to make sure they're not getting into trouble.

If your teen is an athlete, summer is a time to get ready to open the wallet. Teens travel to tournaments and team camps, and usually don't have jobs lucrative enough to help pay the expense. The practice and game time limits the number of hours they can work anyway.

We love watching our teens' games, but when did we all stop going to the corner lot to have local tournaments?

Another milestone is finding a job. My oldest daughter was a good baby sitter, and she has made that skill into lucrative employment for the past six years. Baby-sitting is a good starter job because it is flexible, and teens can be young when they begin.

The next level of job is usually a lifeguard, camp counselor, grocery store or fast-food employee. After that, teens can work at malls. My 17-year-old has put in 10 applications, without hearing a word.

This is another teenage summer passage: It is not always easy to find a job. It is not fun to be penniless in the summer when there is free time to hang with the gang. This is one of those milestones that is a lesson for the teen and a "that's life's reality" comment from parents.

Although we aren't in the thick of it this summer, we have spent previous summers helping our teenagers get driver's licenses. This is a tougher rite on parents because we worry about our children on the road, and we know that this is the end of an era of shared car time.

As much as I complained about being a "soccer mom," I certainly miss the conversations I had with my kids on the way to practices, events and meetings. On a recent night, my son and I went out to dinner, just to catch up in the midst of busy lives.

Summer milestones bring new freedoms, joys and responsibilities. For every event that takes place, something is replaced.

A good friend of mine once said that for every letting go, there is a grieving for something lost - even if that something lost is wonderful.

The wonderful rites of summer passage for teenagers are memorable and, as with everything in life, inevitable.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Girls on the Run: Local students train for 5k, absorb other lessons along the way

May 11, 2008 

Surrounded by 14 third- and fourth-graders and two Highland Creek Elementary School teachers, fourth-grader Stephanie Wisnewski eagerly talks about participating in Girls on the Run.

"Girls on the Run is a fun and exciting program that helps girls be better people in the world," she said. "By loving ourselves, we get self-confidence. We talk about drugs, alcohol and smoking, and learn how bad they are for us. We can tell others and help stop them from taking drugs, getting sick, and dying from them. I thought I could help a lot of people if I learned about it."

Fourth-grade teacher Marcy Sanders and third-grade teacher Lauren Snyder are teaching the principles of the program, whose mission is "to educate and prepare girls for a lifetime of self-respect and healthy living."

Founded in 1996 by Molly Barker, a Charlotte native, social worker, and four-time Ironman triathlete, Girls on the Run Charlotte has 60 sites in Charlotte. It is an affiliate of Girls on the Run International, with 100 locations across the United States and Canada. To find out how to join, go to

The program serves girls in third through eighth grades and meets twice a week after school, for eight-week sessions. Local schools typically host fall and spring sessions for girls who participate in healthy living education and train for a 5K run.

The activity is also rewarding for the teachers. Snyder said she was not a runner when she started co-facilitating Girls on the Run. She thought it would be a good way to exercise while working with students, getting to know them outside of the classroom and teaching them about healthy living.
Sanders agrees.

"You see the girls in a different light and setting," she said. "The girls feel free and confident to express themselves. As the session goes on, you watch the girls reap the rewards of exercising, making new friends, and teaching their peers. It is also motivating for me because it forces me to change my clothes and get out there and run."

The girls in the Highland Creek Elementary group crowd together to talk further about what they're learning.

Kayla Bass, Tori Pocta and Taylor Scovel discuss peer pressure.

"When you go somewhere with your friends and they want you to do something you don't want to do, don't do it," Taylor says. "They probably aren't good friends anyway."
Stephanie Wisnewski says she likes the running program.

"The teachers say, `OK, 10 more minutes, 5 or 6 laps left,' " Stephanie says. " They really push us. That really helps us. Girls on the Run is fun and healthy."

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Hawaii nice, but true gift time with family

January 20, 2008

My mother-in-law turned 80 last April and called everyone in our family to state her birthday gift: a trip to Hawaii that she was giving herself.

She added that she was taking all of us with her, on a seven-day cruise of the Hawaiian islands. On Dec. 21, 17 of us boarded the Pride of America to embark on the trip of a lifetime.

My mother-in-law, her four children, their four spouses, five of the children's children, one spouse of one child, and two of the children's children's children went on the trip. What a spectrum of family!

Ages 7 to 80 were represented in the four generations, and a variety of customs, likes, dislikes, and conversations were added in the mix. It was a rainbow of the usual joy, calamity, fun and exhaustion of family gatherings.

We all participated in the nightly family dinners in one of the ship's many dining rooms. There we gathered to share our daily Hawaiian adventures. Some family members went on a catamaran to snorkel, others rode all-terrain vehicles in a muddy rain forest. Some went touring volcanoes and craters or swimming with dolphins, while others stayed on the boat relaxing by the pool, ordering piƱa coladas.

I learned about my 20-year old nephew's college/job aspirations and was wowed by his intelligence. Meeting another nephew's new wife, talking about the house the newlyweds recently bought, and hearing about their plans for making it environmentally sound made a long car ride interesting.

Walking around the deck with my sister-in-law, talking about our daily lives now that our children are older, reminded me why I am blessed to have entered this family.

Best of all were the days when my husband, my mother-in-law, and whoever else wanted a spot in our rental car, toured the coastal land of Hawaii's beautiful islands, stopping for a piece of pineapple or a cup of kona. We chatted about our lives and admired the scenery, enjoying one another's company.

I'm grateful that my mother-in-law gave us all a large piece of her birthday cake.

It is so rare for families to come together at all -- much less for an extended period of time. Without the meals, rides and talks, I wouldn't have any of the details of my extended family's life.

I thank my mother-in-law for sharing the spectrum of all of us and recommend that other families find ways to spend time with their extended families.

Approach Christmas with a grateful heart

December 9, 2007

After 26 hours of driving, pounds of food and many laughs, my family and I returned gratefully from visiting family in upstate New York for Thanksgiving.

When we went around the Thanksgiving table and stated what filled us with gratitude, my mother said, "I'm just happy to be here."

Because she was diagnosed with cancer in June, this pronouncement was indeed profound. We were all happy that she and everyone else around the table were there.

Gratitude at its starkest starts with "being." That we are human is unconsciously attached to our being and is the problem with gratitude. We should be glad to be alive and part of the human race, but often we are not.

For example, this past week there was an e-mail in my work inbox inviting all employees to a wellness seminar to cope with holiday stress. If the holidays are a time for family interaction, spiritual rededication and joyful gift-giving, why are we stressed? Shouldn't we be grateful for all that we are and delighted that the holidays give us time off to remember one another and reconnect with those who make us feel human?

This year, two of my children are in college, and the third is a senior in high school. Each is employed part-time and suffering economic doldrums. When my eldest daughter sent me a text message and asked what my husband and I wanted for Christmas, I wrote back, "You're broke. Make a card. Write a poem. Send a picture. Don't buy any presents." My daughter called me later that night and agreed but said it would be a strange Christmas without the usual pile of gifts under the tree.

Luckily for her, I didn't go into a "being there" lecture. I reminded her that this was our gift to one another and that change is a good thing.

Then I started to plot. Certainly some inexpensive "stocking stuffers" was OK under this arrangement. Santa was coming down the chimney no matter our decision. I arranged my schedule and schemed time to get to particular stores on sale days. Soon I needed the wellness seminar to lighten the anxiety I felt about getting this all done. Any feeling of gratitude about all of us being together again was gone.

I'm going to take my mom's sage advice this Christmas. I'll be happy to be here with my family. I will host my annual Christmas cookie baking party for all the cul-de-sac kids and drive around the neighborhood to look at decorations. But that's it. In the peace of gratitude, all I want for Christmas is thankful presence.

Let's cuddle up to accepting others

Sun, Oct. 28, 2007

The air has finally cooled. My son asked where his flannel sheets were and said he welcomed "snuggle time."

We're big snugglers in this house, so I joined in his excitement. As we rooted out the sheets, he said, "People here use the word cuddle instead of snuggle. I like snuggle better."

I had never thought about these word differences. I noticed a variety of Southern/Northern dissimilarities when we first moved to the South. Most noticeable were Southern accents and different food and beverage choices such as grits and sweet tea.

In some instances, I had to work against prejudices I had about Southern traits. I didn't know I had them until I moved to Charlotte.

For example, I had an unconscious belief that strong, twangy accents represented ignorance. Years of watching shows such as the "Beverly Hillbillies" and seeing cartoon representations of "barefoot and pregnant" Southerners had rooted inside me in a prejudicial way.

It wasn't until these notions reared their ugly selves that I had to recognize them and dispel their mythology. Luckily for me, I was raised in a home where cultural stereotypes were always discussed when they popped up and talked about for what they were -- overly simplified and often harmful ideas.

When I looked up the definitions of snuggle and cuddle, I found that they were almost the same. The major differences were in their verb types and how they were used.

Often, the very stereotypes that cause hatred and prejudice are the very words or ideas that are not that different.

I am glad my son is aware of his surroundings and notices the diverse ways people use words. I'm also pleased he decides what to use in his own language.

Most important, I'm proud he doesn't judge someone for saying cuddle instead of snuggle. He notes the distinction and chooses to say "snuggle."

Pausing to understand cultural differences and accept them as only that -- different -- would help solve many of the misunderstandings between people who, in their humanity, are more alike than different.