John Wognun learned a timeless lesson from his first season playing for the Smoky Hill High School Unified Basketball team.
Wognum, a junior, spoke words that countless athletes from countless sports have uttered as long as humans have banded together to play competitive games. While the adage may feel familiar, its value was immediate and important for Wognum, who worked with his fellow students and athletes to take home the state championship title for Smoky Hill in March for the fourth year in a row.
"There's no 'I' in 'team,'" Wognum said. "We all make this possible."
Walking into Smoky Hill High School on Oct. 13 was like walking into another world. A world filled with strange and wonderful creatures; an elaborately decorated Indian elephant, a variety of dragons and dinosaurs, an elegant eel-like creature that could have been a cousin of the Loch Ness Monster.
There were equally amazing machines; a tank with a working turret and catapult, a grand piano with a computerized keyboard, a telephone booth straight out of Victorian London, except for the high tech smartphone keypad.
Gabe Schneider has amassed an impressive store of cardboard.
The sixth-grader from Liberty Middle School sees the material as a key to creativity, raw material that can result in inspired expressions of creativity and engineering. In Schneider's eyes, discarded boxes and packing material are building blocks for massive sculptures and painstakingly detailed models.
"I call myself the 'Cardboard Nerd.' I have a huge box just about the size of my mom's car full of cardboard in the garage," Schneider said. "She won't allow me to collect anymore. She says I have too much."
These three high school seniors couldn't stop smiling.
As hundreds gathered at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center for the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation's Invest In Success Gala on March 24, Overland High School students James Artis and Rashib Basnet stood with Jireh Pulley from Grandview. The trio's shared elation stood out among the crowd and together, they seemed to spread a positive attitude simply through their presence.
Joshua Campbell had a strategy going in to the game.
Less than an hour before he joined his teammates from the Grandview High School Unified Basketball Team to take on the squad from Cherokee Trail on Jan. 13, Campbell was thinking about how he’d contribute to a victory. He was going to shoot a lot, he asserted. He was going work with his teammates and dig deep to find a victory, he insisted. Campbell’s confidence was hard to miss.
“I am excited … I’ve made a lot of friends,” Campbell said. “We’re going to smoke them!” he declared, throwing his arms up in the air.
The group of dozens of elementary school students fidgeted, squealed and screamed.
They watched intently as Susie Isaacs, the librarian at Sunrise Elementary School, prepped for an announcement that held plenty of drama, gravity and importance. She stood in front of a mobile bookshelf wrapped in bright construction paper, and the group of dozens of students eyed the object hungrily.
Nebiyu Tadesse came to the Cherry Creek School District as an overwhelmed 13-year-old who spoke no English and had little in the way of community roots.
Less than four years later, the Smoky Hill High School senior speaks with an assured eloquence and his words bear almost no trace of the accent of his native Ethiopia. He is careful, confident and purposeful when he speaks, particularly about his ambitious life plan.