By Ashley Hocking
When it comes to chess, three students have all the right moves.
Senior Eddie Wilson, junior Kaustubh Nimkar and freshman Apramay Mishra competed at The United States Chess Federation’s National High School Tournament in San Diego, Calif., earlier this month.
“All three students competed in the Championship Division, which is the highest level of competition,” chess club sponsor Andy Bricker said. “Lawrence High finished 36th out of 51 teams. LHS [was] the only team from Kansas.”
The three who competed nationally represented the largest group Lawrence High had ever sent.
“From Kansas, we don’t often get very many representatives, and it feels nice to be able to represent our state,” Mishra said.
While Mishra was competing for the third time, it was Wilson’s ninth time representing Kansas at the national level.
“I’m glad that there were more people going this year,” Wilson said. “That’s the most we’ve ever had from LHS go to nationals. I’d like to see more people in the future going. I’ve been going to nationals since fourth grade, so I really wanted to finish it out in my last year.”
Because traveling across the country is a difficult financial burden, Wilson and his family created a GoFundMe project. GoFundMe is an online fundraising forum that enabled the Wilsons to raise $945.
“Family funds just weren’t really there, so we decided to reach out and see if there would be any people willing to support me and to everyone that donated, I really appreciate it,” Wilson said. “It was really nice to be able to go to my last nationals.”
With the financial means to get to the national competition, Wilson next had to mentally prepare himself for seven chess matches during the course of three intensive days.
“The tournament, I’d say, is a lot more intense than scholastic tournaments around here,” Wilson said. “Matches can last four hours, even over sometimes. There’s really no point in going unless you’re prepared for the competition. It’s a lot of playing chess.”
Before he competes, Wilson studies strategies for opening moves and works on tactics to improve with each move he executes.
“The best way to get better is to play people better than you,” Wilson said. “If you just play people who you know you can beat, you’re not going to get any better.”
Wilson’s highest finish was four years ago when he placed 15th out of 350 competitors in his section.
“There are multiple sections at nationals, and I played in the highest section,” Wilson said. “I’m sort of used to the competition around here, so it’s nice to play some people with some different styles and meet some different people.”
Alongside Wilson and Mishra at the national competition was Nimkar, who won a first-place trophy in his section in 2012 as well as two state championships in the past three years.
Though Nimkar didn’t place as high as he had hoped this year, he was glad to have the opportunity to refine his skills.
“It was really competitive and very serious,” Nimkar said. “Many people came prepared. I thought I came prepared, but I wasn’t able to translate that onto the board quite yet. I learned a lot and played a lot of good players. I got better, and came back here, went over the games and improved my mistakes.”
Mishra, Nimkar and Wilson players agree chess is a mentally stimulating and challenging game.
“You just have to be psychologically prepared to play and have good mental strength when you play,” Nimkar said.
Nimkar remains optimistic for future tournaments at the local and national level.
“I practiced lots of hours and lots of weeks,” Nimkar said. “I have another year, and there are a lot more upcoming tournaments that are not scholastic-based. I’ll be more prepared for those tournaments.”
By Ashley Hocking
Junior Emily Murphy spends her weekends memorizing flashcard terms and simulating professional scenarios in hotel rooms with fellow business-savvy members of Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) at career-development competitions.
Her hard work has not gone to waste. Murphy will be the sole representative from Lawrence High at the national competition in Atlanta this weekend.
“They only take the top three students [from state] in each event, and Emily came in second overall for Food Marketing,” DECA sponsor Lisa Burns said. “[It] is the highlight of the DECA year. Several thousand students will be in attendance from the United States and Canada.”
Upon hearing the news, the first thing Murphy did was inform her mother, Lynn Murphy.
“She texted me late at night to tell me she qualified for the national competition,” Lynn Murphy said. “I knew she was a smart girl, but didn’t realize she had such strong business sense.”
Though Murphy wishes she could share the experience with fellow club members, she is eager to spend the weekend in Georgia with Burns.
“I think it will be fun because Ms. Burns is actually a really cool person,” Murphy said. “We have a lot of really good conversations. She’s really easy to talk to, and she has a lot of good life advice.”
Murphy was initially inspired to join the club after taking a business class last year.
“Business is something I’m interested in going into in college, so I decided to try it,” Murphy said.
This year, Murphy has thrived in job simulations at DECA competitions during which participants complete a 100 question multiple choice business test, two role-playing events relative to their occupational area and an interview with a business executive.
Role-playing scenarios are conducive to the fields of sales, distribution, marketing research, product development, management, human resources, ethics, promotion, pricing and communications.
“Basically, the competitors are given a description of a specific situation that measures their knowledge of food marketing and marketing management,” Burns said. “They usually play the role of a manager and the judge plays the role of their boss or a customer. After they receive their scenario, they only have 10 minutes to prepare before going before the judge. Competitors have to have a good general knowledge of marketing, the event subject and the ability to think on their feet.”
After excelling at the regional and state level, Murphy secured her spot at the rigorous national competition that will take place on May 4-5.
“We’ll have to do basically the same thing that we did at regionals and state, just on a harder level,” Murphy said. “There will probably be a lot more people and competition. It’ll be more professional overall.”
Burns has high expectations for Murphy not only at the national competition, but also in her future business endeavors.
“I think Emily has all the skills to be an exceptional business professional no matter what field she chooses,” Burns said. “Emily is a conscientious student. She is great at quickly drawing on her knowledge and applying it in a variety of situations.”
Emily’s mother also predicts a bright future for Murphy in the business world.
“Emily’s participation in DECA has taught her professionalism and has helped her develop a different level of confidence in an area she hopes to pursue in her future,” Lynn Murphy said. “I see her as a professional woman who finds a way to incorporate her interests as well as enjoyment in her business endeavors.”
Murphy currently plans to double major in business and food science at Kansas State University in hopes of one day opening her own bakery.
“K-State has a bakery science program and a really good business school, so it’d be the perfect double major for me,” Murphy said. “They have a lot of internships that they offer with Pillsbury and Nestle. It’s pretty exciting.”
Although racial tensions don’t always run rampant in the halls of Lawrence High, racism is still inevitable here in Kansas.
In an effort to bridge the gap, the district allots a great sum of money to the Pacific Educational Group to instruct teachers regarding how to have “Courageous Conversations” about race. The goal of this program is to create equality and discuss racial disparities, but it has proven to have adverse effects.
One of the most difficult issues with this program is how it is being handled. Instead of teachers volunteering their time to participate in these workshops, teachers must find a substitute teacher for the day they attend. However, there isn’t a large enough budget and there aren’t enough substitutes for all of the teachers to be able to go.
Additionally, students are not even given the opportunity to get involved in these conversations. Students of color, however, are invited to attend leadership symposiums with individuals of their respective race.
Because discourse regarding race is rare in the classroom, some caucasian students go as far as to vocalize how they feel “left out” and “disadvantaged.” Some individuals have even complained about the lack of a White Leadership Symposium.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education case in which public institutions were desegregated. But while this was a step forward, progress remains stagnant here at LHS.
In the hallways, we still hear racial slurs and stereotypes during every passing period. The n-word is even used frequently enough that students using that language fail to understand the meaning and history behind the derogatory word.
As illustrated in “Film industry blatantly whitewashes characters of color,” non-caucasian people don’t get the same opportunities. Out of the 2,809 statues that have been presented for the Oscars, only 85 have been awarded to people of color. While this fact may not demonstrate blatant racism, it does show the inequities that persist, even today.
So here at Lawrence High, we have the ability to diminish some of these inequalities as we collaborate in the classroom. As we work together to make LHS a good place, let’s work to embrace our differences rather than denouncing those unlike us.
Kendra Schwartz and Ashley Hocking
Working on a car dressed as grease monkeys, senior boys surround Alex O’Brien as they perform the song “GTO” by Ronnie and The Daytonas at Showtime. Photo by Ashley Hocking
Performing as the characters from “Friends,” seniors Lindsay Kelly, Abbey Berland, Tucker Sutter, Drake Truscello, Meredith Johnson and Ryan Bellinger sing “I’ll Be There For You” by The Remembrants. Photo by Ashley Hocking