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Saturday, September 21, 2019

Highlands-Ryle Video Highlights

Highlands-Ryle Game Story

Defense Stout in Highlands Victory

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands senior defensive lineman Griffin Welsch (8), Zach Lewin (41) and senior linebacker Mason Schwalbach (4) pursue Ryle senior running back Kyle England (7) in the Homecoming Game Friday. That was a common theme in the 27-0 Highlands victory. The Bluebirds have two shutouts this year.
The Homecoming crowd at David Cecil Memorial Stadium saw the formula for success for the Highlands Bluebirds football team Friday.

That is play solid defense, create turnovers, don't turn the ball over and let the offense put some things together. That led to a second shutout this year in a 27-0 victory over the visiting Ryle Raiders (3-2 overall).

Friday, September 20, 2019

Fort Thomas Coffee will cut ribbon on new ownership

In May of this year, new owners of Fort Thomas Coffee, Justin and Cristine Smalley, knew they were taking on a community hub for the Fort Thomas and before diving in, they wanted to understand exactly how to make that sense of community grow.

Over the summer, sprinkled amongst some family vacations and new hires, the Smalleys are officially ready to unveil their version of Fort Thomas Coffee.

On Monday, September 23 - six months after they bought FTC, they'll cut the ribbon at 6:00 p.m. and will be launching a multitude of new offerings including:

- New menu items
- New merchandise
- New hours
- New barista team

"We’re going to celebrate a summer of hard work with a reception of team members, friends and family 6-8 p.m. at the shop that evening," said owner, Christine Smalley.

Smalley said she's excited about an in-shop baker who will be preparing new fresh baked good and for the gluten-free options.

"Everything is amazing!" she said.

All day on Monday (9/23) Fort Thomas Coffee will be giving their guests a free sweet treat with every purchase and a $1 off coupon for a future visit.

Come by, wish them success and see the ribbon cut for the newest version of Fort Thomas' community coffee hub.

Class of 2019 Highlands Athletic Hall of Fame: 1993-94 Girls Basketball Team

Class of 2019

Team of Distinction – the 1993-94 Girls Basketball Team was the first Girls’ 9th Region team in Kentucky history to make it to the Sweet 16 Championship game.  In the Sweet 16, Highlands defeated Russell, Ohio County, and Louisville Male before falling to MC Napier in the championship game.  The team started the season 6-5 but only lost 2 more games the rest of the way and finished with an overall record of 32-7.  The team was led by Head Coach Jim Higgins, sophomore All-State performer Jaime Walz, and a pair of seniors and 9th Region All-Tournament team members: Megan Arnzen and Denise Lombardo.

Don't put off completing your will. Call Ashley Barlow! 859-781-5777. 

The members of the team were Megan Arnzen, Julie Eilerman, Kim Hoffmeister, Keri Imhoff, Denise Lombardo, Apryl Van Sickle, Jenny Warren, Jodie Mader, Caity McGraw, Jessica McMahon, Jaime Walz, Heather Kruger, and Kelli Duffy.  The following individuals also assisted Coach Jim Higgins: Luci Cecil (Assistant Coach), Brian Walz (Assistant Coach), Dan Hamberg (Statistician), Theresa Behan (Athletic Trainer), Jimmy Parker (Video) and Jennifer Higgins, Lauryn Higgins & Katie Konen (Managers).

The Hall of Fame ceremony in the HHS PAC begins at 3:00 p.m. on 9/22. That event is free and open to the public.

Sweet Tooth Candies owners in Newport to retire after 50 years

Update: 2:57 p.m.

Owner Bob Schneider confirmed that retirement is definitely happening for he and his wife, Norma, but they are reviewing other options that would allow Sweet Tooth Candies to stay open.

"It's a long and complicated process, but we wanted to let our employees and customers know that we're headed toward retirement," said Schneider. "With that goal in mind, we've been doing this since I grew up. We've worked our elbows off."

Earlier reports from employees indicated that a closure was on the horizon, but Schneider says he hopes to avoid that.

The article's headline has been corrected to reflect the new comments. New information will be updated in a new article.


A bittersweet ending for a long-time small business has many fans reeling.

Sweet Tooth Candies (125 W. 11th St.) in Newport, Kentucky and owners Bob and Norma Schneider, 83 and 77, will begin their retirement journey. Employees told Fort Thomas Matters that the couple has told them they will close, but gave them no specific date when operations will cease.

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They opened the location in 1969.

Since there is no date for their final closure, there is still time to grab their famous chocolate turtles, caramel apples or ice balls. Employees confirmed that ownership had communicated their plans to retire and close without a succession plan.

Schneider's, located in Bellevue, Kentucky, will remain open.

The Schneider family has been making their small-batch chocolate recipe for over a hundred years.

Everything is made in a small factory on Saratoga Street and served in the West 11th Street storefront, where shelves are lined with colorfully wrapped treats and gold-leaf boxes.

Sweet Tooth has roughly 10 employees who do everything from serving up ice cream on hot summer nights to hand-wrapping flavored chocolate eggs in preparation for Easter.

Monika Kenney has work at Sweet Tooth Candies for 30 years. She works primarily at the candy shop on 11th Street but has put in plenty of hours at the factory and knows the ins and outs of the Sweet Tooth business.

In three decades, there is one thing she hasn’t done: make the chocolate.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Officials identify Campbell County inmate who walked away from work detail in Newport

There was a heavy police presence in the area of the Purple People Bridge Wednesday afternoon.

Orangetheory Fitness, Newport Pavilion. 
Just before 2 p.m., a Campbell County inmate walked away from a work detail on the Newport side of the bridge.

He has been identified as George Gattis. He is white, 5'10", 195 pounds with light brown hair and facial hair. Gattis, from Sparta, Kentucky, has an extensive arrest record. He was most recently arrested in May of this year.

The suspect was last seen on the Purple People Bridge walking toward Cincinnati.

Highlands Celebrates Homecoming, Will Face Ryle on Friday

Bluebirds Face Improved Raiders

PHOTO: Ed Harber. Highlands senior linebacker Mason Schwalbach makes a move in the win at Simon Kenton on Friday.
As assistant coach Billy Huddleston said last week, it is a matter of consistency for the Highlands Bluebirds football team.

The Highlands defense has displayed that for the most part this season in the 3-1 start. The offense hopes to see even more of it this week when the improved Ryle Raiders come to town with the same record Friday. Game time is 7 p.m. at David Cecil Memorial Stadium.

"I thought we took a big step last week," said Sam Umberg, Highlands Offensive Coordinator. "But we're really honing in on the little things like we do each and every day. It's the little things that will make our offense really get going. We haven't hit on all cylinders yet. But I do think we're really close."

Now open on Memorial Parkway!

Highlands has outscored opponents, 145-51 for averages of just more than 36 to just under 13 per game. No Kentucky opponent has scored more than 13 points against the Bluebirds. Highlands enters the game off a 28-7 win at Simon Kenton.

The Highlands defense made Simon Kenton drive the field and picked off two passes to end drives. Highlands Head Coach Brian Weinrich said that will again be a key this week.

"You have to make (opponents) make mistakes," Weinrich said. "There is a time to take some chances and press the issue. A lot of that is dictated by the situation and personnel on both sides of the ball. But you really want to make them have to be perfect and drive the ball so we have to be gap-sound have great pursuit. You have to have great angles."

The Highlands offense ran a season-high 81 plays last week. They also saw senior Tyler Brune rush for a season-high 89 yards on 15 carries with a touchdown for an average of just under six yards per carry. The Bluebirds pulled away from Simon Kenton with two touchdowns in the second half following two turnovers.

City Council Roundup: New Police Officers, Tower Park Projects, Golf Carts, Tax Rates

Fort Thomas Police Chief Casey Kilgore congratulates new officer Carl Harris Jr.

 By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor

Two new police officers received their badges at the September 16 meeting of Fort Thomas City Council. Both new officers Brandon Vance and Carl Harris Jr. bring experience to their positions.

Officer Carl Harris Jr. comes to the Fort Thomas Police Department from the Campbell County Police Department where he served four years. During his service he was a field training officer and adviser for the Explorers Program, said Chief Casey Kilgore.

A Fort Thomas resident, Harris volunteers for Prom to Dawn alcohol-free prom afterparty program and also coaches youth sports. He has received several awards including that of Police Officer of the Year. His badge number is 4454, and he will be on third shift.

"I feel blessed to be back home. Four years out at the county, I loved it there but it’s good to be home," Harris said.

New Fort Thomas police officer Brandon Vance comes to the department with experience in crime scene investigation.

Officer Brandon Vance has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in public administration. He comes to the department after working for Wilder Police Department and, before that he served on the Newport Police Department where he had a reputation as a very capable detective, crime scene investigator and a field training officer. While at Newport, he ran the investigative unit. Assigned to second shift, Officer Vance has badge number 4453.

Mayor Eric Haas congratulated and thanked the new officers.

"It’s been kind of busy this summer with all the retirings, hirings and promotions," said Chief Kilgore. "We’ve been lucky to hire some of the best and retain the best, and we’re super happy to have these people aboard."

Traffic concerns around Tower Park

Fort Thomas resident Danielle Witterstaetter addressed council to voice her concerns about traffic safety in and around Tower Park and on other busy streets in Fort Thomas. She explained that recently her family of six were trying to cross near the park and were almost hit. She said she is very concerned about the speed of traffic around the park, and asked if there was anything she or other citizens could do to help with the issue.

Both Mayor Haas and City Administrator Ron Dill said they were aware of the issue and have been working on solutions, especially in the Tower Park area. Dill said some of the streets are state routes and so he plans to reach out to state officials once again for help in the matter. He added that plans are in motion to examine and improve all crosswalks in Tower Park.

City project updates

Dill said staff has been working on preparations to rebid the Shelter 3 construction project in Tower Park. As noted at the last council meeting, bids for the project all came in overbudget. Staff met with the three lowest bidders to determine where the costs were and how they might rebid to keep in budget. The plan now is to rebid without the additional restroom facility. That facility will be put on hold for later.

A request for qualifications will be coming in for a design team to help with city building improvements. The plan is to have the design team in place and a timeline for the work by October 1.

In this year’s city budget is an item to hire someone to assist city officials and council in the implementation phase of the community plan. Chris Manning of Human Nature has been selected for the position and has a working agreement with the city. Dill said with Manning on board, officials will have more time to dedicate to implementation of the plan.

Tennis Technology won the bid for the project to reseal and resurface all six tennis courts in Tower Park. The bid is for $49,884. The Fort Thomas Independent School District will participate in some of the costs of the project, Dill said.

The end of the short council meeting came to a close after the passage of two ordinances presented at the last meeting. Both the ordinance allowing and setting the rules for golf carts in the city and the city tax rate passed, which passed 4-0 and 5-0 respectively. Councilman David Cameron was absent from the meeting and Councilman Adam Blau abstained from the former vote.

RELATED: City Council Roundup: Tax Rate, Bond Issuance, Golf Carts, Grow Grant

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Local Restauranteur Looking to Open Restaurant on Grand Avenue

Hunter Thomas's family-style restaurant Padrino's would be the model for his Fort Thomas eatery. It is located at 111 Main Street in Milford, Ohio.

By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor 

Fort Thomas resident Hunter Thomas has been interested in opening a restaurant in Fort Thomas for some time. He has two successful restaurant businesses in Milford, Ohio, and now has an opportunity to open a new establishment closer to his home.

While the details of sale of the property have still to be worked out, he said the end goal is to open a restaurant at 14 North Grand Avenue. He has taken the first step toward that goal by applying for a zoning map amendment that would change the zone from Professional Office to General Commercial.

14 N. Grand Avenue is the proposed spot for the restaurant. 

The building is currently home to a well-known local law firm. David Fessler, a partner in the firm shared this statement, "The law firm of Fessler, Schneider and Grimme has been approached by a potential buyer who has interest in our location. We are considering our options regarding this matter," he said.

"If our firm decides to sell, we will be relocating our practice to another location, but nothing else will change. We will provide the same quality representation by the same lawyers. If we decide to relocate the practice, we fully intend on remaining in Ft. Thomas," he added.

Now open on Memorial Parkway!

 A family style eatery that would fit right in

Thomas owns 20 Brix, an upscale bistro and wine shop, and a full-service family-style Italian restaurant and pizzeria, Padrino. The idea for the Fort Thomas restaurant would be very similar to that of Padrino.

"I’m at the point where my two restaurants in Milford have come into their own. The staff is very responsible. I can step away and work on another project. I’ve been able to look around Fort Thomas and think what would go well here," said Thomas.

"I think a restaurant like Padrino would be great. Family-style Italian with homemade lasagna, manicotti, homemade meatballs. I’d start with a carbon copy of Padrino but over time we would adjust it here and there. It would all depend on the community, what people here want."

Thomas is hoping to add outdoor seating. There are between 13 and 15 parking spaces behind the building. He will ask the city for some leeway with the parking.

Making cautious plans for the future

Right now, in addition to the law firm, there is an apartment on the second floor of the building. Thomas plans to keep renting out that space for now. “I want to take it slow, have the restaurant on the first floor and lease to a tenant upstairs,” he explained.

Over time, depending on the success of the restaurant, he may have other ideas for the space, he said, but for now he wants to stick with what he knows and what he does best.

"I am used to one specific thing. The size of the restaurant, what to do with it, how to manage it. I don’t want to get overly zealous," he said. In other words, one step at a time, and the first step is a family-style restaurant on the first floor with outdoor seating.

Thomas's wife is from Fort Thomas, and he says he is happy he has made it his home for the past 17 years.

Fort Thomas Recreation is Forming Upcoming Fall Leagues

Fall leagues are forming at Fort Thomas Recreation. They offer Pickle ball, Tennis, Volleyball, Flag Football, and softball. Registration for all sports is currently open to anyone.

Pickle Ball — Monday and Wednesday nights.

Tennis — Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Mens', Women's, and Mixed Doubles.

Volleyball — Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. We offer Men's, Women's and Co-ed in three different skill levels.

Flag Football — Wednesday nights.

Softball — Tuesday and Thursday for men and Fridays for Coed.

NKY Chamber Names Drew McDonald Membership Representative

The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce (NKY Chamber) is pleased to announce the hiring of Drew McDonald for the position of Membership Representative. He assumed the role on Monday, September 16. 

“We are extremely excited about the addition of Drew to the NKY Chamber team,” said Brent Cooper, president & CEO for the NKY Chamber. “He will be a key player in supporting current members and in creating awareness regarding the many benefits of Chamber membership throughout the NKY business community.”

As Membership Representative, McDonald will be responsible for supporting the vice president of membership in managing membership sales, enrollment, renewals, and ongoing consumer relationships with NKY Chamber members.

McDonald is a 2019 graduate Northern Kentucky University (NKU), where he majored in marketing. While at NKU, he was the captain of the men’s basketball team, helping to lead the team to four Horizon League Conference wins, and a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee.

“Northern Kentucky is a special place to me and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity the Chamber has given me to be more involved in the community,” said McDonald. “I was born and raised here, and it’s an honor to be able to help support companies in our region and contribute to making it a better place to live and do business.”

Highlands' Students Named National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists

Highlands High School seniors Maria Broering, Hiren Lemma and August Hug have been named Semifinalists in the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program. Additionally, Highlands had six commended students: Sawyer Depp, Adam Groneck, Austin Hyder, Benjamin Morrison, Zoe Poff and Mehryn Toole.

When asked to tell a little about themselves and their future aspirations, our semifinalists shared goals for their futures. Their experiences at Highlands have helped position them for future success.

Maria Broering – “I am a captain of the varsity soccer team, secretary of the Math Honor Society, and a member of NHS, FCCLA, NEHS, and Spanish Club. I have committed to play soccer at Ball State University and will major in dietetics in order to become a registered dietitian."

Hiren Lemma – “I am the vice-president of the Class of 2020 and co-president of the National Math Honor Society, and I am the principal 2nd violinist in the Highlands Chamber Orchestra. I hope to major in psychology for my undergraduate and eventually attend law school to become a criminal prosecutor.”

August Hug – “I run varsity cross-country and track at Highlands and am in the National Honor Society. I'm applying to U of L, Dayton, and Purdue and I plan on majoring in mechanical engineering.

Over 1.5 million juniors in about 21,000 high schools entered the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2018 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®), which served as an initial screen of program entrants. The nationwide pool of semifinalists, representing less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state. The number of Semifinalists in a state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating seniors.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Two honored for long-time support of Fort Thomas Junior Football

Two individuals were honored at the September 7 Fort Thomas Junior Football League games for their longtime support of the youth organization.

Dr. Nick Gates of OrthoCincy and Sue "Bird" Abner, were recognized for their dedication and partnership over the years.

Gates has been affiliated with Fort Thomas Junior Football for over 20 years with Orthocincy participating as the league's lead sponsor for many years.

"His dedication to all of the players and coaches over the years is greatly appreciated," said Tom New, league president.  "Every year he comes and speaks to the coaches, educating and explaining the safety of the game. Dr. Gates has been a great partner and mentor to many over the years."

Sue "Bird" Abner has been a fervent supporter of the league for years.

New went over some of her statistics as it relates to Fort Thomas Junior Football:

How Midway Cafe ties into "Kentucky's quintessential bourbon event"

Northern Kentucky’s first major signature event celebrating the state’s bourbon heritage, The Kentucky’s Edge Bourbon Conference & Festival, will take place October 4 and 5 at venues throughout Covington and Newport.

One exclusive event that has folks excited will take place at BB Riverboats and will feature the Midway Cafe (1017 S. Fort Thomas Avenue) and the rest of the "Select Six" establishments, along with New Riff Distilling.

RELATED: Details, The Select Six Dinner at BB Riverboats, featuring New Riff Distillery 

The evening includes dinner, entertainment, a craft cocktail and bourbon tasting, and a swag bag complete with a bottle of New Riff Single Barrel Bourbon.  This bottle was selected exclusively for this event by the Select Six. The Midway Cafe is offering a New Riff barrel pick at their restaurant that is making waves throughout the region and in the bourbon community.

RELATED: Purchase tickets here for "An Evening Out with Select Six and New Riff: Kentucky's Edge

Food stations featuring signature dishes from each of the Select Six establishments: Midway's award-winning smoked chicken wings, Rich's Proper Jambalaya, Fried Green Tomato Sliders with Bacon Jam from Neat, and Carved Turkey and Tenderloin Sliders from BB Riverboats. Craft cocktails will be offered from the Village Pub and Union 42 and a bourbon tasting from New Riff.

The event takes place Friday, October 4, 2019 from 7:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. at Rivers Edge at Newport Landing located at BB Riverboats (101 Riverboat Row, Newport, KY 41071).

The "Select Six"

About The Kentucky Edge

Born from a desire to shine a light on our region and heritage, the Kentucky’s Edge Bourbon Conference & Festival is designed to share on a local, national, and international scale what makes Northern Kentucky special.

Organizers are thinking of the Kentucky’s Edge Bourbon Conference & Festival as the SXSW for bourbon, with Covington and Newport as the campus. The weekend will include a free music festival on the river, a Kentucky artisan market in MainStrasse Village, and a bourbon conference at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center. There will also be bourbon pairings, tastings, and musical performances at restaurants and bars spread out across the two cities.

New owners take over at Fort Thomas Convenient Mart

Fort Thomas Convenient Mart has new ownership.

Brothers, Mike and Steve Grote, sold their business to De Khouri and Jordan Khoury. The deal closed for the new owners yesterday and inventory and ordering were taking place this morning.

Over 50 years experience in NKY. Call now, mention FTM. (859) 287-2499.
The Grotes bought the business in June of 2016 from Amy Lloyd, who owned the store for a little less than a year.

The Grotes re-opened up the deli, brought fresh produce into the inventory and made the footprint of the store smaller to keep the rent economical, with the help of building ownership.

RELATED: The Grotes take over at Fort Thomas Convenient Mart (June 2016)
RELATED: Amy Lloyd purchases Fort Thomas Deli Mart (August 2015)

Steve Grote said that he didn't wish to sell the business, but personal circumstances prevented him from being able to spend more time in the store.

"Life got in the way, so-to-speak," said Grote. "I truly had so much fun interacting with customers and I'm really going to miss it, but I am a little worn out."

Grote said the store is doing well and that he had been approached four times, unsolicited, about others wanting to buy the store.

"We never did want to sell, but when these two came along we were able to be selective. They have a history of runnings successful businesses related to this type of thing and they are committed to serving the community in the same manner that we always did," he said.

"This is the right duo for the future of the store."

There are plans to build out the the divided space next to Convenient and open a liquor and wine store. When the Grotes purchased their location and made the footprint smaller, The Colonel's Creamery had plans to fill that space, but that never came to fruition and it has sat empty since.

RELATED: The Colonel's Creamery exploring Fort Thomas as new retail option 

"The new owners are committed to doing the expansion that we always planned on," he said.

Class of 2019 Highlands Athletic Hall of Fame: Debbie Reed Keefe

Class of 2019

Debbie Reed Keefe, class of 1968, was an outstanding athlete and coach at Highlands. As a swimmer during high school, she won 13 state championships and set 8 state records.  From 1964-68, she went undefeated in the 50 and 100 meter freestyle events, and she won both events for 5 consecutive years at the state level. Debbie earned All-American honors in 1967 and 1968. In 1965, Debbie was a member of the United States team in the Canadian-American International swim meet.

After graduation, Debbie attended the University of Cincinnati on an academic scholarship and swam for UC’s club team all four years. Debbie’s time in college came before the NCAA sanctioned women’s swimming as an official sport.  During college, she began her coaching career with the Cincinnati Marlins, something that holds special meaning because Keefe was an original member of the Marlins. Later, she coached at the University of Cincinnati, Highlands High School and was the aquatics director for Mariemont High School for 25 years.

As a math teacher, Debbie spent 41 years in high school classrooms, making numbers come to life for students at Highlands and Mariemont. She presently teaches at the University of Cincinnati as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Mathematics. Her coaching career at Highlands lasted from 1972-1980, during which she won 8 consecutive NKAC titles and a regional championship in 1980. Debbie was named the NKAC Coach of the Year and was inducted into the Northern Kentucky Athletic Director’s Hall of Fame in 1992.

Debbie and her husband Tom, have been married for 45 years and currently live in Mt. Lookout.  They have 2 daughters and 4 grandchildren.

The Hall of Fame ceremony in the HHS PAC begins at 3:00 p.m. on 9/22. That event is free and open to the public.

Honeybees Are Your Friends Event This Weekend

The Fort Thomas Forest Conservancy will host the Honeybees Are Your Friends event at the Harlan Hubbard Studio and Nature Preserve located at 129 Highland Avenue on Saturday, September 21 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Orangetheory Fitness at Newport Pavilion. 

You will learn how important honeybees are to our existence and how you can make a difference. Fort Thomas beekeeper Rick Stegeman will be at the studio with the FTFC bees to discuss more than just honey production.

Stegeman says, “Visitors will see a sample hive that shows what life inside a hive looks like. There are no live bees in the sample hive, just pictures. They can view the 2 hives that are working hives. They will be able to view the hives within 8-10 feet of the hives and away from the front entrance of the hives.”

Rick Stegeman’s bee fascination began with “my son’s attendance in the Kentucky Governor’s Scholars program 13 years ago. He came home and told me how cool bees were after seeing some hives on one of the field trips. He urged me to get hives and start raising bees which I did. I became a beekeeper and my son went off to college! I fell in love with them though after raising them and learning all about them. Totally fascinating creatures that they are!” 

Hubbard Studio
Visitors will also enjoy a reading from the wonderful children’s book Bee Ewe.   Writer Anne Green Thiele will share her story about a walk with Ewe Lamb and Honey Bee as they learn the importance of self worth.  Her books will also be available for purchase.

This event is for all ages.  Please note that FTFC takes every precaution to protect its visitors.  If, however, you or your child has a severe allergy to bees, we suggest you bring an EpiPen.

The event is free of charge but donations are gladly accepted.

Bee Event – Honeybees are Your Friends
Saturday, September 21 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Hubbard Studio and Nature Preserve
129 Highland Ave.
Sponsored by Fort Thomas Forest Conservancy

Monday, September 16, 2019

Class of 2019 Highlands Athletic Hall of Fame: Milton Walz

Class of 2019

Milt Walz graduated from Highlands in 1951 and played football, basketball, and baseball, earning a total of 10 varsity letters. 

Voted Best Yoga Studio by Best Things Kentucky. Located at 18 N. Fort Thomas Ave.

Milt was an excellent baseball and football player for the Birds and was named co-captain of the football team in both his junior and senior years.  He received several accolades in sports both locally and statewide.  Unfortunately, Milt lost most of his senior football season because of a knee injury in the first game against Dayton.  He scored three touchdowns before leaving the game to seek medical treatment.  Milt worked his way back to return for the last game: the Shrine Bowl vs. Louisville St. Xavier.  Although the team came up short, he led the Birds in a furious comeback where he ran for one score and passed for another.

His best sport may have been baseball where he was all-league pitcher and was known for his sinking fastball and a knuckleball that baffled hitters.  He threw several no-hitters during his five years on the baseball team, highlighted by a rare perfect game vs. Campbell County his junior year as he struck out 15 Camels on the way to a 4-0 decision.

After graduation, Milt earned a scholarship to play football at the University of Louisville and he accepted an invitation in baseball to try out for the hometown Cincinnati Reds.  But due to lingering pain from his high school knee injury, Milt decided to return home.

Milt spent 22 years in law enforcement with the Fort Thomas Police Department, and after retiring from the force, he moved to the suburbs of Houston, Texas, and entered the business world.  Milt was married for more than 50 years to wife Janet.  Together, they had 3 children: Peter, Holly, and Andy.  Milt recently passed away at the age of 86.

The Hall of Fame ceremony in the HHS PAC begins at 3:00 p.m. on 9/22. That event is free and open to the public.

Concerned Moyer Students Present a Plan to Protect the Amazon Rainforest

Moyer students concerned about the rainforest took concrete steps to raise awareness and come up with a plan to help.

By Robin Gee

The environment was front and center at the September meeting of the Fort Thomas Independent Schools District board.

Moyer Principal Dawn Laber shared a story about how a very special new project got started at her school. She was in her office one day and was told a group of boys wanted to talk to her about something – but it was not what she expected.

"I’m waiting for a conflict I need to resolve or a problem that’s going on, but they said, 'We want to save the Amazon rainforest.'" After getting over her initial surprise, Laber asked the students if they had a plan and, indeed, they did.

"They had been talking about it," explained Laber. "They watched the news and were hearing about it from their families and took some passion to it ... I asked them some tough questions about their plan...They had to really think it through."

Stop searching. Start finding. 
Yet the students did exactly that and returned the next day with more ideas and answers to her questions. They were serious. When the principal asked over the loud speaker if those interested in the rainforest would come to her office, she saw the number of students interested had tripled. The students had already been talking about the issue to their friends and classmates.

Three of the students presented at the school board meeting and shared solid ideas about how they could help. They said they wanted to first make people aware of the issue, but then they had a plan to take their concern a step farther.

Henry W. outlined the problem. "Fires are burning the Amazon rainforest, and it’s an ecosystem the whole world depends on. And we really need it to live, it creates oxygen for us. And these are intentional fires. Nearly 1.8 million acres have been burned at this point in time," he said.

The students were passionate but realistic about what they could do to have an impact. "We just have one idea. We know we can’t fix the Amazon rainforest, but we thought we could create awareness so we could educate people and show the world the importance of working together to understand what happens when humans hurt the environment," explained Eli P.

The students created posters and are putting them all over school to share information on the importance and urgency of the situation.

"If something’s happening in our world, it’s happening to us all. I’m part of a small group of kids trying to make a big difference and protect our future. Just imagine, flames engulfing rich trees of the rainforest, creatures losing their homes and a great ball of smoke covering our atmosphere... The Amazon rainforest produces 20 percent of our oxygen and holds approximately 90 billion tons of carbon dioxide. Some people call it the lungs of our earth. Unique creatures live in the Amazon rainforest such as mountain gorillas, poison dart frogs and green anaconda. Due to the fire, these animals are becoming more endangered," said Chanith A.

"You might be wondering how a small group of kids supposed to do this? Well, we are taking a small step but hoping it will make a big difference in the future," he added.

The students have an ambitious plan to seek out help from the Fort Thomas Forest Conservancy and their classmates and community. "Our proposal is that we think we should plant one tree for every thousand acres that has burned. We want to ask our school to donate seeds so the Conservancy, and we could plant more trees to help our environment. We’d like to see if they like this idea and listen to other ideas that might help us. We want to work with the Conservancy to help our community," said Henry.

At the end of their presentation, which they plan to also give to the Conservancy, they said in unison, "We know we are small, but we can make a big difference in our community."

Excellence in Environmental Education

Colleen Epperson was also in the audience at the school board meeting. She runs the AP Environmental Science program at Highlands High School as well as the school’s Envirothon team. Laber noted that one day soon, Epperson may have new students for her team when the Moyer group reaches high school.

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Epperson’s class and program recently received the state’s top honor for K-12 environmental education from the Kentucky Association for Environmental Education. She attributes earning the Excellence in Environmental Education Award to the longevity of the program and the Envirothon team, entering its 10th year this year.

She took the opportunity to share what the Envirothon is. "The team is five students who will compete against other schools across the state for the region in the areas of aquatics, wildlife, forestry, soils and a current event. This year’s current event has to do with water resources. They have to score 350 points to qualify for state. We’ve been qualified for state for a couple of years now."

Epperson also had the opportunity to visit the Amazon rainforest this summer. "I want to give a shout out to the school system because they were able to send me...and I brought back a plethora of opportunities and experiences for our students here at Highlands."

RELATED: Highlands Wins Award for Excellence in Environmental Education

Fort Thomas Schools Staff and Faculty Earn Global Leader Awards

Amy Shaffer (l) of the Fort Thomas Education Foundation congratulates Highlands staff member Nancy Gesenhues and Guy Ponzer on their Global Leader awards.

By Robin Gee

Five people in the Fort Thomas Independent Schools District were honored at the September school board meeting with Global Leader Awards.

The awards honor those whose contributions to Fort Thomas schools and community exemplify the qualities identified in the Portrait of a Graduate initiative. The winners’ contributions touch on one or several of the core competencies/roles identified in the program: Global Communicator, Empathetic Collaborator, Curious Critical Thinker, Creative Problem Solver and Courageous Leader.

Nancy Gesenhues and Guy Ponzer collaborate for schools' success

The Fort Thomas Education Foundation, represented by Executive Director Amy Shaffer and Chair Liz Younger, nominated two people as Empathetic Collaborators for their hard work helping to ensure Foundation events go smoothly, even in the midst of building moves and other challenges. The Foundation honored Highlands High School Cafeteria Manager Nancy Gesenhues and Custodian Guy Ponzer.

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"Over the years, Nancy and Guy and their teams have gone above and beyond to make sure the Foundation club experience in the high school cafeteria is perfect for our 70-plus family members each year. Not only is the place squeaky clean, but the supplies we need are always available and organized. Nancy is always willing to collaborate with us on menus, ordering and other logistics to make sure we offer a quality menu on a managed budget. Guy and his team make sure the space is clean before and after the event doing double work on home football game nights," said Shaffer.

She pointed out that this partnership and collaboration was essential during the recent school moves, and in preparing for the opening of school. "It was crucial to ensure we could host our first event of the year without disruption...We can say with certainty that the success of the FTF club would not be near what it is without the collaboration and teamwork of Nancy and Guy and their teams. They should take personal pride, not only in this award but in the fact that they helped raise over $50,000 annually for our schools and students so we can continue our tradition of excellence."

Ryan Augustin brings together the community to honor those we've lost

Highlands Middle School teacher Amy Fry (l) nominated her colleague Ryan Augustin (r) for a Global Leader award.

Teacher Ryan Augustin was nominated for a Global Leader award by his colleague Amy Fry for the care he took in supporting an event to honor two beloved Fort Thomas students whom the school lost.

Fry explained, "I nominated Ryan for this award. He’s been the HMS student council sponsor for the past three years... most recently, it was his endeavor regarding the Fly Free Dance and Cheer Competition that stood out to me and stood out to the community. The goal of the event was simple, but it was important. It was to honor and remember our two amazing students that we’ve lost, Michelle Chalk and Lilliana Schalck. Under Ryan’s direction, the council planned this event from start to finish. Hours upon hours of time and energy were spent to prepare for the event. Ryan was there every step of the way."

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Not only did the event help raise funds for a Memorial Garden, but it also brought the Fort Thomas community closer together, Fry said.

Joy Layman sets young students on the right path

A Fort Thomas parent nominated Woodfill teacher Joy Layman for a Global Leader award for her care in teaching the youngest students.

Woodfill Kindergarten teacher Joy Layman also was honored as a Courageous Leader. A parent (who remained anonymous) wrote, "When I look at the word courageous it says ‘not deterred by danger or pain, brave.’ I believe it takes a brave person to educate kindergartners. I don’t think, necessarily, that kindergartners are dangerous or painful, but more because they are the smallest and most needy of our students. When you think about a kindergartner it is important to remember they are five or six years old. They need a lot of direction and assistance just to stay safe while learning. Joy Layman lives this definition out daily. She works alongside our students to make sure they get the direction and attention they need to grow."