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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. 

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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."

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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."

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Highlands-Simon Kenton Game Story

Bluebirds Pull Away from Pioneers

PHOTO: Ed Harber. Highlands senior quarterback Collin Hollingsworth (10) prepares to give the ball to senior running back Tyler Brune (20) in the 28-7 win at Simon Kenton on Friday. Simon Kenton senior linebacker Luke Huesman (38) is seen converging on the play. Brune rushed for 89 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown in the win.
Editor's Note: Due to unforeseen circumstances, we regret to say there will be no video highlights this week.

It has not been easy for opposing football teams to win at Chlorine B. Menefee Stadium in recent years and host Simon Kenton Pioneers played the Highlands Bluebirds that tough in non-district play Friday. But two big turnovers led to two quick scores early in the fourth quarter allowing the Bluebirds (3-1) to pull away from Simon Kenton (2-2), 28-7 on Friday. This marked just the seventh home loss for the Pioneers since the start of the 2012 season.

The Bluebirds took the ball away three times in the game with two interceptions and a fumble recovery and did not turn the ball over. Highlands has 14 takeaways on the season to just five giveaways for a plus-nine in the turnover department.

"I'm just really proud of the guys (with) the way they responded in the second half," said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. "We could have come out soft. But we came out and got after it. Getting better is a powerful statement. We got better in the second half."

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Highlands-Simon Kenton Football Preview

Bluebirds Hope More Light Bulbs Come on in Independence

PHOTO: Ed Harber. Highlands sophomore wide receiver Jacob Welch (27) runs for a touchdown in the game Friday against Campbell County while senior wide receiver Ethan Houze (6) blocks Campbell County sophomore cornerback Kyle Hoeh (10). Welch had three touchdowns on two receptions and two rushes in the 47-0 Highlands victory.
When the imaginary light bulbs come on inside the minds of teenagers, amazing things happen.

Each week, the Highlands football team's coaches have seen that with the players in practice and games. As more of them go off, bigger and better things have come together for the Bluebirds.

That will again be a key when the Bluebirds travel to Independence to face the Simon Kenton Pioneers in a battle of 2-1 teams on Friday at 7 p.m. Unlike the previous four years, the Pioneers are not undefeated coming into this match-up.

But it has not been easy for opponents to win at Chlorine B. Menefee Stadium in recent years. The Pioneers have lost just six home games including the lone defeat this year, 44-16 to Cincinnati (Ohio) Anderson two weeks ago since the start of 2012.

Both teams come into the game off wins. Highlands dominated Campbell County, 47-0 at home after a 31-28 loss to Knoxville (Tennessee) Catholic in the Cumberland Falls Pigskin Classic at Corbin and a convincing 42-13 win at Scott to open the season. Highlands has outscored opponents, 117-44 for averages of 39-between 14 and 15 points per game.

Simon Kenton has not been dominating opponents like in recent years. But the Pioneers have been finding ways to win. They ventured to the west side of Cincinnati on Friday and edged the Oak Hills Highlanders, 13-10 and opened the season with a 38-27 win over Lexington Henry Clay in the Bumblebee/Mingua Beef Jerky Showdown at Lexington Lafayette.

Opponents have outscored Simon Kenton, 81-67 for averages of 27-just more than 22 points per game. Anderson put up 616 yards of offense against the 3-4 Simon Kenton defense including 430 passing in the win in Independence. Overall, teams have gained 464 yards rushing and 622 passing against the Pioneers for averages of between 154 and 155 rushing and just more than 207 passing per game.

Simon Kenton held Oak Hills to minus-two passing. But Pioneer Head Coach Jeff Marksberry said the Highlands ran a run-based offensive scheme compared to a pass-based offense with Anderson.

The Highlands Spread offense found some more weapons in the 47-0 win over Campbell County. Sophomore wide receiver Jacob Welch had three touchdowns on four touches. Welch had two catches for 38 yards and two touchdowns and two carries for 22 yards and a touchdown.

"It really gives us an advantage," said Sam Umberg, Highlands Offensive Coordinator. "It really takes the defense's option of keying on one individual. They have to account for everybody out wide."

The two Highlands left-handed quarterbacks in senior Collin Hollingsworth and junior Jake Fahlbusch have completed passes to 12 different wide receivers. One went to senior offensive lineman Dylan Turner off a deflection for four yards against Knoxville Catholic.

Highlands has passed for 709 yards and rushed for 397 for averages of 236.3 and 132.3 respectively. Hollingsworth has completed 41-of-70 passes for 606 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions.

Four senior Bluebird wide receivers have more than 100 yards receiving on the season. Jack Delagrange has the most catches with 10 for 106 yards and two touchdowns and Adam Weyer has the most yards at 141 on six catches. Hunter Ahlfeld has eight catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns and Joey Deschler has 113 catches on seven receptions and two touchdowns.

The Highlands offensive line led by seniors Brock Huber, Max Dierig and Turner continues to improve allowing the skill players time to make plays. Hollingsworth leads the Bluebirds with 129 yards rushing on 36 carries and two touchdowns for an average of about 3.5 per carry. Senior Tyler Brune has 31 carries for 125 yards rushing and two touchdowns for an average of just more than four yards per carry.

Class of 2019 Highlands Athletic Hall of Fame: John Bankemper

Class of 2019

John Bankemper graduated from Highlands in 1983 and was a two-sport star in both football and track.  He was an All-State performer in both his junior and senior seasons.   As a senior, he led Highlands to an undefeated (15-0) AAA State Championship in 1982 and a USA Today National ranking.  During his outstanding career, he was recognized both locally and statewide, garnering several accolades: AP 1st team all-state, Northern Kentucky Coaches Association Top 22, Kentucky Post Top 24, Enquirer Player of the Year in NKY, Recreation Bowl Star of Stars, and a Kentucky Football Coaches AAA All Star, just to name a few.

In the 1981 AAA State Championship victory over Elizabethtown, John ran for 254 yards on 20 carries averaging 12.7 yards per carry. In the 1982 season he led the state in scoring with 30 touchdowns and a two point conversion totaling 182 points.

In track, John ran the 110 meter hurdles and the 300 meter hurdles winning All State honors in 1981 and 1983. He set a sectional record in 14.7 seconds in the 110 meter hurdles that stood for 20 years.

In 2014 he was elected to the Northern Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame.

After graduation, John attended University of Kentucky and graduated in 1987 with a B.A. in Political Science.  John enjoyed a successful career in Information Technology and sold technology products, services and solutions while working for Sun Microsystems, Hewlett Packard, Pomeroy and most recently Cisco, where he worked until he retired.  He currently resides in Fort Thomas, KY and has 4 children: Spencer, Peyton, Aubrey, and Isabel.

Class of 2019 Highlands Athletic Hall of Fame: Mark McEntire

Class of 2019

Mark McEntire graduated from Highlands in 1989, where he was an all-star in the classroom and on the soccer field.  He played varsity soccer from his freshman through his senior years. His freshman year was the first year for the soccer program at Highlands. 

In his senior year, Mark led his team to the state tournament and to the program’s first regional title. He scored 49 goals and had 9 assists, which was a record for Northern Kentucky high school soccer. During his four years, Mark scored 112 goals, which is a Highlands record, a Northern Kentucky record, and ranks in the top ten in the KHSAA for goals scored in a career. Mark was the leading scorer in Northern Kentucky his sophomore through senior years.

His junior and senior years, he was named to the All-Star team by the Northern Kentucky High School Soccer Coaches Association and was named the Best Offensive Player by the Kentucky Post. Mark was Highlands MVP in both his junior and senior years.

Dan Cahill Begins Term as NKY Chamber Board Chair

Leaders Recognized for Making Impact on Region

On Thursday, September 5, the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce (NKY Chamber) brought the business community together for its largest networking event of the year the Annual Dinner, Presented by Fifth Third Bank.

The event marked the transition in leadership for the NKY Chamber Board of Directors with the passing of the gavel from Jim Parsons of Keating Muething & Klekamp to Dan Cahill, CEO of HSD Metrics. The evening also celebrated community and business leaders who are making a lasting impact on the region.

Like those before him, Cahill used the evening to share his vision for the coming year.

“We know from history that when we collaborate, we succeed,” said Cahill. “For 50 years, we have been relentlessly pushing to create a single message within our region and it is time for our breakthrough moment.”

“For this next year, the Northern Kentucky Chamber will be the change we want to see. We will commit to driving collaboration in our community so that the voice coming from this community is succinct, understandable, and relevant. 

We will act as one Northern Kentucky.”

Highlands Football Tailgate Party to Benefit Muscular Dystrophy

Fort Thomas Firefighters Local 1928 and the Fort Thomas Public House are teaming up for a tailgate party before the Highlands football game on September 20, 2019, with a portion of check proceeds going directly to the Muscular Dystrophy Association and local MDA families.

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There will be raffle baskets and silent auction items, ALL proceeds from the raffles and auctions will go directly to the MDA. The Public House has been gracious enough to donate 15% of all checks between the hours of 4pm and 7pm when the customer mentions Fort Thomas Firefighters.

Some of the raffle and auction items:
  • Marty Brennaman autographed baseballs
  • Other autographed baseballs of reds players
  • Game tickets
  • Handmade Highlands sign
  • Chainsaw Carving
  • Tickets and gift cards to multiple entertainment venues in the area
  • Coach Cal autograph
...and more

Anyone wishing to donate items to be raffled/auctioned can contact Sam Behrle at 513-225-2227 or

Heads up: Ride Cincinnati bike race will route through Fort Thomas on Sunday

Ride Cincinnati is a grassroots bike tour that raises money for life-saving cancer research and care. Five route options are available to appeal to all levels of cycling strength, from approximately 8 to 100 miles.

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The 2019 Ride Cincinnati Race begins this Sunday morning at 7:00 a.m. in Cincinnati at Yeatman's Cove (Purple People Bridge).

The race will ride down Route 8. Due to Route 8 being closed in our city, the race will go up Tower Hill and down Fort Thomas Avenue to Tower Park.

Riders will enter Tower Park and exit by the VA hospital on River Road. The riders will take River Road back down to Route 8. They will also be providing shuttles to transfer riders through the detour, so riders do not have to ride up and down the hills to get through Fort Thomas.

500 volunteers better community on Greater Cincinnati's first 9/11 Day

Cincinnati Cares, Bengals partner with more than two dozen nonprofits for two days of service

Cincinnati Bell employees volunteer to help Brighton Center. File photo.

For the first time ever, a “National Day of Service” for Sept. 11 is being organized for Greater Cincinnati, thanks to Cincinnati Cares, a local nonprofit working to improve the region’s volunteer ecosystem.

“Our mission is to inspire and empower people to engage in volunteering, and it was surprising to us that Cincinnati had not embraced Sept. 11 as a day of service to remember those affected by the tragic events that rocked our world that day,” said Carol Rountree, Cincinnati Cares’ chief volunteer officer. “So one of our first areas of work is to improve how Greater Cincinnatians embrace this and all recognized national days of service.”

Today, 9/11 Day has grown to become the nation’s largest annual day of charitable engagement, with more than 15 million Americans, and others around the world, taking time out each September 11 to volunteer, support charities, and perform simple good deeds in remembrance of the victims of terrorism on 9/11, and other terrorist acts that continue to happen around the world.

More than two dozen nonprofits have agreed to host volunteers, many made for children and working adults, on Sept. 11 and Sept. 14 through more than 30 different projects.

Participating nonprofits include:
● Cancer Support Community
● Cincinnati Community ToolBank
● Cincinnati Parks
● Circle Tail, Inc.
● Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati
● Community Learning Center Institute
● Findlay Market
● Crayons to Computers
● Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati
● EPIC House
● Family Promise of Northern Kentucky, Inc.
● Findlay Kitchen
● Imago
● Redwood School & Rehabilitation Center
● SELF (Supports to Encourage Low-income Families)
● Sidestreams 500 Gardens
 ● St. Francis Seraph Ministries
● St. Vincent de Paul
● Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank
● The Healing Center
● United Pet Fund
● Valley View Foundation
● Women’s Crisis Center
● Working In Neighborhoods
● YWCA of Greater Cincinnati

Cincinnati Cares is already working on doing a similar day of service in January for the Martin Luther King national holiday. For more information or questions, contact Rountree at

Highlands High Students Share Experiences as Governor’s Scholars, Entrepreneurs and Artists

Highlands High School students shared their summer learning experiences in the Governor's Scholars Program, Governor's School for Entrepreneurs and the Governor's School for the Arts.

 By Robin Gee

"It’s a true life-changing experience... I feel like I’ve became a better person because of it," is how one Highlands High student, Davis Recht, described his experience in the Kentucky Governor’s Scholars Program. He was one of eight students who attended the five-week learning program over the summer at one of three Kentucky universities.

The students shared their experiences at the Fort Thomas Independent Schools September board meeting. The group was joined by four students who had similar experiences at the Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs and one who attended the Governor’s School for the Arts also over the summer break.

Governor’s Scholars Program

"You are not there for the content, you’re not there to take a test... you are there for the learning, the passion for the learning, and getting inspired by the process," explained Recht.

One-third of the Fort Thomas students went to Bellarmine University in Louisville, one-third went to Morehead State University and one-third went to Centre College in Danville.

Each student had a focus class as well as other classes and outside-the-classroom experiences. Sawyer Depp, whose focus class was philosophy, said he didn’t feel the need to take any notes because he was so genuinely interested in the subject matter, it got his full attention. He learned through discussion and debate and deep, open conversations.

He said the experience helped him open up and be able to talk about things he’d never talked about before. On the third day of his philosophy class, he said, the teacher had them watch a video of an old SNL skit about blackface. He noted that everyone in the room grew silent and seemed very uncomfortable. Yet, by the end of the program he felt he could tackle any topic with openness and honesty.

"I can tell you by about the third or fourth week of GSP, I would be outside of my class debating with my friends things that I never have talked to anyone about. Things like abuse, difficult situations that people have gone through...and that was completely because of GSP," he said.

"When you get the brightest people in Kentucky together and you let them talk about some of the hardest topics possible, that’s when you solve problems. And so that’s something GSP excels at."

For Tyler Brown, the experience provided him a way to grow and expand even his own conceptions of who he was as a person. "...I was meeting new people who had no expectations of me. I had no expectations of them... I really came into my own, and I figured out who I am by seeing who I could be."

As part of his political and legal issues class, he helped the Lexington community welcome refugees. His group created a book for refugee children and helped set up a house for eight people coming to the city from the Congo. "It was a really great experience of working to help the community as a community."

The program helped senior Amy Herfel make an important life decision. The clock was ticking, and while she knew engineering interested her, she admits she didn’t really know where to go from there. After some "amazing" trips to area companies including the Toyota plant, Lexmark and GM, she decided to take the path to chemical engineering.

"I really saw my future...I would say if you have a child in the same position coming into your junior or senior year, I encourage you to have them apply, to see what they can get out of the experience. It really helped me decide what I was going to do with my life," she advised.

Governor’s Scholars Program students included Recht, Brown, Depp, Herfel, Austin Hyder, Hiren Lemma, Mehryn Toole and Abigail Verst.

Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs

The Kentucky Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs runs three weeks, and this year the program was at Northern Kentucky University for the first time. A highly competitive program, only 72 students were selected to attend from a field of 700 students across the state.

David Herfel outlined the key concept behind the program. "When you apply for GSE it’s a lot less about academics, grade point averages, less about that stuff, and it’s more about whether they think you have what it takes or what they call the entrepreneurial mindset."

The students worked with a business model canvas to plan out their ideas and develop a business plan. Herfel admitted he was totally unfamiliar with many of the terms when first presented, but his team got to work fleshing out their idea over the three-week period.

"We all drew up our business plans," he explained. "For us, we developed the idea of a traveling drive-in theater. You had people doing all sorts of things. Our traveling drive-in theater was more of an entertainment business, but you had people doing canned water, collars for dogs that tracked their health, all sorts of different ideas."

The students presented their ideas on the last day, and the top three ideas received monetary awards to get them started ($1,000, $750 and $500).

Molly Bucher said at first she was a little disappointed about having to spend three weeks of her summer, "but it ended up being one of the greatest experiences in my life. It was just really awesome to meet a bunch of different people that we had never met before and build relationships with them."

She said she loved having the opportunity to meet a variety of successful entrepreneurs from the vice president of the Bengals to the owners of Carabello Coffee. The experience pointed her in a new direction.

"Before I went to the program, I had never seriously considered entrepreneurship in my life. But now I think I’m going to minor in it or in business... I grew into myself, built confidence in public speaking, reaching out to other people and worked on a project I really believe in."

Although they didn’t walk away with any of the top awards, the team has decided to pursue their idea and keep working together with an eye toward participation at pitch presentations on the college level.

The students who attended the Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs were Herfel, Bucher, Megan Farney and Elizabeth Roeding.

Governor’s School for the Arts

Only about 250 juniors and seniors are selected from 1,700 students who audition to be included in the summer program for the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts. The program is held for three weeks at the University of Lexington. This year, Highlands High student Wyatt Richards represented Fort Thomas in the program.

The school offers nine art forms: vocal music, instrumental music, visual art, dance, film/photography, visual arts, drama, architecture/design and creative writing. Richards’ joined 11 other students in film and photography forming a tight-knit group.

He and the other students went of field trips and took photos of people on the streets of Lexington. Richards photographed street people, children at a day camp event, workers who were cleaning the streets of pigeon dung, a Fourth of July parade and performances by fellow students in the music program.

Each provided a unique experience to reach out to new people and to network, as well as practice his art, said Richards. At the Fourth of July event, he met someone who allowed him to use a drone to photograph the event from above. While shooting his classmates’ musical performance, he met someone who got him a gig taking photos of a country music performer.

Richards seemed most excited, however, about a film he created with another student. It was a challenge both in timing and in the students’ ability to work with other creatives in the process.

"We made a video, seven minutes long. We had only two-and-a-half days to plan it, a day to film it, three days to edit it. Then we finalized it and showed it to everyone there."

He auditioned and selected drama students to act in the film and worked with student musicians for the score.

"We had a rough cut and showed it to the music kids, and they basically scored it for us in one hour. For the last two minutes, we didn’t have it planned out for them so they improvised."

His film "Happy Pill" explores the idea of fitting in, the cost involved and what happens when one decides not to conform.

Board member Karen Allen saw the film and gave it a thumbs up, "It’s a powerful statement on conforming and mental health and to do it without dialog I thought was very impressive."

The board congratulated all the students for their hard work and thanked them for sharing their experiences.

Woodfill Elementary's Spaghetti Dinner + Big Top Festival THIS Weekend

September marks the return of many Fort Thomas traditions. School is well under way, the days begin to shorten, fans dress in blue for Friday night football games and Woodfill Elementary hosts its annual Spaghetti Dinner and Big Top Festival.

Friday, September 13, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., the entire community is invited to dinner featuring spaghetti with homemade meatballs and homemade sauce at Woodfill Elementary's cafeteria.

The Big Top Festival is Sunday, September 15, from noon to 6 p.m., at Woodfill Elementary. All are welcome.

If you can't make it to the festival (or your kids are grown and you're sort of over the chaos of these things ... ) check out the NEW online silent auction! The site (go here) goes live Friday, September 13, and bidding will be available until Sunday, September 15 at 4 p.m. Items will be available to look at the day of the festival as usual, but bidding will be solely online. It's an easy way to nab a gift card to Reser Bicycle, get a discount class pass to Barre3 or bid on 18 holes of golf at Highland Country Club, all from the comfort of your own couch.

But do forego making dinner Friday night for one of the best – and most inexpensive – Italian meals you'll have all year. Once again Rebecca Leonardi-Neufarth, along with her husband, Eric, hand-rolled more than 1,000 meatballs and made more than 20 gallons of sauce using a family recipe. (Rebecca's family is from Northern Italy and immigrated to Cincinnati in 1954 – it's legit.)

Family-style portions will be available for dine-in only for $25. Adult meals are $8 and child/senior meals are $6. Salad, rolls and cookies are included. Soft drinks may be purchased for $1. Children may preview and play games that will be at the festival on Sunday, and win prizes.

Just check out what our food reviewers have to say:

"Yummy!" says McKinley Jones, a fourth grader at Woodfill.

"The spaghetti tastes good," says Johnny Gesenhues, a first grader at Woodfill. "There is a lot of sauce!" 

"I love the lemonade!" says Macy Gesenhues, also a first grader at Woodfill. "It's the best!"

"I don't really like spaghetti but I love their spaghetti," says Ella Jones, a 5th grader at Woodfill.

Sunday's festival will feature an inflatable obstacle course (be extra kind to the parents supervising this thing), a silent auction (you can view the items but bid online), food, the loved Cake Walk, old-school games and prizes for all ages (because who doesn't want a Whoopee cushion?), an amazing basket raffle (seriously, win one of these and you'll need a truck to get it home), candy wheel (think: ring pops for days), body works (we were totally doing pink and purple hair before it was a thing), spiritwear, and the ever-popular Up for Grabs booth (yes, we have bikes again!).

"Last year was a very special year to be PTO president at Woodfill," Laura Meier says. "Thanks to the generosity of our community we recorded our largest Big Top ever. We succeeded in both raising money for our school and for creating a fun environment for our kids to play and interact with their friends and families. This success afforded us new and exciting opportunities as a PTO. The additional monies raised allowed us to give every single student $10 to use towards the purchase of books at the school book fair. The excitement and gratitude from our students was inspiring. We were also able to approve a grant request to each classroom in our school. Our PTO strives to impact students and classrooms directly and with the Big Top Festival being our only fundraiser of the year we depend greatly on its success and the support from our community. We are excited about the exciting year ahead of us and are truly appreciative of everyone's support."

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And just check out what our festival reviewers have to say about the big day:

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Newport on the Levee: Brio to be relocated? What will replace I-Max?

By Dan Monk, WCPO - Fort Thomas Matters media partner

Newport on the Levee could get a grand new entrance at the end of Monmouth Street along with a hotel and performance venue in the long-dormant Imax theater space, based on a rendering submitted recently to the city of Newport by North American Properties.

“They’re go-getters,” said Newport City Manager Tom Fromme. “I have no doubt that you’ll see significant progress being made within a year.”

Fromme said this is the most recent rendering of the project submitted to the city. North American acquired the mixed-use riverfront development last year and announced it would invest at least $100 million on its renovation. The company has shared some details on how the renovated project would look from the north and facing northeast. But this is the first look at how the property could change on its southwestern corner.

Stop Searching. Start Finding.

WCPO attempted to reach Tim Perry, the managing partner in charge of the project for North American. He has not returned calls and emails.

Cropped version of North American Properties rendering submitted to city of Newport
The rendering shows a six-story hotel property on what is now a vacant lot used for ice skating. A “Newport Center for the Performing Arts” is depicted where the Imax theater operated before its 2003 closure. Fromme said neither of those additions are set in stone, but he’s certain North American wants to “open that whole area up” as part of the Levee’s redevelopment.

“I have no doubt they have aspirations to fill those gaps in,” he said. “They don’t want a vacant lot sitting there.”

The rendering shows a new vehicle and pedestrian entrance where Brio Tuscan Grille now sits. Fromme said North American wants to relocate Brio and demolish the freestanding restaurant property to make way for “a grander entrance” at Third and Monmouth.

“Brio is like a wall,” Fromme said. “When you go north on Monmouth Street towards Cincinnati, you pretty much dead end into the back end of Brio. You have to circle around to get into the valet circle.”

Brio Manager Carl Axelson confirmed his company is negotiating with North American about relocating to another site at the Levee.

Huge Victories for Highlands Soccer Teams

Bluebirds Win Fourth Straight Against Colonels

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. The Highlands Bluebirds trap the ball in a recent home game. Highlands edged Covington Catholic, 1-0 on Monday in Park Hills.
It may look as though the Covington Catholic Colonel boys soccer team is struggling based on the 3-6 record.

But the Highlands Bluebirds (7-2-2) did not fall for that deceptive record making a first-half goal stand in a 1-0 victory on the road. The Colonels have lost to the likes of Lexington Henry Clay, Cincinnati (Ohio) Country Day, Dayton (Ohio) Carroll, Columbus (Ohio) St. Francis de Sales and Cincinnati (Ohio) Archbishop McNicholas.

Highlands has won four straight in the series against the Colonels including a 2-1 win in the 9th Region championship in Park Hills last year. Highlands is 4-0-1 in region play.

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"We've realized in these games we're going to grind it out," said Chad Niedert, Highlands Head Coach. "When we're the better team, it's a 50/50 game. When we're the lesser team, it's a 50/50 game. It really doesn't matter what kind of record you got."

Highlands had 16 shots to 10 for the Colonels with three on goal to six for CovCath. Highlands senior goalkeeper Nick Fischer had three saves.

The lone goal came 13 minutes into the game. Junior Max Farris dribbled into the box and fired off a shot. Senior Caymon Stevie put the deflection home for the score.

"When you have the team chemistry that Highland has, it takes a couple passes and maybe a couple dribbles though people," Farris said. "It just all worked out."

Highlands had to overcome some free kicks in the second half not far from the goal. But the Bluebirds cleared every one of them. Neither team had a red card. But the Colonels did receive two yellow cards.

"Our midfield plays a lot of defense and a lot of offense," said Porter Hedenberg, Highlands senior. "You have to do both jobs, which is nice. We all three work together really well and we have good chemistry with our six on defense and our six on offense."

Highlands plays host to Covington Holmes (1-5) on Thursday. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

Soccer, Girls:
Highlands 4, Louisville DuPont Manual 2:

Highlands (5-0-4 overall) overcame a 2-1 halftime deficit against the Lady Crimsons (4-3-1) to win the first game at the annual Lexington Catholic Lady Knights Challenge Cup. Highlands takes on the hosts in the next round Wednesday at 8 p.m.

Barre3 Fort Thomas. Located at 90 Alexandria Pike. 
"In the first half, we didn't start slow, but we didn't have the start that we wanted," said Alex Dean, Highlands Head Coach. "We were a little fatigued and we kind of told the girls you don't have to go out and play 80 minutes. Just go out and give us five or 10 minutes of good effort. We were down at halftime. We had a talk at halftime. We can play with any team in Kentucky, but we have to act like it. We just can't think that we can walk out there and get a win. That was a good thing being able to overcome a halftime deficit."

Sophomores Faith Broering and Jade Rehberger had one goal and one assist each in the game for three points. Senior Kelsey Mathis and sophomore Macy Hedenberg had one goal each with sophomore Chloe Bramble tallying two assists. Bramble has a team-high seven goals to go with five assists for a team-high 19 points.