• Category Archives Feature
  • These articles are feature articles. They can have pronouns an contractions in them; they aren’t hard news.

  • Disney Cruise Line: A Week at Sea (Editorial)

    A cruise is an experience that I never thought I could check off my list. My week at sea consisted of snorkeling, a first-hand look at downtown Nassau, a day at the beach, and world-class dining. Unfortunately a small setback for me, was also taking a trip to the Florida emergency room; that’s a story for later. This cruise was with Disney Cruise Lines and it truly was a “magical experience.”

    Day 1: The alarm went off early at 4:30 am. Me, my brother, and two parents crawled into the car to head to Denver International Airport. We get through security and grab some McDonald’s, the breakfast of champions. We have a smooth flight to Orlando, Florida. As soon as we land we make our way to the “Disney Magical Express.” The fleet of shuttle take passengers to Disney World. The rain painted a beautiful picture on our hour drive to the Disney World Park. After getting checked in, we received our Magic Bands; they serve as room keys and a ticket to anywhere in the park. The journey to find our room was quite a long one, weaving through hallways and up staircases. Once finding our old-fashioned room at the Port Orleans, Riverside Resort, we went the popular shopping area of Disney Springs. I tried fish and chips at an Irish restaurant, called the Cookes of Dublin. Next, my brother and I hit the pool. Then crashed to get rested for the next day.

    This was the last picture taken before my toe officially had the worst day ever.

    Day 2: Everyone in the family wakes up and we prepare our bags for Disney to take them; the next time we see our bags is in our room on the boat later that day. We get breakfast at the food court area a short 10 minute walk from our room. With time to kill, we rented a quad person bike, called a Surrey Bike, to ride around. My brother and mom ride in the front, and my step-dad and I ride in the rear, we head onto our next adventure. At one point, all of us got confused where we were going, so we decided to back up and turn around. In the process, I lost track of where my right foot was. It got caught in between the crank of the pedal and the frame covering the chain. By the time I realized what was happening, it was already through a turn of the pedal and pinkie toe was already suffering. We rush back to get a first-aid kit. The cut is much deeper than any of us thought. Because it was in between my pinkie toe and the toe next to it, the Disney employees called the paramedics. The first responders got me on the stretcher and wheeled me past all the people to the ambulance, and I instantly became the talk of Riverside.

    We went to Florida Hospital Celebration Health in Orlando. The nurses and staff helping me were very kind and it seemed I was the highlight of their day so far. I was given the important task of filling out that lovely medical paperwork. The doctor started with the lidocaine, to numb the area around the cut. It burned a little but, overall wasn’t nearly as bad as I anticipated. He delicately put in 8 stitches all around my tiny pinkie toe. After some instructions of what to do after leaving, I was discharged. My step-dad and I made our way outside. The next challenge was to figure out how to work the Lyft app to get back to Riverside. We ended up barely making it back in time to board the shuttle to head towards the boat.

    An hour later we make it to Port Canaveral. We make our way onto the boat and it just beautiful. It doesn’t feel like you are on a boat. The boat itself has 14 floors, more than 1,200 staterooms that hold at least one family each, 3 huge dining rooms, 3 restaurants, multiple pools, and even 2 movie theaters. Because of the morning we already had, all of us just relaxed in the room for a little bit. When the medical center opened, we went to see if I could get crushes to get out a wheelchair. Later, we went to dinner and had our first experience of the 5-course world class dining we kept hearing about. The food was amazing and the seafood was all fresh.

    Day 3: Our family was determined to be first at the breakfast buffet. We made our way to Deck 11 to get a beautiful view of the water with the sunrise. Next on our agenda was snorkeling in Nassau, Bahamas. There were some native Bahamians would led a group of us out there. During the 45 minute boat ride to the snorkeling spot, we passed magnificent houses that belong to various celebrities. The water was a vivid blue that I could have looked at forever. I unfortunately couldn’t join in, but I was also content just laying there and watching the water. The catamaran had nets that overlooked the water people could lay on at look at the fish and just the clarity of the water. After about an hour or two observing the water, we all made our way back to the port. Next stop was the Straw Market. The locals know how to lure in the tourists with hand-made products and cheap souvenirs. We walked around and got to talk to some of the people. On the long trek back to the boat, we got to people watch and be apart of their culture. It was enlightening to see such happy people. The rest of the night was full of just watching the water.

    The water was so clear that, even from the boat, you could see the coral and the fish.

    During dinner, we got to try some more amazing food. Disney had it set up so one waiter and his assistant would serve your family the whole time on the boat. Surya and Rashid were the staff with our family the whole trip. Surya was the lead server and would make sure were always happy. He would give us jokes and riddles to solve. He has been with the company for 11 years so he has a large stock-pile of brain teasers. He is also apart of a band, and apparently the head chef is the drummer; Surya would bring us things that weren’t even on the menu anymore.

    This was my sad attempt to keep my stitched up foot out of the water.

    Day 4: By the time we woke up, the boat was docked at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. We instantly took the shuttle to Serenity Bay, the beach strictly for adults. We found a group of four chairs. With some extra effort I got down to the edge of the water with my crutches to get at least some of me wet. I sat by the water just captivated by the endless horizon, the clear water, the coarse sand, the sound of the waves, the smell of the salt water, and the warm water hitting my not injured foot. Our relaxing day came to end so we could take a group nap back in our room on the boat. We ate in the dining room called “the Animators Palate.” The walls were covered in drawings of the characters we now love. At one point, the turtle, Crush, fromFinding Nemo would talk to guests while they ate. The coolest part is that he would have real conversations with you not just a robot repeating a message.

    Day 5: On our long journey back to Florida, we had a whole day to spend on the boat. Storms and clouds prevented us from baking on the deck of the ship. I found my favorite deck to sit on while everyone went exploring the ship. I worked on homework, my brother ventured to places on the boat me and my crutches couldn’t go, my mom went to the spa, and my step-dad took a nap. After the past few days of being busy, it was nice to just take a second and breathe. The third dining room, “The Enchanted Garden”, was based off of the Alice in Wonderland film released in 1951. With this being our last diner on the ship, we were all very sad to see Surya and Rashid go. Later that night, there was a firework show. We went to the adult bar all the way on deck 13, just so we could avoid all the kids. We watched the beautiful display if fireworks and then hit the hay.

    All three of the dining rooms were beautiful, but this one was by far the most intricate.
    The Dream is one of four of Disney’s massive cruise ships.

    Day 6: It was time to bid the Disney Dream good-bye. We got off the boat, to go through customs and border control again, to get on our shuttle back to the airport. After a long security line, we make it to our gate. We have a 3 hour layover in Houston,Texas. 15 minutes before we are supposed to board, they moved our gate and I finally got to ride on of those little golf carts to get there on time. Despite already boarding the plane, we have a delay and just sat on the runway for a little bit. It was peaceful. Finally we land in Denver, and make our safe drive home.

  • Editorial: Something Special

    He was 8 years old when I watched him zip across the pool for the first time.

    John Plutt had just won his first race, a short 25 yard dash, and he touched the wall before other children had reached half.

    Everyone on deck couldn’t help but stare at the small, skinny, kid with arms ten times too long for his body. He hopped clumsily out of the pool, a plucky grin on his face as his mother hurriedly rushed forward to wrap him in a towel. Even in the 90 degree summer heat, John was turning blue and shivering as he walked off to talk to our coach.

    Every swimmer, coach, and dedicated parent who got to witness this historic first dip into competition knew that they had just watched something- someone- special.

    Of course, at the time, none of us knew how special John would be.

    Fast forward a couple years, I’m 12 and John’s 10. We had been swimming together for two years now, and I had been there for every practice the kid had ever had. We were lane buddies, both of us just fast enough to swim with the senior group of our team, but not old enough to be part of the social circle that came with it. Obviously, getting ignored by the oh-so-inspiring high schoolers allowed for plenty of time for John and I to get to know each other. By the time I was in middle school, I had a second little brother, and a training partner for life.

    I remember when he made his first state time, it was at a winter meet, and we were some of the only kids who even swam during the winter for our small developmental club team. It was the 100 fly, I remember he broke 1:10, and I remember screaming so loud my voice was hoarse the rest of the day. He ran from behind the blocks to our coach, who sent him quickly over to his mom and I, who he attacked in the biggest hugs he could manage at the young age of 11.

    That was the moment John became something more, as a swimmer. He got hungry, he wanted to swim more events at state, and his work reflected that. He stopped playing other sports, and he decided he really loved swimming. As far as I know, he’s never looked back.

    That first state meet was the start of a long line of state meets, and lots of races that John won. I learned very quickly that John refused to lose.

    It was that desire, that dream to win, that propelled John to convince his family into letting him switch teams with me during his 6th grade year. We left for a more competitive environment, one where I could train with other girls my age, and John could try his might against some of the older year-round boys.

    So we left, we moved, and it was terrifying. I remember John being worried that the coach would be mean.

    Little did he know that Josh Cortese, our coach, would end up being the best person to prepare him for what was to come.

    Some of the biggest turning-point races in John’s life were at a small, summer-league meets.

    Josh decided to test John by making him swim in “The Open.”

    “The Open” age group, during summer, is for kids over the age of 15, but younger kids can be entered by their coaches. At 13, John happily accepted the challenge, he swam, and still swims, with these much older kids every day. He races them in practice, and he never backs down.

    He didn’t falter in the face of this bigger obstacle. He swam with kids almost five years his senior at that league meet, and for the first time ever John realized he was not limited to being good in his own grouping, He learned that, with hard-work, age really is negotiable. The older boys quickly took him into their ranks, and helped to train him to another level.

    During his eighth grade year, we carpooled to Pueblo County High School every day for swim practice. I got to tell him all about the joys of high school swimming, and I knew then he would make a splash in Pueblo. He was already competitive with the fastest kids in town, and he wasn’t even 15!

    That year, he won a state championship during club season in the 100 fly, and his confidence sky-rocketed. Watching him win that race was like watching him win his first 25. The same grin covered his face when he got out of the water, and the same kid who used to bargain with his parents for suckers in exchange for victories walked over to his mom and immediately said she owed him a whole coconut cream pie for winning. He didn’t focus on the swim, he just wanted some food.

    His first high school meet was characterized by people saying “Who is this kid?” immediately followed by “He’s a freshman!” I couldn’t help but smile every time someone realized what I had always known. There, right there, in this goofy 15 year old boy, was something very rare.

    I am inspired daily, by my swim-brother, who sets goals as soon as he breaks them. Who has never been complacent in victory, only working harder after a big win. A boy who, no matter the attention, always stays humble.

    Imagine every practice together, every tear shed, every sore muscle, and every huge “post-win” grin coming together at one time. Imagine every aspect of your history with a person coming to mind in a second. Imagine every moment of the past rushing in and intermingling with the present as every joking “I’m gonna win as a freshmen” becomes more than a possibility, more than just a dream.

    Saturday, May 19th, I watched my closest teammate, my family, touch the wall after the most important 100 fly of his life at the 4A state swim meet.

    Tears filled my eyes as the one appeared next to his name, and everybody else on deck watched as a lanky kid, turning blue from the cold, with arms still too long for his body received his medal. They were realizing what I’ve always known, “This kid is something special.”





  • Boy’s Unified Swimming: For the Love of the Sport

    For Unified Boy’s Swim Coach, Diane Petkoff, everything is about the smiles. “I do everything I do for those happy faces,” said the Pueblo West High Security Guard in her office, pointing at a picture on the wall of four boys, each of them grinning from ear to ear.

    These four boys were the start to a program that has almost doubled in size since it’s creation, with 2018’s unified team consisting of seven members. “The growth has been the best part,” said Petkoff, “It’s through the support of people like [Pueblo West High School Athletic Director] Jamie Wagoner, and Jennifer Alfonso, who’s the Special Education Director for District 70, that we can even have a program like this.”

    Athletes; Taylor Salisburg, Isaiah Piazza, Nathanial Gonzalez, Eddie Weiger, Rylee Santisteven, Tony Taibi, and Jaeden Wagers, are all students at Pueblo West High School, and in every picture, share the same huge, toothy, grins as the four in the oldest picture hanging on the office wall. Taibi, the most social of the group, was quick in stating, “I love swimming! It’s my favorite time of year.”

    The importance of unified teams like the swim team at Pueblo West is simply that; the love of the sport. “Every year, it amazes me how happy the boys are just to get in and swim. It’s not for glory, it’s not for time. Their goals are small; completing a 50 yard swim without help, or swimming without a floatation belt,” said Petkoff.

    Practices with the team are relatively short, a 45 minute session once a week on Monday’s at the local regional pool, where the team practices alongside instructors from the Cyclone’s varsity girl’s swim team; Keely Fisher, Zoi Langreder, Maddie Derting, Brooke Holdredge, Isabell Osborne, Portia Roybal, Kylee Lamas, and Brooklyn Phillips. The boys work on improving their swimming abilities, gradually moving up to the ultimate goal; swimming a 50 yard freestyle without any help.

    Salisbury, Piazza, and Santisteven all have accomplished this goal, with Salisbury even being able to compete at varsity meets in non-exposition events. Gonzales, Wagers, and Weiger all use a belt but can swim unasisted. Taibi, had, until the meet vs. Cenntenial during the 2018 season, had needed a belt and a second swimmer in the water to assist. However, at this duel, a duel like any other for most swimmers, Taibi kicked a 50 by himself.

    “It felt really good, I’m glad I could do it by myself,” said Taibi after his event, overjoyed with the fact he made it across the pool and all the way back without assistance.

    Petkoff mentioned, “We’re working with Tony to get him into the shape to swim at state completely without Brook’s help.” The Team will be continuing work for the rest of the season, working up to a swim at the CHSAA 4A state championship meet before the finals of the 50 freestyle, as well as the SCL league championships.

    “I’m just glad to be doing this work,” said Petkoff, “The cheers at state, and the smiles whenever they get to practice or out of the pool, it warms my heart.”


  • A Fight Against Bullies

    Bullying has become the new norm, and that is why Mark Koopman, a counselor and advisor at Pueblo West High school, has stepped up and began the process to create an anti-bullying program.

    Karen Cologgi, a mother of a PWHS student, gave and insight of what she thinks the program will bring to the school.

    She said, “I think it just needs to be done because it is not spoken enough at home and kids who are going through it at school or home, or anywhere else for that matter, need to know that someone is there to help and that help is easily accessible.

    To kick off this program, Koopman offered eight students, currently enrolled at the high school, to join several other schools on the 2018 Winter Xgames kid’s day.

    This year’s 2018 Xgames has campaigned a “Shred Hate” program as well. What really stood out from this campaign was the young girl who proudly walked the stage to share her story.

    As many may be able to relate, this young girl told the crowd how she had been bullied for being athletic and sporty, but with help she was able to move past this common occurring situation.

    Koopman wants students to feel like they aren’t alone just as this young girl was not, and he plans to do so with his upcoming anti-bullying program.

    As a counselor, Koopman explained his personal opinion on bullying as, “My personal perspective on bullying is that bullying comes out of fear, people who don’t know who they are yet, or understand that other people are maybe in a different place in their life or in a different place of their and throughout that , sometimes they come up as, either scared, or unknowing, and in order to balance the playing field a little bit, to make themselves feel a little bit better who they are,  or where they are, they tend to try to bring others to their level, and usually that ends with what we would call bullying”

    This is only one reason of several to why Koopman has decided to create the anti- bullying program

    This program will start with the class of 2022. Koopman plans to start with the freshmen class, that way they hear it first hand, on the first day, that PWHS is a safe place to be, as well as a good school, and a bullying free zone.

    From there, he plans to continue to engrave this idea throughout the entire school.

    He explained that this program will come with built in training, which will include an all staff preparation to help them to not only be able to spot bullying, but to also teach them how to talk someone who may be involved in bullying through the situation.

    Koopman explained that bullying isn’t as rare at Pueblo West High School as he, as well as the rest of the staff, would like it to be.

    On average, bullying is reported two to three times a week at PWHS alone. To help in Koopman’s fight against bullying, remember, PWHS is where respect is a way of life.

  • Pueblo West High drama department presents: Dracula

    Through weeks of planning and rehearsing, the Pueblo West High School drama department is presenting Dracula.

    Opening night was Wednesday, October 25, but not to worry, there will be showings at 7:00 on Thursday and Friday as well. There is no admission but donations are always welcome.

    Dracula was a great decision, based on the fact that Halloween is only one week away. Last year the department performed Frankenstein. Drama teacher, Mr. McNeilly, explains a possibility for next year, “I might be doing a continuation of Dracula. I really like the characters that are in this one so might try to do a Dracula Part 2.”