Category Archives: Good school news

A Willy Wonka of Idaho

willy-wonka-and-the-chocolate-factory-gene-wilder-image-600x337When Jackson McKenzie was in the sixth grade, he felt like his life was pretty boring. So, at a school show-and-tell he decided to beef things up a bit. “I made up that I liked to beat world records,” he says. Fueled by a lifelong love of reading Guinness World Records – “I’ve read every one since 2000” – McKenzie had stuck his foot firmly in his mouth. But then, something magical happened. After contacting the Guinness people and finding out that the easiest record to beat was creating the world’s largest M&M mosaic, he actually made his show-and-tell proclamation come true.

“I did it,” he says. His mosaic was a picture of a tree, a monkey and a sun. He glued the M&Ms onto a plastic grid and created the whole thing in his room. “But, it wasn’t official.”

Now, McKenzie wants to do it again, only this time, he wants to make it really matter. He has contacted the Guinness folks, and knows what “evidence” is required. He has designed his creation – a 124-square-foot mosaic that includes the state of Idaho and a snippet of our state song, “Here We Have Idaho.” (The current record is: 74.92 square feet.) McKenzie estimates it will take close to 30,000 M&Ms.

Jackson McKenzie, 17, and his M&M mosaic plans. Photo by Jeanne Huff

Jackson McKenzie, 17, and his M&M mosaic plans. Photo by Jeanne Huff

With the help of his dad (Idaho State Sen. Curtis McKenzie), he reserved the rotunda at the Idaho State Capitol for two weeks to allow he and his team to assemble the mosaic. “We will be working from July 27 to August 9 and the record breaking mosaic will be in display the following week,” McKenzie says.

Originally, he posted his project at $6,000 on Kickstarter, but he says he overestimated the costs. His new goal is $3,500 and he has a website set up for fundraising at

Anything he receives over the amount needed for materials – M&Ms, Elmer’s Glue, a plastic grid, and paper and wood for support – McKenzie plans on giving to Go On Idaho,, a nonprofit dedicated to helping Idahoans continue education past high school.

So, if you want to help McKenzie actually make his sixth grade declaration a reality, send him some M&M money. In addition to his website, you can contact him by phone – 899-0753 – or email: He says all project finances, including every donation and expenditure, will be tracked and publicly accessible on his website.

Whadya say, a little help to help jazz up McKenzie’s summer – and to give summer tourists something extra to see at the capitol?

Let’s do it!

Go, Jackson McKenzie!

Go M&Ms!

Go, Idaho!

Or, in the words of Willy Wonka: “Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination…”

For real.


Free Ned Evett concert at CWI!

dog daysAlong with the dog days of summer … short break here while I explain where the term “dog days of summer” came from — or should I say dog days of canicular? The origin dates back to those crazy Romans, of course, and Sirius, a star in the heavens also called “the Dog Star” or in Latin: “Canicula.” Sirius used to rise right around sunrise during the hottest days of the year and the Romans took to sacrificing a brown dog (what, did they run out of virgins?) to appease the rage of Sirius. In ancient Rome, Dog Days lasted from July 24 to August 24.

But what I was REALLY going to say is, along with the dog days of summer, comes the faint but audible clanging of not-so-distant school bells. Back-to-school sales are rampant, so if you’ve got a fetish for the smell of Elmer’s white glue (guilty) or swoon over a whiff of a fresh box of Crayola crayons (guilty), now’s the time to stock up.

On the other hand, I hear that plaid is the absolute IN, fashion-wise. And if you’re currently unemployed (guilty) and wondering which of the Treasure Valley post-secondary schools will help you get the training/education you need to get employed — well, you don’t have to look very far. One of the newest entries — and a big success, if you look at the enrollment, which is three times what it was last semester: College of Western Idaho (CWI).

evettAnd, even if you missed the boat and didn’t get enrolled this semester (guilty) — you can still celebrate the school’s success on Saturday with it’s rockin’ Aug. 29th back-to-school bash featuring Ned Evett “the world’s first fretless guitar rock star.” Evett, it seems, has a soft spot for the new school. He offered his song “Shine Like a Diamond” for a song so the school could use it in radio and TV commercials. And now, a free concert. Yep, that’s right. Ab-so-lute-ly F-R-E-E. Why?

“I come from a family of educators and I have to admit that I’ve always felt a little lazy being an entertainer,” said Evett. “This event makes me feel like I’m giving something back. CWI is an important addition to our community and I hope everyone comes out for the concert, which is sure to be a fun evening for the both the young and the young at heart.”

The concert will take place on the front lawn of the CWI’s main campus buildings. Get your free tickets NOW at — only 1,500 tickets will be passed out on a first-come, first-serve basis. And, BONUS: if you reserve tickets through CWI’s Web site, you will be automatically entered to win a concert prize package — and the winner will be announced during the event.

Seating at 6 p.m., music starts at 7. Food and non-alcoholic beverages available.

Good kids!


If this isn’t good news, I don’t know what is:


Seventy-three students from Ada County will be awarded plaques from the Mayors of Boise, Meridian, Eagle, Garden City, Kuna and Star Thursday, April 30, 2009.

The 16th annual Mayors’ Awards to Youth event will begin at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers on the third floor of Boise City Hall.
Since 1994, principals from Ada County junior, middle, and high schools have been invited to select two students to be recognized at the event. Each alternative school provided one nominee. Young people are honored for their accomplishments in overcoming struggles, serving as peer role models or helping to better their schools and communities.

Among the students nominated is Eulalia Kafari (Bishop Kelly High School), who has been recognized on the state level for the Idaho Mock Trial Best Witness and National Forensic League Superior Distinction Award. On the national level, Eulalia is the Idaho Girls State Delegate and finalist for Girls Nation as well as the Idaho Speech National Finalist. Eulalia and her family moved to the US from Ghana when she was nine years old. Her achievements are varied and notable but, more importantly, she is a role-model for her fellow students because of her intelligence, her wonderful sense of humor and her personal integrity. She lights up Bishop Kelly with her warm, friendly personality.

Amanda Casper, of Boise High, has been recognized for outstanding effort and achievement despite multiple obstacles that could have prevented her from performing highly in school and the community. Because of developmental disabilities, Amanda has struggled with reading, writing, and math skills. Many individuals who face such hurdles may give up and make excuses of why they cannot succeed — but Amanda is determined to succeed. She works hard in school at every subject from bell-to-bell and has a remarkable GPA. Even outside of school she puts in extra time with her grandmother to read and improve her fluency and comprehension. Despite her disabilities, she has gotten her driver’s license and has a part time job at Idaho Elk’s Rehabilitation Hospital as a dietician’s aide and will be working full-time following her graduation this June.

Here is the full list of award winners:

East Jr. High

Nick Arnold

Adam Richey

Fairmont Jr. High

Samantha Thurlow

Clark DeWitt

Hillside Jr. High

Remona Htoo

Matthew Kline

Les Boise Jr. High

Miles DeKlotz

Jessie Joy Gibson

North Jr. High

Lila Stange

Ben Youtz

Riverglen Jr. High

Jennifer Briggs

South Jr. High

Lyndon Curtis

Victor Molina

West Jr. High

Shalya French

Cristina Viveros

Boise High

Amanda Casper

Abdul Karim Abdul-Hussain

Borah High

Halli Cada

Skyler Irvin

Capital High

Kasaundra Robertson

Aaron Goin

Frank Church High

Jody Dutcher

Timberline High

Kasey Allen

Lauren Hooker

Boise Language Academy

Chakomah Tahuri

Mustafa Abdulamir

Dennis Technical High

Ashley Adams

Simeon Overturf

Pritchett School

Desiree Osborn

Cheyenne Solis

Eagle Middle

Hannah Hyde

Juan Medina

Heritage Middle

Kelsey Hartman

Lewis & Clark Middle

Mariah Ziemer

Jadyn Andrew

Lowell Scott Middle

Magen Myers

Brandon Hodge

Meridian Middle

Brian Pegram

Andrew Robertson

Galileo Math & Science

Parker Yeakley

Kyle Martes

Crossroads Middle

Nick Workmon

Boris Diamond

Pathways Middle

Chance McClary

Sara Stewart

Centennial High

Corey Cavazos

Laural Spaulding

Eagle High

Megan Tanner

Kaylee Bunn

Meridian High

Eddie-Dean Thomas

Mitzi Howard

Mountain View High

Joana Stephania Ortiz

Shaun Blodgett

Rocky Mtn. High

McKinzey Talbot-Shields

Central Academy

Robert Spencer

Eagle Academy

Brynn Brozwski

Meridian Academy

Tasha Kile

Karl Norris

Meridian Technical
Charter High

Celina Muli

Ray Clark

Kuna Middle

Malia Peck

Bishop Kelly Catholic High

Eulalia Kafari

St. Joseph’s Catholic School

David Ybarra

Good school news, honk!

art-cafe-van-1C’mon, kids, get on the bus, er, van. Boise Parks & Recreation’s Mobile Recreation Van motors about from school to apartment complex to neighborhood park, offering adult-supervised fitness and arts programs to kids during lunch break and out-of-school. Many wouldn’t be able to participate in the activities otherwise.

The program was launched in February 2008 as a response to programming
deficiencies identified by the Mayor’s Council on Children and Youth.

“Cost and location are key obstacles for parents seeking safe, quality
after-school programs for their kids,” said Roseanne Daily of Boise
Parks & Recreation. “The van allows us to take programming to the
children to help alleviate the accessibility issue.”

The van, loaded with sporting goods and art supplies toodles out to visit
Hawthorne, Whitney, McMillan, Jefferson, Horizon and Summerwind schools.

And now, kids at four more schools will have the chance to get in on the fun. The expanded spring schedule
includes Whittier, Ustick, Mountain View and Garfield elementary schools.

The Mobile Recreation program has far exceeded expectations, with 37,000
visits in the last year, Daily said.
City funds were used to purchase the van and provide staff. Additional
support is provided by the University of Idaho’s Expanded Food and
Nutrition Program, Boise Sunrise and Boise Southwest Rotary Clubs. Boise
Weekly donated funds for an artist-in-residence program.

Good school news


Riverstone International School Breaks New Ground for Students
In spite of a challenged economy, growth continues with a new elementary school

“Schooldays, schooldays, dear old golden rule days…”
—old schoolyard rhyme

Before too long, some lucky gradeschool-age kids will have a brand spankin’ new building to call “home.” Riverstone International School, a local school with a philosophy that emphasizes nature and the great outdoors, will break ground on a new sustainable elementary school building, Wednesday, March 4, at 3 .pm. Groundbreaking festivities will be officiated by: Andrew Derry, Riverstone’s Head of School, Kurt Liebich, Riverstone’s Chairman of the Board and Andy Erstad of Erstad Architects, whose firm is handling the design of the new facility. Dignitaries and officiants will shovel the first spades of earth to mark the occasion.

“We are excited to be an example of some ‘good news’ happening during a time when building projects have been waylaid by economic stress,” said Andrew Derry, Riverstone Head of School, “and we believe that our faculty and families’ commitment is the primary reason for our continued success and growth”.

The new building will reflect the school’s desire to connect with and respect natural resources. “When completed, the elementary school facility will reflect Riverstone’s emphasis on sustainability, both educationally and environmentally” said architect and project collaborator, Andy Erstad. “State of the art environmental systems, natural day-lighting, rapidly renewable resources, and a high percentage of local and regional products have purposely been incorporated into the design”.

Riverstone students are taught to think as “world citizens.” During the groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday, flags from 26 countries will be carried by middle and high school students to mark the significance of diversity at the school.

Official Groundbreaking Ceremony:
Time: 3pm 

Where: Riverstone International School, Warm Springs
5493 Warm Springs Avenue
Boise, Idaho 83716
When: Wednesday, March 4

Riverstone International School provides a rigorous, international curriculum that fosters academic For more information about Riverstone International School, go to:

Good grades!

You’ve heard the gloomy stories about our ill-equipped youth and the shoddy education our kids are getting compared to those on the global circuit. Well, here’s a news item that will put a smile on your face: Capital High School was recently awarded the 2009 Siemens Award for Advanced Placement. It was one of only 50 handed out in the U.S. and the only one given to an Idaho school. Advanced Placement, or AP classes are actually college level classes for students in high school.

“AP at Capital High School is changing students’ lives,” said Capital principal Jon Ruzicka. “Through college-level AP courses, students enter a universe of knowledge that might otherwise remain unexplored in high school; through AP exams students have the opportunity to earn credit or advanced standing at most of our nation’s colleges and universities.”

And so, Don, tell us what they’ve won:
— $1,000 grant to support math and science education
— A featured article in the Feb. 23 USA Today newspaper
— A listing on the Siemens Foundation Web site:

Borah High School won this award in 2005-2006.

If you know of any young person, school or organization that deserves a pat on the back, please send information to:

For more information, go to the Boise Schools Web site: