Feature Story · Writing


Story originally published on 04/26/17 on lakecentralnews.com

Student athletes are often commended for their hard work and commitment, but no one seems to recognize the work put in to play a sport for a private team or studio.

“I prefer the competitive [private team] over school [team] because it’s a longer season, and I like that we compete more and don’t have to cheer for football or basketball. I also like being with different people of different ages instead of just people from your school,” Samantha Maznaritz (10) said.

It’s a lot easier to join a school team than it is to find a private studio to compete with, but these girls found a home at Midwest Elite in Dyer, Ind.

“I originally joined because it was so close to my house, but now I just really enjoy the people I’ve met there,” Elysia Ray (10) said.

One difference between cheering for a school team and cheering for a private studio is the dynamic of the competitions.

“School competitions are way smaller and have less judges, lights and quieter music. I love competitions for competitive cheer because it’s a huge stage and there are so many more people and teams to go against and see. We also compete on a spring floor versus a dead floor like school cheerleaders,” Maznaritz said.

Midwest Elite starts their competition season in late May where each team has two days of practice a week. Competitions start in October and end in early May.

“We have seven regular season teams and two half season teams with 98 total athletes, and our competitions are split into categories based on skill level, age and the size of your team,” Kylie Petee (10)

Even though they don’t go to the same school, cheering and competing together has created bond between these cheerleaders. Most team bonding happens at practice, but at the beginning of the season some of the parents organize team bonding events.

“The teams are constantly supportive of all the Midwest Elite teams. The environment is very welcoming. I was new and accepted by everyone immediately. I had previously been a dancer and everyone was super helpful with my learning stage of getting into cheer,” Petee said.

Despite their differences in age, teams and personalities, the cheerleaders at Midwest Elite consider themselves one big family.

“We fight sometimes but that’s because we’re family and that’s kind of what families do. Overall, we have a good time and love each other regardless,” Ray said.

Feature Story · Writing


Story originally published on 11/23/16 on lakecentralnews.com

Adam Gustas (12) plays James in “James and the Giant Peach.” This was Gustas’s last fall show in Lake Central Theatre Company.

Adam Gustas (12) played James in the Lake Central Theatre Company’s production of “James and the Giant Peach” in his last high school fall show.

“‘James and the Giant Peach’ was my sixteenth show, so I’ve been here a long time,” Gustas said.

Gustas has been in theater since he played Tony in “Darcy’s Cinematic Life” in the sixth grade.

“The first relevant role I did was a show called ‘Darcy’s Cinematic Life.’ It was at Clark, and I played the bratty little brother,” Gustas said.

Gustas plans to continue acting in theater throughout college.

“Hopefully the colleges will take me, fingers crossed,” Gustas said.

Gustas has applied to Loyola University, Northwestern University, Indiana University, Ball State University, Columbia College Chicago, Evansville University, American Academy of Dramatic Arts and New York University, but his high school theater career hasn’t come to a close yet.

“[When I’m performing I feel] good, sometimes scared, and sometimes I get the giggles and I can’t get them out, but it’s a good time,” Gustas said.

Looking back on his years in theater, Gustas is sad to say goodbye to his theater experience.

“It’s so fun, and I love it so much. I love everybody. It’s wonderful,” Gustas said.

Feature Story · Writing


Story originally published on 10/17/16 on lakecentralnews.com

Mr. David Harnish, Science, and Mrs. Roberta Harnish, Science, look over their October schedule together. The Harnishs had been married for 22 years and taught chemistry classes next door to each other.

Among the science department staff, Mrs. Roberta Harnish, Science, and Mr. David Harnish, Science, not only teach chemistry but have been married for 22 years.

“I remember thinking this was someone I would have a lot in common with,” Mr. Harnish said.

The couple met in Indianapolis at an Academic Coaches Conference and had their first date in Merrillville at a local pizzeria.

“We went to Giordano’s in Merrillville for deep dish pizza, but the pizza oven was broken so we ordered sandwiches instead,” Mrs. Harnish said.

Mr. and Mrs. Harnish decided to get married while shopping in Chicago.

“We had been dating for about a month and a half and were Christmas shopping at Marshall Field’s in Chicago. We were having lunch and talking about things that were coming up in the next year, and it simply became something that was just understood that we wanted to have happen in the next year. We just knew it was the next logical step for us,” Mrs. Harnish said.

The couple got into teaching before they’d finished getting their teaching degrees. It was incidental that they started their teaching careers so early.

“I received a call from my high school principal, and he asked me to come teach biology. I didn’t have my teaching degree but had a job I seriously hated, so I took the job,” Mrs. Harnish said.

Mrs. Harnish got her degree in Biology at Clarke University, her teaching certification at Purdue Calumet, and her MS in Secondary Science Education at Indiana University. Mr. Harnish got his BS in Secondary Science Education and his MS in Library Science at Indiana University.

“For most of our time here, we have been in separate areas of the building,” Mrs. Harnish said.

Their now adjacent classrooms are a coincidence. They were placed next door to each other so that they could share lab equipment.

“We were placed next door to each other because we share lab equipment for the ACP Chemistry courses. Some of the instruments we use in labs are sensitive and shouldn’t be moved around too much. It’s easier to move students than equipment,” Mr. Harnish said.

The Harnishs do not plan on retiring at the same time, but once they do, they plan to travel.

“[Our favorite thing to do together outside of school is] travel, read and just spend time together,” Mrs. Harnish said.

The Harnishs share a love of teaching, travelling, and doing everything to the best of their ability. They also share a mutual respect and admiration for each other.

“I love that Mr. H is such a wonderfully sweet, kind, thoughtful, and good natured gentleman. He’s brilliant, and he truly is my best friend and better half,” Mrs. Harnish said.

The couple looks forward to continuing both their work lives and home lives side by side for another 22 years and more.

“She completes me,” Mr. Harnish said.