Toss for Autism, JHS WYSE Team, and FFA Livestock Judging State Champs honored at recent District 117 Board meeting

By Anthony Engle on June 22 at 12:00pm

Two successful Jacksonville High School groups and a great fundraising team were recognized at the beginning of Wednesday night’s District 117 Board of Education meeting.

On April 23rd, a check was presented to the Jacksonville Public Schools Foundation for $15,264.31 from the Toss for Autism fundraiser. Executive Director of the JHS Alumni Association Amy Albers spoke for the fundraising team that put the event together this year, and also gave a special thanks to JHS graduates Michelle Hinds-Freed (’91) and Jay Boulanger (’05) who, according to Albers, dedicate themselves to the event every year.

“Jay Boulanger and Michelle Hinds-Freed have made it a priority to give back to their school district. It started as an Autism Awareness fundraiser, and it has evolved into so much more than that. We have been able to help special needs students throughout the district from kindergarten through our CAP program, which runs through age 21. This has really grown. In the past 5 years, we have been able to gather 30 thousand dollars for special needs students in the district.”

Michelle Hinds-Freed has been working with the event for all seven years it has been held, and she participates both as a JHS alumni and a parent of a young child on the autism spectrum. Michelle’s son Landon is non-verbal and lower-functioning on the spectrum.

The high school’s Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering team reached the state testing competition for the first time as a team. Math teacher and WYSE faculty sponsor Cindy Arnold spoke to congratulate her team for the success they earned at the competitions.

“So we took the regional test at Lincoln Land, and for the first time in my ten years here we made it to the sectional competition, which we were stoked about. Then at sectionals, it happened again. For the first time that I know of, our team made it to the state competition, and we were elated. We even had a few members that qualified for the individual testing.”

That being said, the news wasn’t all good during Arnold’s presentation. She explains why the University of Illinois has decided to end the WYSE program.

“I received an email at the end of May from the U of I that the WYSE team would not be sponsored anymore. This was their last year. They said that they had a decline in attendance and a lack of organizations that were willing to host. So we ended on a great note, we made it to state, but that would be it.”

Also, the Illinois State Champion Future Farmers of America livestock judging team will travel to Indianapolis in the fall for the national FFA Convention and Competition. Newly graduated senior Jenna Wheeler, who has accepted a full-ride to college to study Livestock Judging, spoke at the meeting in regards to some aspects of the competition the team won.

“We went to the livestock farm at U of I and competed in their reasons division, which we won, and then there is also a non-reasons division. The four livestock types there were sheep, swine, cattle, and goats, which have only been introduced in the last five years. You place those animals based off different criteria: how much muscle mass they have, how sound they are, how eye appealing they are, and a future you see in them being able to reproduce and possibly offer a better livestock.”

The official dates for the national FFA Convention in Indianapolis are October 24th-27th.