Lawrence Schools Foundation celebrates 4 high school seniors as champions of the arts

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Four accomplished young artists — Free State High School seniors Matt Chappell and Devon Janus and Lawrence High School seniors Ashton Rapp and Rachel Schmaus — have been honored as the Lawrence Schools Foundation’s 2021 Student Champions.

They were recognized during the foundation’s annual Community Education Breakfast on Friday, Sept. 24, according to a news release from the foundation on Monday.

The criteria for this year’s awards centered around the career of the breakfast’s featured speaker, Spencer Lott, according to the release. Lott is 2006 graduate from FSHS, maker, writer and puppeteer based in Brooklyn, New York. In addition to playing Samuel on “Sesame Street,” his puppetry credits include the feature film starring Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” “America’s Got Talent,” “Scarecrow,” “The Relationtrip,” and “90th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” with Disney’s The Muppets. He also co-wrote and directed the live-action puppet short film “Melvin the Birder,” which received a PDN Photo Annual Award in 2014 and is included in Heather Henson’s “Handmade Puppet Dreams” film series.

The foundation recognized two seniors from each of the two high schools who, it said, demonstrated and made significant contributions to the arts community and beyond. The award further “identifies and nurtures the most accomplished young artists in the visual, literary, design, and/or performing arts and (those who) may pursue a career in the arts.”

Free State faculty members describe Chappell as an enthusiastic leader. He has participated in choir all four years of high school and has held a leadership position every year. This year, he serves as president of Concert Chorale and is a member of Chamber Choir and Chamber Singers. His teachers say his dedication and hard work have strengthened his love of music and they are “incredibly proud of him and cannot wait to see him conquer his goals, which may include a career in music.”

Janus’ teachers describe her as caring, intelligent and amazingly energetic. They say she cares deeply for others and makes efforts to include everyone around her and is artistic, creative and sophisticated in her efforts to understand art and humanity. She plans to attend SCAD: The University for Creative Careers in Georgia.

Rapp’s teachers say he was selected for this recognition because of his extraordinary talent and hard work in academics and extracurricular activities. In addition to serving as this year’s head drum major and in the LHS ROAR and Chorale ensembles, he has been a member of the Kansas All-State Middle Level Choir, the Kansas Music Educators Association’s All-State Choir, the Kansas Choral Directors Association’s TTBB Summer Honor Choir and the National Association for Music Education’s All-National Choir.

LHS art teacher Todd Poteet describes Schmaus as one of his best students. “She has been consistent and dedicated to her own personal growth, frequently excels and demonstrates a maturity far beyond her years.” She maintains a 4.0-plus GPA while taking multiple Advanced Placement courses and has previously participated in the school’s highest-level wind ensemble.

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Tricia Masenthin (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at tmasenthin (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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