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Summer in a map

For many BVNW students, a part of their summer is traveling to a place different from Overland Park. Read about seven students' trips that took them around the country and the world.

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For a more detailed description of these students’ trips, read below. To jump to a particular student’s trip, click on their name.

Katie Laxson
Anna Chalupa
Emile Batrouney
Sarah Callahan
Sophie Levine
Jensen Panegasser
Trisha Xue


Katie Laxson: Austin, Texas

After five days of driving, senior Katie Laxson and her father arrived in Austin, Texas for the annual Austin, Texas (ATX) Television Festival. The Laxsons attended the festival June 5-7.

The three day festival was composed of many presentations about television shows. Laxson said each show was held in a theater in downtown Austin, and consisted of watching episodes, having question and answer sessions with actors and directors and sometimes included hints and secrets about upcoming episodes.

Although the ATX Television Festival was the main attraction, Laxson said she and her father did other things in Texas, too. They went through Dallas on the way to Austin. After the festival was over, they went through San Antonio and Galveston.

Some shows that Laxson and her dad watched were about “the Simpsons,” “the Fosters,” a new show premiering next year called “Teachers,” and others. Laxson said one of the highlights of the trip was seeing one of her favorite actors, Sutton Foster, who acts on the show “Bunheads.”

“[A highlight was] getting close with my dad … It was a good bonding experience for us,” Laxson said.

Laxson said she and her dad didn’t agree on every show they went to, but they made compromises by dividing up the shows they wanted to go to. She said the trip to Austin was something her dad wanted to go on for years and was excited about finally getting the chance to go.

“[The trip] was really fun because it was totally different than anyone else’s vacation, because everyone goes to the beach or the mountains or something, but this was just something totally different,” Laxson said. “I have never really done anything like that before, so it was really cool and new and interesting.”

by Brandon Fagen


Anna Chalupa: New Orleans, La.

Sophomore Anna Chalupa played in a national volleyball tournament in New Orleans, LA from June 23-July 2. This year was Chalupa’s fifth year participating in the national tournament.

Chalupa began playing volleyball in a recreational league before joining Team Dynasty, a club team her older sister played for when she was 11. Chalupa said that she loves playing in the national tournament with her team because it is very intense and competitive.

“I love playing with my team because they are all my best friends and being able to travel with them for four days is the best,” Chalupa said.

Chalupa’s team placed fifth in 2014 but ended up placing 28th in their division of 36 teams this year. Chalupa said that although the team did not end up reaching their goal of being in the top 15, there still were good things to take away from the tournament.

“We beat the team that ended up coming in third place, and we also beat the defending national champions, so that was a big success,” Chalupa said.

Chalupa said she hopes her team is able to rebound and improve upon their result this year. She said that the team wants to be closer to their result in 2014 and improve substantially upon the team’s result this year.

“We’re hoping to probably place in the top 10 (at Nationals) and also be the top team in the KC region,” Chalupa said.

Chalupa says that New Orleans was very different from Johnson County and she experienced a lot of new things.

“We went to Bourbon Street and walked around, and we met a lot of interesting people,” Chalupa said. “It was a different experience than being in Johnson County.”

by Gabe Swartz


Emile Batrouney: Rio Hato, Panama

Read about Batrouney’s trip in the August 2015 issue of the Express.


Sarah Callahan: Gonaive, Haiti

This summer, junior Sarah Callahan went to Gonaive, Haiti on a mission trip with her church, Colonial Presbyterian. Callahan left July 1 and stayed in Haiti for one week. This mission trip was called a “vision trip,” and was designed so that people like Callahan could experience what it is really like in the country they go to.

“I heard about it through my church and I immediately knew that I really wanted to go,” Callahan said. “I love doing mission work; I’ve gone on three or four mission trips already with my church, but this was the first one out of the county.”

While there, Callahan said she spent her time with orphans in multiple different orphanages. They would often spend five hours at a time in one place doing many activities and games with the children.

“Everyday we would go out to a different orphanage and play with the orphans and love on them, show them Jesus through us,” Callahan said. “My group was the craft group and we would make little maraca shakers or color in coloring books and make bracelets. We would do stuff like that all day.”

Callahan said that while in Haiti, she learned to be content with the material items and relationships she has. She said the children in Haiti only needed love, and that is what all relationships should be like.

“[I learned to be] more content with the things I have and the relationships that I have because it seems like I’m always trying to search for more in relationships,” Callahan said. “Just the fact that you can love someone and they love you is as simple as it needs to be for [the children in Haiti], so why can’t it be like that for us? Through relationships we don’t need to search for money or pleasures in life. Just being more content with it.”

by Morgan Lewis


Sophie Levine: Italy and Israel

Junior Sophie Levine took a trip to Italy and Israel on  June 24 for five weeks. Levine went with her youth group, United Synagogue Youth, to learn more about their culture and religion.

“I chose to do this trip because I thought that it would give me an opportunity to learn more about Israel,” Levine said. “I’ve always wanted to go [and] I finally got a chance so I took that opportunity and ran with it. I thought it’d be an amazing experience to learn more about my Judaism and my culture.”

Levine and her youth group spent one week in Italy and four weeks in Israel. She said they toured both as well as learned more about their faith, Judaism.

“In Italy we toured around, saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Colosseum, all the typical Italy stuff,” Levine said. “In Israel we met up with some other groups that were part of my youth group and we toured around Israel from top all the way to the bottom, then learned more about our Judaism stuff.”

Levine said she not only learned more about her faith, but more about herself and how she feels about her culture and who she is.

“I just learned more about myself,” Levine said. “I knew that I have to love Israel because it’s the place where Jewish people came from but I never knew how much I really loved it until I went there and experienced it. I’m going to live there eventually, I want to, so learning about myself and how much I really do love my culture.”

by Morgan Lewis


Jensen Panegasser: Mediterranean coast

This summer, junior Jensen Panegasser looked off the deck of a cruise ship during a Mediterranean cruise, seeing a seemingly endless expanse of blue ocean. The cruise took place from May 31 to June 13 and traveled to many locations on the Mediterranean coast, including ports in Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

“My favorite place was I think Greece, the Greek islands Mykonos and Santorini, because they were so so pretty, and the water was the clearest I have ever seen and it was amazing to go to those beaches and stuff,” Panegasser said.

According to Panegasser, the cruise was in honor of her grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. She said she and the other 15 members of her family there got to spend a lot of time together both on and off the ship. She said almost all the activities they did were family activities, where her grandparents hired private tour guides to show the family around cities like Rome and Florence, Italy.

Panegasser said there were many things that she and her family did while on the trip, and that wasn’t only the cruise. She said they also took a side trip to London and spent a day in Barcelona, Spain before the cruise began. Overall she said she really enjoyed the trip.

“I thought [the trip] was awesome,” Panegasser said. “… We either had a choice to go to Europe on this cruise or spend a week in Hawaii, and both [families] wanted to [go to] Europe because if you don’t jump on this kind of opportunity you don’t ever know if you’ll … get another chance to go there.”

by Brandon Fagen


Trisha Xue: Shanghai, China

Senior Trisha Xue took a two week vacation to various parts of eastern China, beginning in late June. The original purpose was for her local family to visit her father, who currently works in Shanghai. However, the trip ultimately detoured into several smaller via points along the way.

“From [Shanghai] we went to Suzhou, and then Nanjing, Oishi, and the Yellow Mountains,” Xue said.

From a cultural perspective, Xue has come to have a greater appreciation for the surroundings in her native land, respecting the traditions and practices that her ancestors followed.

“You can go a lot of places and see the more ancient side of China,” Xue said. “The fact that they still try to preserve areas like that, like gardens and palaces … is really pretty.”

While the views were captivating and the opportunity to learn more about China’s vast origins were a gift altogether, Xue said the best part of the whole trip was the familial reunion that everyone got to experience.

“I would say [seeing my father again] was by far the biggest part [of the trip],” Xue said. “Just being able to spend time with my family because we don’t really get that a lot; so it’s really special when we do.”

by Avery Mojica


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