The official student media of Blue Valley Northwest High School


The official student media of Blue Valley Northwest High School


The official student media of Blue Valley Northwest High School


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BVNW Speaks

Cash to connections

Connections teacher Cindy Campbell-Barnes received a $3,000 grant for her classroom, boosting the out-of-classroom experiences students can have.
Lila Vancrum
Connections teacher Cindy Campbell-Barnes receiving a grant.

The perspective of others, talking to peers and having a self-awareness of one’s surroundings are all things that occur in everyday life. For most students, these are seen as basic social skills that are crucial for living, however, Connections teacher Cindy Campbell-Barnes said some students may see these tasks as intimidating and have to work extra hard at it.

“A lot of our students struggle with making friends and knowing how to talk to people and that hinders their relationships,” Barnes said.

This is Barnes’ second year working at Northwest and 10th year teaching social skills. She said some people get Room 802 and Room 102 Connections classes confused but they both teach social skills. Barnes teaches in Room 802 and said the two classes are at different levels, and her curriculum is geared more specifically toward social skills whereas 102 is toward life skills. She added that some of her students are in Advanced Placement or honors classes in addition to Connections, clarifying that academics are not the focus of her class.

Barnes said she loves seeing her students make progress and accomplish new skills every day.

“I see them making progress. I see them finding friends, I see them dating someone, and I see them doing the things that we’ve talked about in class,” Barnes said. “That’s the biggest piece [for me], is giving them the skills that they need in order to be able to have all of those same opportunities that other people have.”

Barnes received a $3,000 award from the “Grants of Excellence” by the Blue Valley Educational Foundation. Barnes said she applied for the biggest grant because she knew how costly it was to fund class activities such as the Little Husky Holiday reading program, where her students went to Oak Hill and read books to elementary students.

Barnes said her grant is specifically to help fund her students to be able to do more social activities and experiences outside the classroom. As well as providing opportunities for everyone, she said she doesn’t have to worry about students not being able to afford the experiences.

“The grant is driving the lessons that I’m teaching because I want to make sure that we can get in all of those fun field trips and activities that we plan to do,” Barnes said. “It’s helping me focus on those lessons that we need to talk about so that we can go do those fun things.”

“Social skills are something that’s applied everywhere, it’s not just in a specific class.”

— Cindy Campbell-Barnes

Sophomore Amira Bowers is a student in Barnes’s Connections class. She said she is grateful for the grant enhancing her experience in the classroom.

“I am really grateful that we got the chance for the grant. We get to go on field trips to Oak Hill and [it] will help us with step-outs,” Bowers said.

Barnes said her students do step-outs three times a semester. She requires her students to meet in smaller groups to hang out and socialize outside the classroom. She said it allows them to put the social skills they learn in class into practice.

“We talk a lot about the things that we need to know in class but then apply them outside the class. They have to get together with at least two people outside of school and go to a school function or social event such as a musical or football game,” Barnes said.

Bowers said she has gained many social skills that have helped her navigate difficulties in her life. Bowers said
that when she went through a hard time in her relationship with one of her friends, the skill of communication she acquired in Connections allowed her to maintain the friendship.

“My friend and I had a pretty rocky relationship, but we ended up talking about it,” Bowers said. “I’ve grown so much based on wanting to go out with friends. I used to not want to [go out] but now I’m like, ‘OK, this is actually kind of fun.’”

Similarly, sophomore Addison Deich said she has learned about how friendships can impact her positively in the future.

“When we were talking about friendship in class, it really stuck out to me because I realized I could make more friends too. This skill can help me meet new friends and help out other people who are struggling,” Deich said.

Deich has been in Connections class since her freshman year and has enjoyed it ever since. She said her class plays lots of games, goes on field trips and does class activities to boost peer socialization.

“When I’m not in school, I feel like I can step further into the world and do more outside my comfort zone.
Connections class has helped me with that,” Deich said.

Bowers said Barnes has helped her gain confidence when meeting new people, something that used to be difficult for her.

“[Barnes] is a wonderful mentor as well. She helps me through tough times,” Bowers said.

Deich said Barnes helps her through her assignments and knows how to make the class a fun place.

“She’s very nice and knows how to get people talking because I was super shy when I went into the class,” Deich said. “At first, I was scared and didn’t want to meet people. But then I started to get to know them and I started loving Connections.”

Along with lots of practice and step-outs, Barnes takes her students on field trips. She plans on taking the students to Oak Hill to read for first-grade students and give them a holiday gift with a copy of the book they read. In addition, they will be attending an escape room to put group work into practice and an amusement park in the spring to practice their social skills and create an experience many of her students have not yet had.

“We’ll go in groups and socialize and try to have a good time doing something that a lot of them have never done,” Barnes said. “Social skills are something that’s applied everywhere, it’s not just in a specific class.”

Deich said she recalled when her class went to Chicken-N-Pickle on a field trip. She said she is thankful and excited that the grant will help the class do more field trips.

“We played Jenga, pickleball and ate food. We had lots of fun, and everyone talked and got along. You get to meet new people and see if you have anything in common with other students,” Deich said.

By using the grant, Barnes said she plans to continue field trips and expand the Connections experiences for her students to practice their social skills.

“It’s great to see the [students] blossom and learn and be able to do those things. It makes a big difference and it’s super rewarding,” Barnes said.

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About the Contributors
Blen Belachew
Blen Belachew, Writer
Blen Belachew is a junior and a writer for "The Express." This is her first year on staff. Blen is involved in NEHS and Spanish NHS and plans to participate in NHS this coming year. Outside of school, she loves to spend time with friends and family, binge her favorite Netflix shows, go on walks, and travel. Blen is very grateful for this opportunity to continue her skills in writing for the newspaper, and is looking forward to the year ahead! 
Adria Heinauer
Adria Heinauer, Writer
Adria is a sophomore and a writer for “The Express.” This is her first year on staff. Outside of newspaper, Adria is involved in girl’s soccer and basketball. In her free time Adria enjoys going for runs, hanging out with friends, playing soccer, and babysitting. She is so excited to be apart of “The Express” this year.
Lila Vancrum
Lila Vancrum, Editor-In-Chief
​​Lila Vancrum is a senior and Editor-In-Chief for “The Express.” This is her third year on staff, previously serving as a photographer and photo editor. Outside of newspaper, Lila is involved in girl’s soccer, KAY Club, Team Up for St. Jude’s, NHS and Quill & Scroll. In her free time she enjoys going out to eat, hanging out with friends and binging TV shows, her favorites include “One Tree Hill” and “Pretty Little Liars.” Lila is excited to take on the role of being an Editor-In-Chief and hopes to improve the photography for stories and social media. 

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