Student in the Spotlight
When thinking of the most popular student at Portage High School, most students agree that they think of Senior Emma Havrilla. Havrilla is a leader within the school and on the court.
Emma is a staff leader for Natural Helpers, Vice President of National Honor Society, a designer on the Pow Wow staff, a member of Captain’s Council, Portage Distinguished Young Woman and Portage’s Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Foundation (HOBY) winner.
Out of all the activities Havrilla is involved with, her favorite is HOBY. It is a leadership group that meets once a year in Indianapolis, Indiana. The student is chosen from each high school while he or she is a sophomore. In order to be chosen, the student must write an essay and be chosen from there. Havrilla has gone twice, going into her junior year and senior year. At the conference, the students take part in leadership activities, learn leadership skills and meet other students from around the country.
“HOBY is my favorite activity because it is kind of at the core of all the other groups I’m a part of,” Havrilla said. “The reason I like it so much is because of the skills I’ve learned. Not only did it help me with my leadership in National Honor Society, Natural Helpers and basketball, but also with being more open and accepting of myself, which gave me the confidence to do DYW.”
Being a part of HOBY requires her to do at least 100 hours of community service a year, which she says inspired her to do more volunteering and enjoy it.
Along with being involved with many programs in and outside the school, Havrilla is ranked in the top 1% of her class and is an ACE. ACES is a program unique to Portage that recognizes and honors the top 30 students in the senior class. Havrilla has held her top ranking since her freshman year. She plans to attend Indiana University, a school she calls her dream school, next fall to major in education. Havrilla wants to pursue a career in teaching to follow in her mother’s footsteps.
This is her first year on the Pow Wow staff and she currently is one of the staff’s top designers. After enjoying Pow Wow so much, she is considering minoring in graphic design next year in school.
On top of being a leader of numerous groups, Havrilla is also one of the top basketball players within Portage High School. Here, she takes after her former professional basketball player father James Havrilla. She has been a member of the varsity team since her freshman year and is a captain this year.
When asking students and staff what she is best known for, most people had the same response: her smile. Many people, including senior Laurel Majtyka, admire her for her positive attitude and kindness she spreads throughout the school.
“Emma is such a genuine soul who cares so much about anyone and everyone,” Majtyka said. “She brings so much positivity to the school and so many smiles. People always smile when they see her smile.”
The varsity gymnastics team is hoping to make their way back to the State Championship this year as a team, and some gymnasts are trying to take back what they missed last season. The team is full of new gymnasts and now has a new team of gymnastics coaches.
The new coaching staff consists of Lisa Whipps, Brandi Butz and Charity Kehoe. These women have worked together training gymnasts around the area at Indiana Elite Gymnastics for years. Many of these gymnasts who grew up training there are gymnasts at Portage now. This includes junior Cassie Prohl.
“Our new coaches are very good,” Prohl said. “I have been coached by Lisa since I was about three-years-old, so it was exciting to find out she would be coaching high school. They know a lot about gymnastics and can help everyone a lot to get better and better. It is a change from last year, but a good one.”
This is Prohl’s third year on the gymnastics team and last year, she had State Championship dreams, but did not make it past regionals as an individual and the Indians did not advance past sectionals as a team. This season, the team is working hard to get back on a podium this season, according to Prohl.
The new team is young and is mostly made up of underclassmen. Because of the large amount of underclassmen, the leaders on the team are juniors. Prohl is a captain along with fellow juniors Emma Garzella and Johnna Vaughn.
“I’m trying to lead the team by example by working hard and pushing through some tough mental blocks,” Prohl said. “[Also] showing commitment to the sport and helping the girls who may not know a lot about gymnastics, but are trying to be the best they can be.”
Gymnastics is one of the only sports that is both team and individual. Prohl says that the team is trying to be successful both individually and come together as a team. Along with goals they have set with skills, scores and championships, the team has been working on cooperation.
“I’m hoping for a positive season this year,” Prohl said. “I want everyone to get along. There are a lot of new faces and it is important that we all get along and work well together because high school gymnastics is a team sport, which can be a big change for competitive gymnasts because United States gymnastics is a very individual sport. Of course, winning meets is the ultimate goals, but I want us to do our personal best and everyone to do the best they can.”
The team has been looking forward to the new changes that have been handed this year and are seeing it as a positive thing.
“The best thing about the new coaches is that they want us to be the best we can personally can be, and their goal is to help us get there.” Prohl said.