A Tiger Family Legacy

Freshman follows in grandparents’ footsteps at Blue Valley

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Gabriela Ruiz, Staff Writer

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Blue Valley gives today’s students a chance to look back at the legacy of their school. 

For freshman Mikayla Welker, this retrospection is especially meaningful. Her grandparents, Vince and Vicki Staudenmyer, were among the first students at BV when it opened.

Fifty years ago, the students of two rival high schools, Stilwell and Stanley, were brought together to form the student body of the brand-new Blue Valley. Their intense rivalry didn’t dissipate with the merge. 

Vince and Vicki, who spent their freshman year at Stilwell High School before attending BVHS, experienced this tension first hand. 

The conflict, “got worked out on the football field where we gained each other’s respect the man’s way,” Vince said. “[Students] beat the crap out of each other until they decided it was pointless and played football together.” 

Once the dust settled on the new school, a unique culture began to emerge. In its early days, Blue Valley was a “dynamic with a mix of sophistication from Stanley and a bit of redneck mentality from Stilwell,” from which a tradition “of educational and artistic excellence,” arose, Vince said. 

Though it started off small, BV was characterized by “school pride that I hadn’t experienced the likes of before,” Vicki said. 

Vince and Vicki certainly contributed to the burgeoning culture. Both were extensively involved in extracurriculars, which, combined with their academic achievement, earned them the titles of Tiger and Tigress. 

According to the 1972 yearbook, “the tiger and tigress are chosen each year by their fellow students as the best all-around examples of what a student can be. They are mature, responsible individuals who participate eagerly in school activities. Whether in athletic, musical, or dramatic competition, they give their best each time. They prove by their honesty, leadership, and sportsmanship that being chosen as tiger or tigress is the greatest single honor a senior can receive.”

Vicki was a varsity cheerleader and participated extensively in theater and vocal music. Vince, who was also involved in choir and theater, played football, basketball and was on the track team. Partaking in school activities at that time was a very different experience than it is now. 

“Because the school was so small, it took almost everyone to put on a play or make a sports team,” Vicki said. “Stilwell was a very small and rural town. My freshman year, there were nine graduating seniors.”

Looking back at her overall experience at BV, Vicki is grateful for the lasting impact. 

“I feel that I was well prepared for life,” she said. 

Vince, likewise, appreciated the school’s influence.

“It provided a good foundation for a successful marriage and work life,” Vince said.  

Now, things have come full circle, and Vince and Vicki’s granddaughter Mikayla Welker is rounding out her first semester at BV. Because of her family’s recent move, she was given the option to attend a different high school. However, she ultimately decided to follow in her grandparents’ footsteps. When asked about his granddaughter’s decision, Vince said, “I’m glad — the school is a top-rate educational experience.”

To Mikayla, BV holds familial ties as much as educational importance. 

“My grandma said she’s the person who likes to hide and not be noticed,” Mikayla said. “On the first day of school, she came in and was like ‘well there’s not very many people here so I can’t really hide.’ Then, she remembers sitting down in her first hour and looking around and she looked at my papa and was like, ‘Well he’s definitely the cutest boy so far.’ Then they ended up getting married.”

Through their immeasurable school spirit and involvement, Vince and Vicki helped set a precedent for the level of excellence that has become an expectation at BV. Most importantly, they demonstrated what it truly means to be a tiger. 

Today, BV students and staff strive to cultivate a close-knit community like the one established by Vince and Vicki’s generation. 

“I have an actual Tiger family — then I have my Tiger family that is at school,” Mikayla said. “I hope to expand it and make some really good friends that I keep throughout my life.”