Students spend Thanksgiving in New York City, perform in Macy’s parade

Edwardsville High School’s Erika Axtell, Marcus Kwasa and Maria Arzuagas were selected to perform with Macy’s Great American Marching Band in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this year. Marcus, 17, performed with the drum line, while Erika and Maria, both 17, performed with the color guard.
Edwardsville High School’s Erika Axtell, Marcus Kwasa and Maria Arzuagas were selected to perform with Macy’s Great American Marching Band in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this year. Marcus, 17, performed with the drum line, while Erika and Maria, both 17, performed with the color guard.

Edwardsville High School’s director of bands watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade twice this year.

That’s because three of his students performed with Macy’s Great American Marching Band: Marcus Kwasa, Maria Arzuagas and Erika Axtell, who are all juniors this year. Marcus played drums while Maria and Erika both performed with the color guard.

“I had a smile on my face,” Director of Bands Marvin Battle said of watching their performance on TV. “Even during the second broadcast later in the evening, I found myself watching it again.”

He said it’s the second year Edwardsville band students have traveled to New York City for the world-famous parade. But it’s the first time three students represented the school at once.

“The odds of that are almost like winning the lottery,” he said. Students from all over the United States auditioned for the roles by uploading videos to YouTube showcasing their abilities.

“This was something that wasn’t unexpected because I know the quality of the students that we have,” Battle said. “... Everything we do in the band is as a band, in a large group. ... This showcased what the individuals can do.”

Marcus tweeted on Thanksgiving about the experience.

“I am absolutely speechless right now,” he wrote, “thank you to everyone that has been supporting me throughout my journey to achieve one of many dreams.”

Macy’s estimates that the parade is seen by more than 50 million worldwide TV viewers and 3 million spectators along the parade route. Battle called it a “very great honor” for the school.

“I can’t say enough about them. I’m just so proud of them,” Battle said.

Local college offers accelerated program for teens

Students have an opportunity to earn their high school diploma at the same time as their associate’s degree through Southwestern Illinois College’s Running Start program.

Current high school freshmen, sophomores and juniors who are homeschooled are invited to an informational meeting about the program at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6, in the liberal arts complex room 2311-2313 on the Belleville campus.

For more information and to make a reservation, contact Jane Sparks at 618-235-2700, ext. 5490 or

Know someone worthy of this wall of fame?

Belleville West High School is asking for nominations for its wall of fame, which must be submitted by Dec. 7.

The school will honor select alumni based on achievements and contributions in their fields. A nominee must:

▪  Have graduated from BTHS or Belleville West at least 10 years ago

▪  Have demonstrated a high level of achievement in his or her field and made a significant contribution to that field

▪  Exhibit leadership, character and service

People who didn’t graduate from Belleville West but who have contributed to the school also will be considered.

For more information or for a nomination form, contact Principal Rich Mertens at 618-222-7610 or, or contact Diney Strayhorn at 618-222-7604 or

Support a metro-east high school marching band

Help the Belleville East Lancer Bands purchase a new drumline. The group is raising money through a car raffle in which only 5,000 tickets will be sold.

The grand prize is a car worth up to $25,000 purchased at any Auffenberg dealership or a cash payout of $15,000.

The prices of raffle tickets are $20 each, three for $50 or seven for $100. The winning ticket will be drawn at random from a drum on Dec. 8. The drawing will take place at 8:30 p.m. in the performing arts center at Belleville East High School. It will be open to the public, but the winner isn’t required to be present.

For more information, email The full rules of the raffle are available at

Young entrepreneurs are eligible for scholarships

High school seniors who run their own businesses could win up to $15,000 toward a two- or four-year university, college or vocational institute during the fall of 2017.

Teens can apply for scholarships from the National Federation of Independent Business Young Entrepreneur Foundation until Dec. 18 at There will be 100 winners.

The two largest scholarships — Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and Dan Danner Leadership Award — are each worth $15,000. There will also be three winners who will each receive $5,000, and 95 winners who will each receive $2,000.

The scholarships are merit-based, not based on financial need.

Girl Scouts recognizes top product sellers in area

The following local Girl Scouts sold the most nuts, candies and magazines this year:

▪  Edyn Richie, of Belleville, for the Belleville/Swansea area

▪  Rylie Bridges, of Trenton, for the Trenton/New Baden/Lebanon/Mascoutah/Scott Air Force Base area

▪  Elizabeth Burr, of Collinsville, for the Collinsville area

▪  Jayden Henschen, of Hamel, for the Edwardsville/Glen Carbon area

▪  Ahmani Tillman, of Fairview Heights, for the Fairview Heights/Caseyville area

▪  Bradyn Kremers, of Granite City, for the Granite City/Madison/Venice area

▪  Allison Workman, of Highland, for the Highland area

▪  Abby Shoeman, of Dupo, for the Millstadt/Columbia/Dupo/Smithton area

▪  Ella Birkner, of New Athens, for the New Athens/Marissa/St. Libory/Freeburg area

▪  Barbara Wilson, of O’Fallon, for the O’Fallon/Shiloh area

▪  Haley Bode, of Waterloo, for the Waterloo area

Students honored for doing the right thing

Seven metro-east students were honored at the Nov. 15 Do the Right Thing ceremony, including: Naudia Campbell and Leine Moreland from Union School in Belleville District 118; Adrian Paredes and Carlos Raiford from Westhaven School in Belleville District 118; Camden Cox from Delores Moye in O’Fallon District 90; Kortez Rupert from Marie Schaefer Elementary in O’Fallon District 90; and Kael Speichinger from Eagleview Elementary in Columbia District 4.

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes