Profile: Daniela Aspian

Daniela Aspian

Delani Watkins

Omaha World-Herald Explorer

Daniela Aspian has lived in Omaha, Nebraska her whole life, but she is ready to see the world.

Aspian, a senior in high school who plans to study English at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, loves reading and writing, and studies Spanish. She is enrolled in an AP Spanish class and participates in Spanish Club.

“My mom is from Mexico and I want to learn Spanish to communicate with my grandma and my family,” she said.

Learning a new language is no small task, and to become fluent, speaking practice is essential.

In Aspian’s AP Spanish class, it is required of students to speak Spanish the entire class period, and they write essays in Spanish as well.

She has considered going to Mexico for an extended period of time to study the language and immerse herself in it.

“My mom is an interpreter, so I was pretty disappointed that she didn’t teach me Spanish,” Aspian said.

Aspian believes that learning a second language and becoming fluent in it is helpful in any career.


Video: Exploring students battle nerves and report live from the St. Patty’s Day parade

By Chris Peters

World-Herald Exploring Adviser

Omaha World-Herald Exploring Program students reported live from the field at the St. Patrick’s Day parade on March 10, 2018, experiencing the nerves and fun of approaching strangers and capturing their stories.

How one veteran reporter was out-hoofed by a young pup pursuing pooches

Excitable rat terrier named Savage with his boss, Karla Torres, of Omaha. RICK RUGGLES/WORLD-HERALD EXPLORING

Rick Ruggles

Omaha World-Herald Adviser

A World-Herald Exploring adviser seized on an idea for a St. Patrick’s Day parade story.

The parade featured people and politicians, but he would focus on the pooches.

And so the Explorers who showed up for this trial in journalism – Skutt sophomore Natalie Pearson, Millard West seniors Annie Punt and Madelyn Anderson, and fellow adviser Chris Peters – set out on a sunny, cold Saturday morning.

Six Irish wolfhounds strode near the front of the parade, a fitting breed for an Irish fest.

A fellow who called himself “Hillbilly” watched from the sidewalk with his English bulldog named Blue.

The sound of bagpipes blared. A tiny rat terrier named Savage wore a Christmas sweater. He was so excitable that it was almost impossible to get a photo of him.

There were puggles and labs and goldens. Many wore green bandanas.

The World-Herald adviser thought he was onto a good story.

Then he came upon Explorer Madelyn Anderson. It turned out she was writing about dogs, too.

Explorer Madelyn Anderson interviews a woman with greyhounds at the St. Patrick's Day parade. RICK RUGGLES/WORLD-HERALD EXPLORING
Explorer Madelyn Anderson interviews a woman with greyhounds at the St. Patrick’s Day parade. RICK RUGGLES/WORLD-HERALD EXPLORING

She was doing a more thorough job of interviewing a woman with greyhounds than he would have done. He stumbled onward.

And that is the story of how a World-Herald Exploring adviser covered the St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Profile: Chloe Fecci

Bella Kovar

Omaha World-Herald Explorer

For Chloe Marie Hedwig Fecci, it’s all about the vibes!

Fecci is very much one to follow her heart in everything she takes upon. For example, she chose to attend her private all girls Catholic school, Duchesne Academy, because of how amazing the atmosphere felt to her.

“The second I walked in, it felt like home,” Fecci stated beaming.

At Duchesne, Fecci is involved in both track and cross country. However, she prefers cross country more.

“I love the vibe of it and we’re all such good friends,” Chloe stated, once again smiling from ear to ear.

Other than sports and school, Fecci loves to watch YouTube in her free time, preferably “Buzzfeed Unsolved.”

“I like eating Nutella and chilling,” Fecci said, to sum it all up.

Delving into deeper topics, when asked what she thinks is the true foundation of friendships and romantic relationships, Fecci follows her heart and of course, the vibes, once more. Chloe says that each need to be built on trust and respect.

“You can’t love someone if you don’t trust them”, Fecci said.

Chloe wears her heart on her sleeve, and truly, would be a great new Dr. Phil.

Profile: Madelyn Anderson

Madelyn Anderson

Annie Punt

Omaha World-Herald Explorer

When she laces up her ballet shoes, 17-year-old Madelyn Anderson doesn’t think about how little time she has for friends or social media. She doesn’t think about AP Biology or Contemporary Literature class.

Life as a dancer and a student is allégro: fast. And she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Dance has always been a way that I can express myself,” Anderson said. She tried soccer and basketball, but nothing fascinated her like sparkly costumes and on-stage twirls. “I have always been more girly. Putting on makeup and the pretty costumes is what I liked best.”

At the age of 2, Anderson knew she would continue to be a part of a dance team for as long as she could.

Each night, she spends four hours dancing for Fusion Dance Omaha. On top of that, she is highly involved in her school. Being a part of Advanced Journalism and many AP classes has caused her an extra three hours of work a night.

With all of this built up, leaves little time for social media and time with friends. A large portion of her friend group dances alongside her, but the many more she has made at Millard West High School have to wait for her time.

Going through the four crazy years of high school, she has learned prioritizing in order to reach her goals.

“If something is important to you, you’ll make time for it,” Anderson said. “You have to put the time and effort into things you want to see become accomplished.”

As most students her age live their lives off of their phones and procrastinating, she makes sure her world is lively and interesting. Through dance and academics, she knows she will succeed.

Profile: Annie Punt

Annie Punt

Madelyn Anderson

Omaha World-Herald Explorer

Annie Punt, 17-year-old senior at Millard West High School, has a history with sweets – Dum Dums and frozen yogurt to be exact.

Throughout her school career, Punt always favored writing. She often composed memoirs about her day in a journal throughout the summer months. Punt never dreamed that she could live up to the skill of her sister, a 22-year-old writer and Spanish teacher.

After composing an eighth grade English story entirely about a sugary sucker and receiving immense praise from her teacher and peers, she knew writing held a future for her as well.

During the summer of her junior year, Punt began to work at a local frozen yogurt shop. It was her first experience with an actual interview, weekly paychecks and an opportunity for genuine interaction with strangers. She developed a love for the getting-to-know-someone process as she saw two facets of her life intertwine. One revolving around yogurt, the other around a pen and paper. Her experience at a job further developed her skills as a journalist and conversationalist – as she utilizes her time at the register to talk about anything from Husker football, to weather, to Dum Dums.

Video: Exploring students report at the Henry Doorly Zoo

Chris Peters
Omaha World-Herald Exploring Adviser

Students in the Omaha World-Herald Exploring program visited the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium on March 25, interviewing a trio of zookeepers in a press conference-style atmosphere.

The students then broke into small group interviews with zookeepers and, finally, watched a zookeeper explain how she uses animals such as opossums for education in the Wildlife Kingdom Pavilion.

Students had the opportunity to interview, write a story, take photographs, shoot video and publish to social media as a means of getting firsthand experience in journalism.


‘Dumb, ugly, filthy’ opossums a surprising inspiration for zookeeper, students

Flaunting Ophelia the opossum, Henry Doorly Zoo keeper Sarah Stoltenberg discusses animal care with a group of Omaha World-Herald Explorers on March 25. LOGAN TUNINK/EXPLORING

Rick Ruggles
Omaha World-Herald Exploring Adviser

Sarah Stoltenberg knows all about the contempt opossums inspire, because she disliked them herself at one time.

Growing up in rural Nebraska, Stoltenberg had the impression opossums were dumb, ugly, filthy creatures. Many people also fear the animals carry rabies.

Then she was assigned to work with an opossum named Orville in her job as an animal keeper at Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium and, wow, did her view of the little marsupials change.

Stoltenberg spoke Saturday to 13 members of the Omaha World-Herald’s Explorers, a group of high school students with an interest in journalism, writing, photography and video.

Flaunting Ophelia the opossum, Henry Doorly Zoo keeper Sarah Stoltenberg discusses animal care with a group of Omaha World-Herald Explorers on March 25. CHRIS PETERS/EXPLORING
Flaunting Ophelia the opossum, Henry Doorly Zoo keeper Sarah Stoltenberg discusses animal care with a group of Omaha World-Herald Explorers on March 25. CHRIS PETERS/EXPLORING

Two other animal keepers, Jordan Anderson and Jessica Conroy, also spoke to the group.

Stoltenberg was disappointed a few years ago when she was assigned to work with Orville. It seemed like a crummy assignment.

In her hometown of Cairo, in central Nebraska, people disliked opossums.

“It’s a backyard animal and everyone seems to hate them,” she said.

Orville was a rehab mammal, sent to the zoo after he had suffered an injury in the wild.
Stoltenberg had to learn about opossums to work with Orville. Orville also taught her things about his species.

She learned they are meticulous self-groomers and are clean. She learned they are bright and often out-perform rats and cats in maze exercises.

Cross-eyed, Ophelia the opossum crawls about the stage in the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium’s Wild Kingdom Pavilion. CHRIS PETERS/EXPLORING

She learned they eat ticks and other pests. Not only do they not carry rabies, but they rid the environment of some insects that do carry diseases.

Stoltenberg spoke to several Explorers about her experience with Orville. He might have been picked up and dropped in the wild by a hawk, she told them, because Orville’s spine began to fail.

And so he had to be euthanized.

“I was a hot mess for about a week after that,” she said.

But opossums had become one of her favorite species. On Saturday she displayed to the Exploring group another opossum, named Ophelia.

“I’m sure they’re lovely, but I just can’t handle them,” said Kassie Kizlin, a Millard South junior.

Opossums are, in fact, odd-looking. Ophelia’s claws splayed, and her eyes were crossed. Her long tail was snake-like. That tail helps opossums with balance and to hang from tree limbs.

Ophelia lay passively in Stoltenberg’s arms. A few times she sat her down to roam about slowly.
Exploring students took photos and video of Ophelia and Stoltenberg.

“If you get to know any animals, they become cute and awesome, in a way,” said Colin Leick, a Fremont High School junior.

“I like what her tail does,” said Kim Mendoza, a Columbus High School junior.

Exploring, a co-ed program, is administered by the Boys Scouts of America. It is basically a career-exploration program for high school students.

Shruthi Kumar, a Marian High School freshman, and Samantha Aguilar, a Burke High School sophomore, said the visit to the zoo helped change their perception of the place.

A jellyfish undulates in its tank at the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium on March 25. LOGAN TUNINK/EXPLORING
A jellyfish undulates in its tank at the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium on March 25. LOGAN TUNINK/EXPLORING

They said they were unaware of the zoo’s conservation efforts and had newfound respect for the zoo’s mission.

The three animal keepers proved to be fine ambassadors for the zoo, just as Orville and Ophelia were fine ambassadors for opossums.

Profile: Yousra Abdulrazig

Yousra Abdulrazig

Lesly Lopez

Omaha World-Herald Explorer

Sophomore Yousra Abdulrazig attends Westside High School and enjoys watching movies and reading books.

Abdulrazig says she would like to visit India for the tasty food and fascinating culture.

One thing that Abdulrazig doesn’t like is animals.

In second grade, she was in Girl Scouts, and on bring your pet day, only one girl brought her dog. Abdulrazig was at the playground, and all of the sudden the dog starts chasing her, she trips and falls and the dog attacks her. She says it’s her dog horror story.

Profile: Magdalena Vidal

Kimberly Mendoza

Omaha World-Herald Explorer

Many people are into the entertainment business, while others are not.

Magdalena Vidal is among those who loves it.

Magdalena, soon to be 16, is from Chile. She now lives in Omaha and takes online schooling. She is interested in art, photography, crafts, and playing with makeup.

She has big dreams. She has gone from aspiring to be a teacher, like her older sister, to longing to be a rock star, like Hannah Montana.

Although her dreams always seem to change, there is one thing she is certain she wants to be, and that is a professional writer. She has written stories about anything that has come into her mind.

Along with being a writer, Vidal would like to produce movies and television shows. When she was a little girl, she would grab a camera or phone and make short movies with her cousins.

She would like to bring her stories to life and make a movie or TV show out of them. She would love to show people what she is capable of doing in the near future.

With a talent like hers, she might even create something for the silver screen someday.