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Nickolas Oatley / Staff photo by Nickolas Oatley  

The sun rises over the Flint Hills off of North Seth Child Road on Friday morning.

SCHOOL NOTEBOOK | Jordy Nelson named K-State homecoming grand marshal

Since his retirement after 11 seasons in the NFL, former K-State football player and Leonardville native Jordy Nelson has stayed busy locally.

That will continue next month when he’ll be the 2019 K-State homecoming parade grand marshal, the K-State Alumni Association announced Thursday.

“Being named the grand marshal of this year’s homecoming parade is really exciting. I’m looking forward to seeing K-State fans this fall,” Nelson said. “My family and I are excited to be back in the Manhattan area to participate in K-State activities again.”

The parade on Oct. 25, will start at Manhattan Town Center and proceed through Aggieville, ending at City Park for the homecoming pep rally.

“Jordy Nelson personifies the core values we hold dear at K-State,” said Amy Button Renz, president and CEO of the association. “He is a great example of how the road to success is realized through commitment, dedication and a strong work ethic. The K-State family is so proud to have Jordy as a graduate and we are pleased to welcome him, (wife) Emily and their family back to Kansas.”

Nelson, a Riley County High School graduate, was a walk-on to the K-State football team, starting off as a defensive back.

Then-head football coach Bill Snyder moved him to wide receiver, where he excelled and earned consensus All-American honors in 2007.

Nelson set school records for 15 receptions in a game and 122 catches over a season, 214 receiving yards in a game and 1,606 in a season, and 133.9 average yards per game.

Nelson finished his college career with 206 catches for 2,822 yards and 20 scoring receptions.

Kansas Teacher

of the Year

Several area teachers will find out Saturday if they’ll move on to the finalist round of the Kansas Teacher of the Year awards.

Manhattan-Ogden school district nominees include Noah Busch of Manhattan High School and Kelly Carmody of Woodrow Wilson Elementary.

Other area nominees include Freedom Brass of Geary County’s Lincoln Elementary, Shawn Hornung of Wamego High School, Kim Marquardt of Wamego’s Central Elementary School, Sara Miller of Rock Creek Junior-Senior High School and Wendy Willi of St. George Elementary.

Teachers are nominated based on their expertise on guiding students of various backgrounds and abilities to success; collaboration with colleagues, students and families to create a school culture of respect and success; connecting the classroom to the community at large; leadership and innovation in and outside of the classroom that embodies lifelong learning; and expression in an engaging and articulate way.

The nominees will be recognized at a ceremony Saturday in Salina, where state education officials will also announce the semifinalists and finalists for the Kansas Teacher of the Year awards.

Coffee with board members

Members of the public can meet with Manhattan-Ogden school board members Darell Edie and Karla Hagemeister Saturday morning.

The monthly informal meet-and-greet is intended to allow community members to get to know the school board members and ask them questions about district matters.

The session with Edie and Hagemeister is 9 a.m. at Radina’s Bakehouse at Blue Earth Plaza.

Donations, grants

The Manhattan-Ogden school board accepted $21,328 in donations and grants at its Sept. 4 meeting.

The Robinson Firm donated $1,500 to Manhattan High School for robotics event registrations.

The Frank Bergman PTO donated $1,465 to the elementary school for the school’s Reading Counts and RC/RI tech renewals.

Riley County Raising Riley granted $12,000 to College Hill Early Learning Center for reduced fees for families.

The Kansas Department of Education gave a $6,363 to the school district to purchase front entrance security cameras for Theodore Roosevelt, Ogden, Marlatt, Bluemont, Frank Bergman, Amanda Arnold and Northview elementary schools.

K-State’s common read book reflects author’s Iranian-American upbringing

It was a long, winding journey to becoming an author, but when Adib Khorram started to rely on his Iranian-American background, he knew he had a hit book.

Khorram is the author of “Darius the Great is Not Okay,” this year’s common book for all K-State freshmen. He spoke Thursday evening in front of a crowd of about 1,000 people — primarily college freshmen but also high school students, faculty and community members.

His book tells the story of Darius Kellner, a bullied, tea-loving Iranian-American teenager in Portland, Oregon, who speaks better Klingon than Farsi. When his grandfather in Iran is diagnosed with a terminal tumor, Darius travels with his family to Iran for the first time.

Darius’s story explores themes of depression and cultural intersectionality, or the way different aspects of a person’s identity, such as race, gender and sexuality, affect a person’s cultural interactions. Khorram said in writing the book, he relied on his own experiences with depression and as an Iranian-American to shape Darius’s character.

Khorram said like most other teenagers, his middle and high school years were difficult, and he battled depressive episodes throughout his time in school.

“I spent pretty much all of my high school career doing my best to fit in, and something weird happened when I went to college, and that’s that I spent most of my time trying to stand out instead,” Khorram said. “It was the first time that I remember feeling like I didn’t have to be part of the crowd — that I could just be myself.”

In college, Khorram said he found an Iranian restaurant that he took his friends to.

“It was, I think, the first time in my life that anyone ever thought it was cool to be Iranian,” Khorram said. “People loved the food and they liked the background music. … It was the first time I felt proud of my heritage.”

Khorram also realized he was gay in college, which he called an “eye-opening experience” that helped him become more comfortable with himself. He switched over to film school but ended up working as an electrician at a theater, then a graphic designer at a production company. In between calls and jobs, Khorram said he had a lot of free time, so he started writing.

At first, it was a lot of fan fiction, then a screenplay, but he found that to be too challenging, so he started writing novels.

“I wrote a lot of really, really bad — so bad — first books,” Khorram said. “One of my first completed novels was this weird adult, military sci-fi, and it was complete garbage. And my first young adult novel was actually like a mash-up of ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ and ‘The Hunger Games.’

“It was either way ahead or way behind its time,” Khorram joked.

He struggled to stand out as an author initially, but Khorram said he realized he could stand out by writing about his experiences as an Iranian American, which no one else had really done.

“I ended up writing this book that was incredibly personal, and I thought I was the only one who’d ever want to read it,” Khorram said. “It got published, and it was surprisingly well-received, and then (K-State) picked it up as the common read, and I’ve gotten to spend the day talking to students and staff. I’ve been amazed and moved in the way people have come to see the book reflect their own experiences.”

Tara Coleman, associate professor and chair of the K-State Book Network, which picks each year’s common read for freshmen, said Khorram’s book was a great fit for the selection committee’s wellness and well-being theme.

“It fit a lot of these themes that we were looking for,” Coleman said. “We thought it’d be a really accessible way for our students to talk about things that can be kind of challenging, such as depression, struggling with parental relationships, establishing an identity, bullying, things like that.”

A common book helps freshmen as they transition to college by giving them a common academic experience they can talk about, Coleman said. The 65-person K-State Book Network committee works a year out to pick three finalist books. She said the committee will likely announce those finalists in October, and they welcome community input on the books.

Khorram said only time will tell if he writes a sequel to “Darius the Great is Not Okay.” However, he has a picture book on the Iranian New Year publishing in the spring, and another book he said he hopes to officially announce soon.

KCK man arrested after shots fired near MHS Thursday night

Police arrested one person and took three others into custody after there were shots fired near Manhattan High School West Campus Thursday evening.

The Kansas Highway Patrol arrested Francisco Valdez-Garibay, 20, Kansas City, Kansas, on a charge of fleeing and eluding law enforcement after he led officers on a chase on Interstate 70.

KHP said there will likely be additional charges against Valdez-Garibay. He is confined at the Leavenworth County Jail without bond.

The Riley County Police Department responded to a report of multiple shots fired near Westwood Road and Oak Street, south of MHS, at 6:45 p.m.

According to RCPD, two vehicles met in the school’s south parking lot, and the people in the vehicles spoke for a while before firing shots, striking a house in the 200 block of Ridge Drive. No one was injured. Both vehicles then left the area.

Michele Jones, school district director of communications, said while there were activities going on at the school, such as play rehearsal and volleyball practice, the incident did not affect students as it took place in the back of the parking lot.

A witness provided a tag number for one of the vehicles, and Kansas Highway Patrol troopers later found it heading east on I-70 near Bonner Springs. With the help of the Bonner Springs Police Department, officers chased the vehicle and stopped it after deploying tire deflation devices at I-70 and Kansas Highway 7, as well as at I-70 and 118th Street.

According to BSPD, the vehicle went off the road into a ditch west of 110th Street. Officers took four people into custody, including Valdez-Garibay as the driver, without further incident and did not report any injuries.

RCPD detectives also interviewed the other occupants, who were later released.

Police said there is no indication the people involved are affiliated with MHS, and the parking lot happened to be a meeting location.

RCPD said the investigation is ongoing, and it is following leads to find the second vehicle and its occupants.

Jury finds Texas woman guilty of involuntary manslaughter

A jury on Thursday found a Texas woman guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of her boyfriend in 2018.

Gregoria Elizabeth Baez, 22, was charged with second-degree murder after she shot and killed her longtime boyfriend, 21-year-old Felix Florez of Manhattan, who was a Geary County correctional officer. However, Judge John Bosch told the jury it had the option of convicting Baez of the lesser charge, involuntary manslaughter.

Bosch read the verdict Thursday afternoon at the Riley County Courthouse after the jury deliberated for about four hours.

On Sept. 22, Baez and Florez were alone at their residence at 1420 Vista Lane. Baez testified in court Wednesday that Florez told her he was going to play a video game, and she teased him about it.

She said Florez unholstered his gun that he carried on him and pointed it at her, jokingly saying, “What did you say?” Baez said this sort of behavior was a common joke between the two, and in response, she pulled her own gun out.

In the process of doing so, Baez disengaged the grip safety on the firearm and shot Florez in the face. Florez later died at the hospital.

Baez said that while she had fired guns before at ranges with Florez, she was not very familiar or experienced with them.

She said she didn’t expect the gun to go off because she thought it was unloaded.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Nov. 12.

RCPD takes 12-year-old into custody for false report

Riley County police took a 12-year-old boy into custody after a burglary incident that led to several Manhattan schools entering what’s called “secure campus mode” early Thursday afternoon.

RCPD Capt. Josh Kyle said officers received a report of a home burglary in progress shortly before noon. A 12-year-old boy reported he had seen a man leaving the house with a gun and holding cash.

When officers investigated, they found out it was a false report, and it was actually the boy who had taken $298 in cash from the house.

Officers took the boy into custody, but they didn’t file charges against him. Officers didn’t identify him.

Theodore Roosevelt Elementary, Eugene Field Early Learning Center and both Manhattan High campuses entered secure campus mode during the investigation. School officials took extra precautions to secure entry and exit out of the schools.

Michele Jones, school district director of communications, said classes weren’t interrupted, and the only disruption was when children were forced inside for recess.

Late Thursday morning, Anthony Middle School also went into secure campus mode after a guest at the school stepped outside through a back door then tried getting back in.

After confirming the person was a guest at Anthony, the school exited secure campus mode.