Andrew Lahmann, 29, points out production assistants off-camera who helped in the creation of three Project Showcase films during a homecoming assembly at Toledo High School Friday afternoon. Matt McDaniel, 30, who graduated from Toledo in 2000 with Lahmann, stands behind him as the two prepare to show the final film in a three-part series designed to motivate students to create ideas on how to better their community. (Photo by Christopher Brewer)


Project Showcase Officially Kicks Off in Toledo –
Student-Led Initiative: Alumni Who Set Project in Motion Ask Students to Showcase Their Pride, Influence Younger Students
By Christopher Brewer:
October 29, 2011
    TOLEDO — It’s not often Toledo High School students get to see a nationally-recognized celebrity address them specifically, but that’s exactly what happened Friday afternoon in the school’s gymnasium.


    OK, so it was a recorded video, but still, comedian Ryan Stiles’ words resonated with students gathered as part of a homecoming assembly Friday as two Toledo alumni returned to their alma mater to show more than 300 red, white and black-clad high school students the results of the final video in a three-part series urging students to make a difference in their community.
    “The younger students are asking for your leadership and following your example,” Stiles said in the video. “They’re watching your every move. Now it’s time for you to act.”
    The nine-minute film — which will be released to the public sometime next week — is part of a movement known as Project Showcase, the brainchild of 2000 THS graduates Matt McDaniel and Andy Lahmann as an effort to instill community pride in the small south Lewis County community of 700. The clip, shown for the first time during the assembly, featured several students and staff at THS speaking about the pride they have in their community, with footage from a football game two weeks ago against Ilwaco integrated within.


    Throughout the clip, students in the darkened gym clapped, cheered and laughed at various sections of the film, especially those featuring a widely-recognized teacher or student — and especially for the part featuring Stiles, who lent his talents after being approached by Lahmann and McDaniel.


    Lahmann, a filmmaker who owns P-51 Pictures in Bellingham, and McDaniel, a still photographer who runs Matty Photography in Tacoma, then briefly addressed the students after showing their work and urged them to make a positive contribution to Toledo by bringing forth ideas of how to improve the town’s quality of life.


    “We knew we had to do something, and when we started this we sat down and figured out what to do in one night,” McDaniel said. “Now we’re asking you guys to do the same thing and pass it on.”


    Although the project kicked off Friday, 18-year-old Kenner Rakoz has somewhat of a jumpstart on several of his classmates. The senior, who transferred from W.F. West High School in Chehalis in the middle of his junior year, has two major ideas on his mind tailored specifically for the younger generation: one involving something that many could say is unique to Toledo.


    “I was talking with my mom some time ago and brought up an idea to teach younger kids how to fly fish in the Cowlitz,” Rakoz said. “We’re trying to get the folks together that can help us, but I think we’re going to go somewhere with it.”


    Another idea of Rakoz’ — a tennis tournament that would be held at the Toledo High School courts to raise money for community improvement projects — will have to wait until the rain subsides, possibly until spring, but he hopes his ideas will provide a glimpse into what the general student population will come up with in months to come.


    “It’s really a one-of-a-kind thing, and it’s really inspiring for all of us down here,” Rakoz said of Project Showcase. “I just wish I could be a part of it for awhile longer rather than just my senior year. We’re gonna make some stuff happen.”


    Other ideas pitched include creating trading cards of high school athletes and possibly forming cleanup crews to regularly beautify Toledo’s streets, according to Rakoz and other students in attendance Friday.


    Physical education instructor Don Schaplow pointed at Friday’s assembly as the starting point for what he hoped was “something big” and all student-driven.


    “I think the steam’s going to build up from this being kicked off today, I really do,” Schaplow said. “The video’s just the starting point, but to hear the kids talk about it and want to do something to improve their town, that means something.”


    As for McDaniel and Lahmann, their visible work in Toledo is for the most part done, but both say they will remain involved in Project Showcase from behind the scenes.


    In fact, McDaniel had spent his Thursday photographing various people in the community — including a nonagenarian on his farm doing what he has known for so many years — as part of a final wrap to merge both photo and video in the project.


    “You see it from the 90-year-old farmer still out there working to the youngest kids out here doing well in school,” McDaniel said. “We’re trying to bring both the school and the community together because we believe the young people have the power to make Toledo better.”




    Christopher Brewer: (360) 807-8235


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