Holy Family Leading By Example Catholic Schools Week with Faith, Excellence & Service

Holy Family Leading By Example

Catholic Schools Week with Faith, Excellence & Service

Deidra Bowling-Meade

The Ashland Beacon

 teachers snacks

   Matthew 5:16 states, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.”

   Catholic schools around the nation are letting their light shine bright for National Catholic Schools Week 2023, which is this week, January 29 – February 4. The celebration promotes the exceptional education that Catholic schools provide. Some things schools do to observe the annual celebration are with Masses, open houses and other activities for students, families, parishioners, and community members. Through these events, schools focus on the value Catholic education provides to young people and its contributions to our Church, our communities, and our nation.  This year’s theme is "Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service.” Academic distinction is the characteristic of Catholic education directed to the growth of the whole person – mind, body, and spirit. Service is important to Catholic education because it is one of the best ways to teach the value of empathy. It also introduces students to kindness, compassion, and selflessness. 

   Holy Family’s Early Childhood classes are especially excited to celebrate.  There are fun days planned such as wearing crazy socks and eating donuts; however, the main focus of service is key.  For Catholic Schools Week, Holy Family preschool teacher Julie McCoy, took the lead in planning a service project where the early childhood classes could help make a positive impact within the community. 

   McCoy explained, “Hospice has a special place in my heart. I knew I wanted to do something for them if possible when choosing a community service project for Catholic Schools Week. In 2021, my now husband and I began planning our wedding. We had a beautiful venue picked and a date in the fall. However, his father’s health began to decline. We knew he wouldn’t make it to a fall wedding. We moved up the date and decided to have our wedding in June instead and in his parents’ yard. Yet again, circumstances changed. His doctor basically said it’s today, or he won’t be there. We rushed to their house, gathered the few family members we could and the minister. We got married in my husband’s parents’ living room while the ambulance was on its way to take his dad to Hospice. We said ‘I do’ and quickly changed clothes and headed to Hospice where we spent the next three days with his dad saying goodbye. The staff there was so kind and really accommodating to the needs of the patient and the family. When you have a loved one in Hospice, time is your enemy. You don’t want to leave at all. We ate a lot of the snacks in the waiting room. At a time like that, you don’t really have a big appetite but just a bite of something helps. It is also a good distraction.  Being able to take a walk and get a snack without having to leave the facility was wonderful. It is a special thing that we can do to help others. After being at Hospice and faced with the situation we were in, I know how much something as small as a pack of crackers can impact someone’s day.”

   Even the smallest act can make a difference in someone’s life.  It’s important to let our light shine for others when they are hurting or lost in this world.  “I want our early childhood students to know that even though they might be small, they can do things that will make a big difference in someone’s life,” commented McCoy. 

   All the students enjoyed collecting snacks and were excited to take part in the project.  Their little minds absorbed the importance of giving and what it means to let their light shine. They were happy; yet, they knew they were making others happy by doing something kind for them.  That’s an important concept to grasp at such a young age.  

   Amelia Kate Wells, age 4, from Mrs. Ward’s Montessori Preschool class exclaimed,  “Giving makes me happy because I like to give to someone who doesn’t have something.”

   Aeryn Andrada, age 5, from Mrs. McCoy’s Preschool Class summed it up best with her statement, “Giving makes you happy; it makes people happy. Helping people makes them feel better, and that’s kind.”

   Showing kindness is part of service, which is extended at Holy Family School not only this week but throughout the school year.  It’s a wonderful environment for children to excel academically and spiritually.   “I feel very blessed to work in a school that gives back and does so much for our community,” shared McCoy.   

   This is the first year Holy Family Early Childhood classes have participated in this service project for Hospice; however, McCoy hopes that it will continue in the future.  Currently, they are collecting snacks through February 3 before McCoy delivers them to Hospice.

Local Quintessential Cowboy Takes Rodeo World By Storm

Local Quintessential Cowboy Takes Rodeo World By Storm

By: Sasha Bush

The Greater Ashland Beacon

Erik Germann 2 copy

Frontier days, stampedes and cowboy contests are just some of the most popular names of what we now call the modern-day rodeo. The roots of today’s rodeo culture reach far back to the cattle industry of the American West, where it was originally influenced by Spanish conquistadors during the 1700s. Over the years, the rodeo inherited many of its practices from Spanish ranchers and their Mexican ranch hands, better known as vaqueros. The word “rodeo” itself is actually a derivative of the Spanish word “ridear,” meaning “roundup,” which is in reference to the rounding up of cattle. Rounding up cattle isn’t as simple as it may sound. It requires the breaking of horses to ride and catching cattle for many purposes, such as medical attention, branding, and sale. This feat requires an impeccable amount of roping and riding skills. It wasn’t until the early 1820s that ranches began holding friendly contest amongst themselves that would put these skills to the test.

It wasn’t until the late 1800’s that the culmination of skills and techniques from Spanish speaking cowboys, vaqueros, and cowboys from the East combined forces to bring us today’s modern rodeo. The first formalized rodeo took place July 4, 1888, in Arizona. Prescott Frontier Days Inc. is the world’s oldest annual rodeo and continues to take the cowboy world by storm even today. For the cowboys who choose to live the rodeo life, they all have one thing in common… the desire to win that coveted belt buckle. In the rodeo world, the winners of the contest don’t receive trophies or ribbons. They receive extravagant belt buckles, which are custom to the event they win or the competition they have competed in.

One local young man shares this desire and is already well on his way to taking the rodeo world by storm. Erik Germann, a sophomore at Boyd County High School, already has a lot to brag about in his young rodeo career. At just 15 years old, Germann has already roped in quite an impressive collection of coveted hardware. Germann’s accomplishments include: West Virginia Steer Wrestling State Champion, West Virginia Steer Rookie of the Year, All Around Cowboy for Mountaineer Stampede, and Steer Wrestling Champion of the Mountaineer Stampede.

Germann’s love of horses and all things cowboying developed at a very early age. Germann shared, “I’ve been around horses my whole life. I have always loved them.” It wasn’t until two years ago that Germann galloped into world of rodeo, and his life would be forever changed from that moment.  Germann’s mother, Elisabeth Camp-Germann, shared with the Beacon, “Erik has been riding horses since he was just two years old when we were in Florida. At age eight, he began to rope. He competed in his first youth rodeo just two years ago. We have four other children, but Erik is the only one who rides. It’s just been his passion since he was just a little guy. He wasn’t raised around horses… it’s just in his blood. When he was younger, he ruined all my wooden coffee tables making his toy horses trot across them.”

Steer wrestling, calf tie down, and chute dogging are the events that Germann competes and often dominates in. All the events that Germann competes in are fastest time wins events. Steer wrestling is an event where a horse-mounted rider chases a steer, jumps down from their horse, and then proceeds to wrestle the steer to ground by grabbing its horns and pulling it off balance so that the steer falls to the ground. The art of calf tie down is a rodeo event that involves a horse-mounted cowboy with a lasso. The cowboy is to catch the calf by throwing their lasso around the calf’s neck, dismounting their horse, and then running to the calf to restrain it by tying three legs together in as short a time span as possible. Chute dogging is an event that is similar to the calf tie down, except in chute dogging the steer weighs between 400-500 pounds. The steer will begin in a chute. Once the cute doors open, the competitor must wrestle the steer to the ground. Since this event doesn’t have the competitor on horseback, both the steer and competitor begin on the ground. This is a great event for those interested in steer wrestling to use to prepare for that event. Of course, this event doesn’t come without its risk. Injury is always a possibility with any of these events. “It can be a dangerous sport, and he had been injured a few times. However, it’s also super exciting to watch. The most exciting time was when Erik competed in the National High School Rodeo Competition in Wyoming this past summer. There were thousands of competitors from all over the world at that competition. I am very proud of his athleticism and bravery,” declared Germann’s mother.

“My typical competition is anywhere from 2-5 hours away. I compete at youth rodeos and with the National High School Rodeo in West Virginia because the KY High School Rodeo competes on the other side of the state.  There are approximately 10 events at each rodeo; I compete in two to three of them.  Some are only for girls, and some for just boys. We have to haul my two horses there. Sometimes rodeos are one-day events up to four-day events.  There are usually children there competing from multiple states,” explained Germann. No matter what he is doing, Germann just loves the thrill that he gets from competing, as well as the atmosphere. The lessons that Germann has learned from rodeo are lessons that he will forever hold near and dear to his heart. Germann stated, “Hard work, toughness, and determination carries over into character and life skills that are improving my whole life.” Young Germann hopes to go to college on a rodeo scholarship and earn the opportunity to compete in college circuit after high school.

A Special Bicycle for a Special Student

A Special Bicycle for a Special Student

Lisa Patrick

The Ashland Beacon

lisa article

   Learning to ride a bike is something that most children take for granted. Some take longer than others to learn, but almost all of them at least get the chance to try. For Spencer Nichols, riding a bicycle with his brother and sister was something that he could only wish for. That is, until the Ashland Kiwanis stepped in.

   Spencer Nichols, a seventh-grader at Ashland Middle School, was born with Say Barber Biesecker Young-Simpson Syndrome. The syndrome has several different characteristics for diagnosis. These can include limited facial movement (also known as a mask-like face), small eyes with droopy eyelids, heart conditions, hypothyroidism, low muscle tone, and a moderate to severe learning disability. Only 200-400 in the world have Say Barber Biesecker Young-Simpson Syndrome. His mother, Rachel Nichols, said that “when he was born, if he lived at all, we were given a list of things that he wouldn’t be able to do, including walk.” Spencer proved the experts wrong by taking his “first independent steps at age four, and he hasn’t stopped since,” said Nichols.

   Last Thursday, the Ashland Kiwanis came to Ashland Middle School and presented Spencer with a brand new tricycle that was made especially for him. Spencer may be nonverbal but there were no words needed for him to express the amount of joy he felt at taking that very first ride. The happiness was written all over his face.

   Nichols said that “we have always strived to treat Spencer like any other kid. We have never told him that he couldn’t do anything that his siblings could do.” The family has been able to “adapt a lot of things meant for kids without disabilities” to work for Spencer because something with a “special needs label is instantly more expensive.” However, safely adapting a regular bicycle for Spencer was something that they were unable to do. “It is the one thing that he has never been able to do with his siblings.” Buying a “special needs” bike was also out of the question for the family. The bicycle alone costs thousands of dollars. Then they would have had to order additional modifications to make the bike work for Spencer and each of those modifications “cost hundreds of dollars.”

   Spencer’s new tricycle has all the bells and whistles needed to keep him safe. Other than the stability of three wheels, the typical handlebar has been replaced with one in circular form to make it easy for Spencer to hold onto. There are “arms” on the side of a seat that is more like a chair that includes a seatbelt to keep him safely in place. There are straps to help keep his feet on the pedals and a basket on the back of the tricycle where he can stow things that are important to him. The Ashland Kiwanis also included a helmet.

   This new tricycle also makes an activity that he used to watch attainable for him. Nichols said that now Spencer can “ride bikes with his siblings as a family. It means his life is a little more neurotypical.” The family is leaving the bicycle at school for now “so all of Spencer’s friends can enjoy it too.” But during the summer break, Spencer will be riding his bike just like all of the other kids.

True Crime & Criminal Investigation Sparks Student Interest Mark McDowell Impacts Students through Criminal Justice

True Crime & Criminal Investigation Sparks Student Interest

Mark McDowell Impacts Students through Criminal Justice

Deidra Bowling-Meade

The Ashland Beacon


Did you know one in three Americans say they consume true crime content?  The true crime genre is being fueled with new docuseries and crime books constantly being released.  Some might question the validity of this content and wonder if it is doing more harm than good.  Mark McDowell, a retired Ashland Police Department Commander and current Security Specialist with Ashland Independent Schools, is using his experience and knowledge with criminal justice to give students at Paul Blazer High School the insight into a career with criminal justice, as well as encourage students to apply critical thinking and communication skills. 


This past week, students in McDowell’s Criminal Investigation class were given an experience of a lifetime by getting to have a virtual meet with Special Agent Tammy Lee from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Lee was a lead investigator on the Chris Watts murder case and part of the Netflix documentary “The Family Next Door.” Chris Watts was found guilty of murdering his wife and children in 2018.  

The opportunity to speak with Special Agent Lee occurred due to McDowell’s diligence in wanting the best for his students. McDowell remarked, “I have a saying, ‘ask not, get not.’ I sent Agent Lee an email before Christmas break, and she replied to me over the break. It was an early Christmas present knowing my students would get a very keen insight into the crime we were studying. There were so many unknowns for this case because it unfolded so rapidly. Agent Lee was on the front line of the investigation, and it was so interesting to have this live stream interview with my class. The kids had some really interesting questions to ask of her on the case.” 

Eleventh grade student Baker Elam made some interesting observations from watching the documentary and speaking virtually with Agent Lee. Elam remarked, “There were many things I found interesting about Agent Lee’s perception of events that she talked to us about during the livestream. One thing I found very interesting was when she said that she and some other agents were watching the interview that Chris Watts had on his porch, and they started suspecting that he was the one who made Shanann and her kids disappear because of his mannerisms and the way he was acting. It made me wonder how differently this case would have been if Chris had decided not to do that interview, and how much longer the case would have drawn out. Another thing I found interesting was that one of the agents didn’t want to let Chris’ father in the interrogation room because it seemed to me that his father was a big reason that Chris did a partial confession.”  Elam asked Agent Lee, “Do you think that if Chris’ father wasn’t with him in the interview room that he would have confessed?  And if so, how much longer would it have taken him to confess?"

Julia Wallace, who is in the 10th grade, commented, “The highlights of our visit with Agent Tammy Lee was once in a lifetime thanks to Mr. McDowell.  Agent Lee helped us understand what it would feel like if we were under the same investigation on Christopher Watts. She gave a clear description on how Chris acted through interviews and everything he had slipped up on through this case. Agent Lee gave her own thoughts on things that weren’t clearly answered by Chris. For example, why the bodies were buried opposite from each other or if she thought the girls were already dead when Chris killed Shannan in the house. There was a lot of insight she had given us, and she was very brave to talk to us about this after going through such a horrifying experience with this case. Agents Lee and Coder had an amazing report on this case, as well. We wouldn't have gotten the notes we needed in this case without their excellent work.”

The news that McDowell’s class would be live streaming with Agent Lee spread throughout Blazer’s campus.  Other classes and teachers joined the live event or watched the recording.  One of  Blazer’s English teachers, Rose McCallister, was thrilled with the opportunity and shared her thoughts: “As a true crime buff, Mr. McDowell invited me to view the live stream discussion regarding the Chris Watts case. It was remarkable that students were able to connect with such a well-known investigator and an internationally recognized case.  This was an amazing real-life experience for students who are interested in criminal justice as a career. Agent Tammy Lee did a wonderful job presenting information from this case and was able to share the process, as well as her personal experience. She also shared that she has a high school aged child, and she recognizes the impact experiences such as this has with students. She was incredibly inviting and open to sharing her knowledge. The students were given the opportunity to ask questions, and I was impressed with the level of critical thinking that was shown by Mr. McDowell’s students. As educators, we always want students to be able to connect and reason with topics in the classroom. This connection was well portrayed in this experience…an experience I’m sure these students will always remember.”

Junior, Rachel Tackett, shared the impact this experience had upon her, “Getting to listen to Agent Lee talk was by far the highlight of my day. As someone who hopes to work in the BAU, getting to talk to someone in such an important case was absolutely incredible.”

Throughout the Criminal Investigation course, students have studied various criminal cases to determine if the investigations were done thoroughly, if additional questions remain, what was done correctly and what could have been done differently.  The level of critical thinking application in this course is an interesting way for students to learn skills, which actually can apply to other subject areas such as history and English. The course also sparks an interest in possible job opportunities for students.   McDowell explained, “On my dry erase board in class I have the 4th Amendment on one side and ‘who, what, when, where, why and how’ on the other. It’s been there since school started. These are the basic questions investigators must answer before a prosecutor will take a case. There are hoops to jump through to ensure suspect rights are not violated.”

The students have studied the OJ Simpson case, Chris Watts case and currently the Tupac case.  Each case provides a different view on criminal justice for students to examine. McDowell described what he wanted the class to see from each case: “The Watts case unfolded quickly; you can read the entire case file, all 1,690 pages, on the internet. Evidence in that case was carefully identified and collected to ensure its integrity. The constitutional rights of the suspect were protected from the time the first officer arrived on the scene up to Watts’ confession. Agent Lee told us one of the reasons the investigators followed up with Watts in prison, was to fill in some blanks on some finite details and try and see where they could improve on their management of the case.

The OJ case, on the other hand, was marred by sloppy evidence collection and documentation. Ask any of my students if they know who Furhman is and what he’s noted for in the OJ case- they’ll tell you. And even the trial- LAPD was on trial- not OJ. Police investigators have so many more tools today to help the prosecutor prove a case, especially with the acceptance of DNA in criminal trials.

 Tupac will be our next case study- it remains unsolved today. It’s also a 90’s case, and I want to show the kids how this was marred from the beginning by a moving crime scene and witnesses who refused to cooperate and get involved with the investigation.”

 McDowell’s knowledge of criminal justice and personal experience with public safety is unmatched. McDowell actually started his public safety career in 1987 at Boyd County 9-1-1. In 1989, he started with the Ashland Police Department as a patrolman. McDowell worked as a detective in the Criminal Investigations Section in 1993. He was promoted to Sergeant in 2001 where he worked in the Patrol Division, promoted to Lieutenant in 2009 and then Major in 2011. McDowell retired from APD in 2017, after 28 ½ years service as Commander of the Technical Services Division. In the fall of 2017, McDowell was sworn in as a part time deputy with the Boyd County Sheriff's Department. In the spring of 2018, after the Parkland HS shooting in Florida, he started working as a security specialist with the Ashland Independent School District. For the last four years at Paul Blazer High School, students have been able to sign up for McDowell’s classes in the criminal justice pathway.

McDowell loves sharing his passion with Blazer students. McDowell commented, “There are many career paths in the Criminal Justice Field. I share law enforcement, courts, corrections, support services such as forensic lab techs, intelligence, the whole spectrum of career paths in the CJ field. Many students are not sure which career path they want to pursue.  Some may realize this is not what they expected, but it still gives each of them a unique insight into the criminal justice field. I hope this course sparks an interest in students to seek a career, not just a job, in making their community safer for families.”

Once a Tomcat… Always a Tomcat

Once a Tomcat… Always a Tomcat

Davis Returns to Roots as the New Head Coach of Ashland KittensDavis Cheers her team on from the sidelines
Sasha Bush
The Ashland Beacon
   For as long as Stacy Franz Davis can remember, basketball has always played a huge role in her life. Davis’ love for the game developed at a very young age and has since flourished into an unquenchable desire to help others develop that same passion.
   At age 10, Davis took the courts for the first time and hasn’t seemed to ever put the ball down since. Growing up, young Davis had many role models and sources of inspiration. Davis shared that the biggest role models were her grandparents… “Murmur (Glwanda Franz) and Granddad (C. Wayne Franz M.D.),” noted Davis. “From a very young age, I have always looked up to my grandparents. Growing up and living next door to them, I always spent a lot of time with them. They were the two faces I saw at every event during my childhood. They were the most caring and kind people you could ever meet. They were my heroes. From a very young age, they taught me through their actions that the values of integrity, perseverance, hard work, determination, and passion were needed in all aspects of life to succeed,” added Davis. Having a role model is so important and vital to the development of our youth. A role model provides a positive influence to give everything your absolute all, encourages you to pick yourself up and try again in the face of adversity, and most importantly loves and guides you through any obstacles that life may throw at you. Davis certainly had two of the best role models that anyone could have been blessed with in life.
    Davis’ basketball career continued through her middle and high school years.  Davis played ball within the Ashland Independent School system all the way up to her graduation at Paul G. Blazer High School. She then went on to play basketball at Transylvania University on a basketball scholarship, which she received her senior year a Paul G. Blazer High School. During her years at Transylvania University, Davis impressed everyone with her talent, determination and love of the game. Her experience as a point guard earned Davis many awards and recognitions. Davis was named Most Valuable Player and Best Defensive Player. Davis also earned the honor of being named to theMid-South All Region Team. As Davis’ senior year at Transylvania University was quickly coming to a close, she realized that she wanted to pursue coaching. “It wasn’t until I began working with the Don Lane basketball camps and teaching the youth the skills and fundamentals of basketball that I realized I wanted to coach. I realized that my career as a player was eventually coming to an end, but my passion for the sport was still just as strong as ever. I realized that I really enjoyed teaching others about the game,” shared Davis.
   After college, Davis began coaching the elementary level at Catlettsburg Elementary School and Summit Elementary School. Davis continued her coaching career at the middle school level by coaching Boyd County Middle School’s Seventh Grade Boys Team. It wasn’t until later that Davis was offered the position as freshman coach at Boyd County High School and later worked under Pete Fraley as the assistant varsity coach from 1997-2005. Davis continued her coaching career and soon found herself coaching at Ashland Middle School.  Throughout the years, Davis had the opportunity to help shape the skills and minds of countless young ballplayers. Davis instilled in them what she considers the most important characteristics of any young ballplayer, “One must have a good sense of awareness about the game. Determination, confidence, being coachable and passionate about the game is a must. Being a great teammate is also of great importance. To be a good ballplayer, you have to embody all these characteristics, as well as have a certain degree of mental toughness about you.  The ability to self-motivate, and of course, be competitive plays an important role in any sport,” noted Davis.
   Davis now finds herself living her dream come true. Recently, Davis was offered the position of head basketball coach for Paul G Blazer’s Kittens. For Davis, this opportunity is a dream come true and one that she doesn’t take lightly. “It is an honor and privilege to be chosen as the head coach of the Ashland Kittens. To have this opportunity to coach at my alma mater is truly a dream come true. I am beyond blessed. This coaching position opened up at the right time in my life. I know it’s all just part of God’s plan,” stated Davis. As a former Tomcat herself, Davis takes great pride in being able to don the maroon and white again. “I am so excited to be able to give back to the school, program, and community that has played such a big part in helping define who I am today. My hope is that I can have the same impact on these athletes.” Davis has described her time at Ashland as a student athlete, “I have shed so much blood, so much sweat, and so many tears for the Maroon and White.  It is my goal to instill those same qualities in our current and future Kittens. I want them to understand that it is a privilege to be a student athlete at Ashland Blazer High School.”
   Up until now, Davis has typically coached boys basketball, so making the switch from boys to girls brings with it a new set of challenges. “Girls tend to wear their emotions on their sleeves more and have a real desire to be accepted. For girls, it’s a bit different because they want you as a coach to know them as a whole person and not just a player. I’ve also noticed that girls are more afraid to fail and need more bonding time to grow as a team. I love that they have that need to bond more as a team.” For Davis, this brings back some of her most fond memories of her own basketball journey through the years, “There is just something so special about the bond you make with your teammates. My fondest memories are from the true friendships and bonds that formed with my fellow teammates. All our times on the bus, locker-room chats and overnight trips make for some of the best memories that I will forever cherish.” The team has a motto now that Davis is the head coach for the Ashland Kittens, “Our team motto is all about sisterhood. We achieve through various team building/bonding activities. I’m a firm believer in team bonding.” Team bonding occurs not only on the courts but off the courts, as well. “We do team activities, team sleepovers, team lock-ins, team community events, meals as a team, and even team movie nights. All of these provide the girls with an opportunity to really get to know the sisters that they share the court with,” noted Davis.
   Davis has big plans for the Ashland Kittens in the years to come. To start out, Davis wants to make sure that the team grows both on and off the court and they all develop an understanding of this new coaching system. Davis stated, “I want to build a championship level program. A program that not only establishes core values for the team but one that is also active in the community. I want these girls to really understand what it means to “RepTheA” and to take pride in wearing maroon and white. I want us to have the program that makes it as a state contender year in and year out—a program that our athletes, our school, and community can take pride in.” One thing is for certain, Davis truly understands what it means to be a Tomcat and bleed maroon and white down to her core. This season is sure to be an exciting one with Davis at the helm, and we can’t wait to see what those Kittens can do.