Awesome alumni: 60 years, 29,079 people served

A highlight of some of Davenport West High School's amazing graduates

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Megan Dunn

From left to right: 1969 West graduates Charles Hudson, Jan Rangel, Steve Arp, Bobbie Noel-Behrens, and Jo Faris are members of the West’s class of 69’ reunion committee. They are in in front of the greenhouse that they donated $4,000 to on Nov. 1. 2019. “My years at West were so important in establishing my personal core values. Friendships made at West have endured 50 years and is the main reason for large attendance at our class reunions. The greenhouse project has been the perfect way for the class of 69’ to show our gratitude and ‘pay it forward’ to current and future West students,” class of 69’ West graduate Steve Arp said.

Megan Dunn, Reporter

The youngest city council member, a dedicated public servant, and a group who continues to give back. What do they all have in common? They graduated from Davenport West High School.

When West first opened its doors the Tuesday after Labor Day in 1960, it also opened many doors for students.

Prior to West, there was only Central, and by Mar. 21, 1958, the school board recognized the need for another high school in an ever growing district. In nearly 60 years (as of the 2018-19 school year), West has seen 29,079 graduates come and go, many of which go on to do great things. The West alumni highlighted today are undoubtedly amazing. This group is composed of Steve Ahrens, the youngest person on Davenport’s City Council, Cheryl Puls an administrative assistant for the Iowa department of revenue, and a group who passionately gives back to the school that they grew up in.

The first of these astonishing alumni is Ahrens, Davenport Levi Committee Executive Officer, and a graduate of West, class of 93’. 

Ahrens was very involved in high school and credits that to his success. He did many things like musicals, plays, student council, and more. 

“I was very active at West, culminating in being student body president my senior year, which kept me very active. I was very active in theater and met many lifelong friends,” Ahrens said. “I had a quality education in the Davenport Community School District …I am grateful for the experiences I took away.”

In addition to a quality education, he also received leadership opportunities that have helped him.

“There were so many leadership opportunities from early on. There was a group called Teens for Senior Citizens where we did service projects. The Student Hunger Drive was in its infancy … so it was fun to be apart of creating the competitions and help an important cause,” Ahrens said. “Having these leadership opportunities are so essential for the youth because you are ready for it, but society isn’t ready for you.”

These leadership opportunities helped Ahrens immediately after high school, most notably when he served on the Davenport City Council at age 19, which is also the youngest someone has served on the Davenport City Council. 

“I always felt well prepared, and it probably was odd to some, but not to me when I served on the City Council when I was 19. It had some astericts,” Ahrens said. “It was an appointment and I didn’t end up victorious at an election at that point, but it gave me the ability and self confidence I needed to try again. What I do today is based off of some of that service-minded leadership opportunities that were awarded to me …, and I can attribute it to West.”

Another fantastic graduate is Puls, a graduate of 71.’ Puls worked for the Iowa Department of Revenue as an administrative assistant. Most recently she has been an active participant in the Fairmount Cemetery Board. 

Puls enjoyed sports and credits all the sports and clubs available for keeping the dropout rate lower. 

“The sports back then were outstanding. We had girls hockey, a good football team, and synchronized swimming. Sports was a big thing that got people involved. It made school fun,” Puls said. “We even had a radio station, and they’d play music in the hallways. We had more fun, which is why a lot of people didn’t drop out … The dropout rate was none. It was a much bigger deal if someone dropped out.”

Puls also reflected on the interesting aspects that kept people coming back. 

“I was able to leave early for work.. One day I was going out and all the cars were parked normally, and these guys went out, picked up my car, and flipped it to get it stuck between two cars!” Puls said, “I went flying in [to the school] and said move my car! I have to be to work in 25 minutes!”

One thing is for sure, graduates of West go on to do fantastic things. Much like Ahrens, a group of graduates found ever lasting friendships with their fellow graduates.

The class of 69’ is a caring bunch. On Nov. 1 of 2019, the class of 69’ donated $4,000 to West to sponsor the Falcon’s Nest Pantry Greenhouse. 

This donation will help create opportunities. According to social worker Jenn O’Hare, the primary goal will be for it to help the food pantry.

“This money helped us move the greenhouse to an area where it is actually in the sun! They are going to donate money to help us do some work with that, to help provide for our families with the food pantry, and maybe help with the food program,” O’Hare said.

Every class of 69’ graduate has a special reason for wanting to help and donate.

“It has been very important for me to give back to West High School because of what I have become,”class of 69’  Kip Makeever said. “The three years at West helped form my personality and taught me many life lessons. From difficult times of low self-esteem, to the very exciting times of self recognition.”

This act of kindness is especially important to the class of 69’ graduate and former teacher Debbi Shewry Mann. 

“As a retired teacher from Peoria, Illinois, who taught for eighteen years in the inner city, I have first-hand  knowledge of what children in poverty go through. One former student of mine really touched the hearts of all our teachers. His father left left him. They had no idea where he went as he stripped the house of all furniture and food. The only food they received was breakfast at school,” Mann said.“That child, along with many others was my motivation to give back to the children at West High School.”

The district is currently working on connecting the greenhouse to heat and electricity according to Associate Principal Matthew Hassig. 

“That should happen very soon I’m told. From what I understand, once the utilities are connected, we are very close to when we can actually begin our planting/growing season,” Hassig said.

One thing these alumni agree on is that West is best, and that this is a fantastic school with lasting memories. 

“[West is best] means pride for where one is at, so pride of a community, pride of West High School’s community,” Ahrens said. “We are all in different places, and we may not realize the importance of where we are at a certain time, and not value it at said certain time, but the relationships, friendships, and experiences are just being done, but then you realize how significant they are to forming one’s self.”