A fishing club at Seaman High School is beginning to gain traction, seeing an increase in student interest and more engagement under new leadership.
Seaman biology teacher Jessica Popescu, who oversees the fishing club, said the group had “flown under the radar” for the past couple of years, with no scheduled meetings or advertised events she could remember.
“We had 150 kids sign up at the fair, but approximately 50 regular members now,” she said.
Kody Orester, club president, has helped to revitalize the organization this year.
“Some of my friends and I really enjoy fishing and we did it all summer,” Orester said. “We thought it would be a good idea if we created a club at our high school and dedicated it to fishing. There was one last year, but the officers didn’t do anything with it and we wanted to. So we chose an awesome sponsor and we are planning on doing great things with it and getting kids outdoors, which unfortunately is becoming a rarity.”
Popescu said Erie Unified School District 101 superintendent Steve Woolf and KVOE radio host Phil Taunton have served as mentors for her personally in starting the program. Woolf is the organizer of WILD Kansas, a student organization that focuses on activities that promote the environment, conservation and outdoor activities.
Taunton is a representative of the Emporia chapter of Fishing’s Future, a group that looks to reconnect kids with the outdoors.
“Steve, being in charge of WILD, has done some amazing outdoor activities with kids, and I really am looking forward to their summer event this year, as well as becoming more a part of WILD in the future,” Popescu said. “Phil has amazing contacts with people all over the state, and he has kept me updated on various events in the region.”
Woolf said the WILD program has multiple aspects to it in addition to fishing education for students, including hunting, trapping, gardening sustainable agriculture and camping.
“This is just another aspect of what we do,” Woolf said. “Jessica heard us speak to that last year and she just goes, ‘We gotta get that going.’ ”
The WILD program works with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism and received a grant to help pay for equipment and cover other costs.
“We teach hunter’s safety, archery safety, fishing, trapping — all of the stuff that the Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism does — and they provide all of that stuff for free,” Woolf said.
Woolf said the WILD program will do whatever it can to help schools who want to join.
“I really appreciate what Jessica’s done,” said Woolf, who used to teach in the Seaman district. “I think, because Seaman’s set up with that wildlife area, they’re going to be able to do some really cool things.”
Popescu said the effort to start the club has mostly been from within the school, but in the future she would look to branch out and talk to other educators about fishing clubs across the state.
“It’s a little intimidating and a lot to be in charge of, but we just elected officers so I’m hoping that this delegation will really get the ball rolling,” Popescu said. “The kids have great ideas. Our vice president has already suggested that we teach little fishing tips during our upcoming meetings, such as the correct way to tie on a hook.”
Popescu said the response for the club from the Seaman community and among outdoors enthusiasts in Kansas has been great.
“Since starting the club, I have been extremely lucky to have the help of many individuals within the state that are passionate about the outdoors,” Popescu said. “I haven’t had to ask too many people for help, because so many have reached out to me on their own, from parents to professionals. I’m extremely grateful for this, and don’t think the club would be as successful without the support.”
So far, the club has designed its own T-shirts, chosen officer positions, organized two fishing trips to local ponds and received third place in the Seaman homecoming parade. Popescu said the club also is planning to attend a Fishing’s Future angler education certification class at Kansas State.
She said that in five years she would like to see an organized, end-of-the-year fishing trip take place at some place such as Table Rock Lake in the Ozarks.
“I have a lot of fishing experience on that lake, so that would be ideal,” Popescu said. “I think we are going to remain a club where we can just be outside, fish and learn some ecology while we are at it.
“We have little competitions on our own excursions for who can catch the most and/or biggest fish, but aside from that we would really need boats in order to become more competitive, and that isn’t something that is particularly easy to come by.”
For more about the WILD Kansas program, click here.