The Students of Dexter High School

An inside look into the lives of students who do the unordinary

By Bailey Welshans


Emily O’Keefe (Senior)

Most people know Emily O’Keefe as one of the varsity sideline cheer captains, but what many don’t know is that Emily competes in beauty pageants nationally. When Emily was 13 years old, she started participating in these pageants, and her love for them has increased over the years.

“A lot of people say [the pageants] are all about beauty and looks, but the ones that I do are about building character, confidence, and relationships,” O’Keefe said. 

O’Keefe has traveled all over the U.S. to compete in these pageants, and her family travels to Las Vegas every summer to watch the Miss USA pageant. These competitions have opened up opportunities for O’Keefe she would not have been exposed to otherwise.

Photo courtesy of Emily from a pageant in July 2017

“Modeling agencies have reached out to me. I’m actually going to New York soon to consider signing with one,” O’Keefe said.

O’Keefe said she is very passionate about what she does. She has met many amazing people through traveling and competing, and wouldn’t trade it for anything else.       


Gerry McConville (Sophomore)

During his Freshman year, Gerry McConville joined the DHS robotics team, also known as the Dreadbots.  Hoping to follow in his dad’s footsteps and become an engineer, when Gerry came to the high school, he knew joining the robotics team would be at the top of his priorities. Every fall, a team of approximately 30 students join together to complete a robot in a short 6-week time span. Throughout the week, each team member builds a part of a test bot, helping to create the best robot they can.

Photo courtesy of Gerry from a Dread Bot practice.

“If we win our statewide matches, we will go onto a National competition…last year we won overall design of our robot at a statewide match,” McConville said. 

McConville is heavily involved with the robotics team, dedicating long hours during his week to building an award-winning robot, and finding the ways it will drive best. He hopes to one day join the drive team, which is the team in charge of driving the robot at matches.

McConville stands out because of his enthusiasm toward engineering and his passion for electronics. When he graduates from DHS, he plans to work toward being an engineer, just like his father.


Jackson Helmholtz (Freshman)

In 6th grade, Jackson Helmholtz became interested in playing the bass cello and has gotten better with the help of a private lesson teacher. Helmholtz plays in the Concert Orchestra. He started playing bass when his friends drew interest toward it. He is involved with the school orchestra, but does it as a fun hobby as well.

“My friends started playing it and I really liked it so I gave it a try,” Helmholtz said. 

He is also heavily involved in the Drama program here at DHS. His talent in playing bass has helped him gain a better understanding of music, which has helped him sing better. His most recent appearance in a drama production was in 3-D series Partners in Crime.

Many people enjoy Helmholtz’s presence in drama, and agree that he is very talented.

Photo courtesy of Jackson playing Bass at home.

“Jackson is the most interesting person you will ever meet… he’s really talented,” senior Masie Inman said.

With his wish to one day start his own band and travel playing shows, it is clear that Helmholtz is passionate for music and the art of it.



Gracie Willis (Junior)

Growing up, Gracie Willis always loved animals. She has a deep passion for the agriculture community.

“I wouldn’t want to live any other way,” she said.

When Willis was five years old, her parents enrolled her into 4-H. 4-H is a youth development program, encouraging youth to explore their skills and interests in Agriculture among many other interest areas. Willis was able to grow and develop a market for her turkeys, rabbits, goats, and chickens. She also raises ornamental doves.

Willis does this to raise meat for her family so that they know where their food comes from.

“My parents decided when I was little that they wanted to raise their own meat, and not buy any from the store,” Willis said.

If Willis’ family doesn’t raise the food themselves, they buy it from another local 4-H member. Every year, they buy a hog and a steer at the Manchester Community Fair to put into their freezer.

Recently, Willis started showing dairy calves. This is something that started as just an idea, but for Willis, it became a very passionate aspect in her life. She doesn’t just show at the 4-H fair, but also at the Chelsea Community fair.

Photo courtesy of Gracie from Chelsea Community fair 2017, with her dairy calf.

This past August, she won Grand Champion Meat Turkey, Reserve Champion Pen of Chickens, and Grand Champion Pair of Doves. She also won Reserve Best of Show with her dairy calf.

Willis said that this is something she hopes to do for the rest of her life, and with the enthusiasm she has, she will succeed.