Senior Boys Compete to Win Mr. West

Seniors Nick Kasper and Benji Popokh smiling together after being crowned 'Mr. West' and 'Judges Choice.'

Seniors Nick Kasper and Benji Popokh smiling together after being crowned 'Mr. West' and 'Judges Choice.'

Gina Quatrino, Production Editor

On Saturday, Feb. 10, Student Council (STUCO) held Mr. West, a pageant featuring seniors from multiple clubs and organizations around the school.

“Mr. West is Plano West’s personal male pageant,” STUCO President and senior Gabby Dunn said. “The boys compete in a dance, talent, interview and runway portion. Overall, the audience decides the outcome. There is also a ‘Judge’s Choice’ award to be won.”

Dunn had the responsibility of planning the entire event from start to finish.

“I was essentially in charge of everything that surrounded Mr. West,” Dunn said. “From mixing all the boys’ music, delegating tasks to other STUCO members or staying up late to make finishing touches to the script, the show consumed me for at least a month.”

In the past, the pageant was held to raise money for local charities in the Plano area. However, due to new tax laws, the STUCO team had to get creative with how to divide the proceeds in order to benefit both the community and the school.

“We hope to contribute what we can to a school-approved charity,” Dunn said. “The rest will go to the Student Congress activity funds in order to continue making school events the best we can.”

Senior and representative for psychology club, Benji Popokh wanted to keep the donation tradition alive and decided to give from his own pockets.

“I chose to donate independently on behalf of Plano West and psychology club,” Popokh said. “I am donating one hundred canned goods to Seven Loaves Food Pantry.”

Popokh is a veteran donor and wanted to continue giving to this organization because he understands the difference it can make in one’s life.

“I chose Seven Loaves because it is a charity with which I have worked in the past,” Popokh said. “I’ve seen the deep and significant impact it makes on others’ lives. It is close by Plano West and I wanted to support my local community as best as I could.”

Along with his donation, Popokh danced the night away, taking an unusual, yet entertaining, approach at the talent portion of the competition. He invited some friends from the crowd to join him on stage to play a game called ‘Roxanne,’ which involved a box of saltine crackers and a large case of soda.

“The song ‘Roxanne’ by The Police was played,” Popokh said. “Every time the song said ‘Roxanne,’ we ate a saltine. Every time they said ‘red light,’ we drank some soda. The song gets really fast at a few points, so it was pretty fun trying to get all that food down without choking up.”

Although the judge’s notes were confidential to the audience, it was no surprise when emcee and senior Lindsay Stapleton called out Popokh’s name as the winner of “Judges Favorite.”

“I was absolutely delighted when the Judges chose to honor me as their top choice,” Popokh said. “My first thought went out to my friends, who made my performance entirely possible in the first place. I was happy to think of my little sister in the audience and how excited she must have been for me. It was definitely an exciting moment I won’t forget soon.”

After Popokh was rewarded, it was time to announce the student who would take home the royal blue crown.

“We watched the votes pour in live, which was really exciting,” Stapleton said. “The competition was very tight and the boys were neck and neck. The anticipation in the auditorium was tangible.”

The auditorium went silent as Stapleton entered the spotlight for a second time, holding a small slip of paper with the name of one senior who would ultimately win the title of Mr. West. After a long night of dancing, showcasing talents and answering important questions, the eight young men stood on the brightly lit stage waiting to hear their name be called. The results were in, concluding that senior Nick Kasper, representing band, would be crowned Mr. West for the 2017-2018 school year.

“Being Mr. West makes me more excited about finishing my last year of high school,” Kasper said. “I’m glad I got the opportunity to compete against people who I’ve looked up to in the past for their successes. Those I didn’t know very well I grew to respect and admire for their dedication to their individual passions.”

Kasper put on a unique performance for the night, by turning a carrot into a musical instrument for his showcased talent.

“I wanted to think more outside the box and get the audience excited,” Kasper said. “I wanted to show how we can turn something ordinary into the extraordinary gift of music.”

Although Kasper won the popular vote, when he first got nominated to participate in the pageant, he was admittedly a little nervous.

“The first day I knew I was going to compete was sort of nerve racking,” Kasper said. “I had never done anything close to what I perceived Mr. West to be. After thinking it through, I chose to participate in Mr. West to represent my band family and to step out of my comfort zone.”

The new Mr. West ended the night feeling an immense state of gratitude towards all his fellow participants.

“I’d like to thank all the guys who went on stage with me,” Kasper said. “Mr. West was a commitment that we could have backed out of at any time and I think that shines positively on all of our characters. You all are wonderful people and I wish you guys the best.”

Both winners of the night agreed that expanding their comfort zones was a risk worth taking.

“Mr. West taught me that there’s no such thing as being ‘too cool’ for something,” Popokh said. “I really had a moment of revelation, however, as I stood behind the closed curtains before the show started. You don’t get a second chance at high school, so for anyone still thinking that they can get by by just going with the wave or the norm, I encourage you all to step up and try something new.”