School community comes together to help Conant alum at ‘Conant Debate Against Cancer,’ plans future movie event

Photos 1-3 by Frank Kernats; Photo 4 by Julie Nowak

Recently the CHS community came together in an event called “Conant Debate Against Cancer” to support Brian Beam, ‘16, a Conant alum battling brain cancer.

Many of the teachers who had Beam said that he made a name for himself as a smart, hard-working student during his time at Conant.

Social studies teacher Vaishali Tajpuria commented that he was “one of the best [students] I’ve ever had in my 18 years of teaching. Brilliant. Hardworking. A love for learning, and a great sense of humor.”

Social studies teacher and Debate Coach Frank Kernats stated, “Brian Beam was the first 4-year varsity debater in Conant history, and he was the first 2-year captain in Conant history…kind of a bit of a legend, very personable and very good leadership skills.”

Kernats had been toying with the idea of having an event with a reunion debate between current and alumni debaters for a while. When he and his team found out about Beam’s diagnosis, they turned the plan for a potential alumni meet into a fundraiser for Beam as well.

Around 300 people attended the event and watched a live debate between current members of the debate team and Conant alumni; they also participated in a raffle and bake sale. All proceeds went directly to the Beam family.

The parents of Beam, Bob and Lydia Beam, stated, “The outpouring of people who came was amazing. The donations were more that we could have ever anticipated.”

The Beams also commended the Debate Team for the event and expressed their gratitude. “If it wasn’t for Mr. Kernats, the students, and alumni, this would’ve never happened.”

Conant Principal Julie Nowak said, “It was neat to see our alumni together with our current students, and just the quality of the debate. But even more so the purpose of the event, it was truly a highlight of the year for us, given unfortunate circumstances.”

Liz Zhang, ‘20, who assisted Beam in keeping the debate organized by timing speeches and calling for questions, said, “It was a really amazing experience. It was inspiring and honestly surprising to see how many people came to the event and donated to the cause.”

There were many attendees who expressed the strength of the Conant community.

Zhang stated that the event showed how strong and connected the community could be under a common purpose and goal.

Tajpuria thought the event was outstanding and mentioned her pride in the community’s response. “It says a lot for what we do here; we take care of our own,” she said.

Kernats emphasized how the event’s success was the result of Conant’s communal nature. “There were all kinds of people there: the superintendent, the principal, the Conant band, many others. I’ve had a lot of teachers that I’ve barely talked to come up to me and say, ‘Hey, I was at the event,’ This was an example of the strong community we have here at Conant.”

The Beams commented on how the community left them “completely overwhelmed with love and feelings of being blessed. Brian can’t even put into words how he feels. Knowing that you are not alone, in the darkest of times, is very uplifting”

Nowak stated, “Being able to come together as a past and present community, I think that speaks a lot to the term that we use here: ‘Once a Cougar, Always a Cougar.’”

The CHS social studies department has planned a fundraiser for the Beams on Feb. 17. Students are invited to attend a viewing of The Post at Elk Grove Classic Cinemas. Tickets will be $10, with $4 benefitting the family. See social studies teacher Jeff Stewart for more information.

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