Archive for Sunday, May 13, 2001

2001 edition of Academic All-Stars introduced

May 13, 2001


Joyia Chadwick

Lawrence Free State

Joyia Chadwick, who stands tall on the field and in the classroom, had a choice of two colleges thousands of miles apart, literally and figuratively.

The Free State High School senior, named to the Academic All-Star team, knew the decision would define her future.

"I could pursue volleyball or challenge myself with academics," Chadwick said.

On one hand, she could attend Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., a prestigious liberal-arts school with about 2,000 students. That would fit nicely with her career goal of working overseas as a diplomat or as a representative of an international organization.

The 6-foot-2 Chadwick also was offered a volleyball scholarship by University of Nevada at Reno.

Athletics has always been a big part of her life. She participated in volleyball, basketball and track at Free State. She also enjoys biking, hiking and skiing.

"In the end, I chose academics," Chadwick said. "I don't have to entirely rule out sports at Williams, because they have a lot of sports teams. I may find an opportunity to compete."

Her motivation won't be a quest for wealth or fame.

"It gets you temporary pleasure but wears thin pretty quickly. There's a lot better things out there for people to pursue, more fulfilling."

At Free State, she earned a 4.0 grade-point average and a 32 on the ACT. She was a National Merit Scholarship finalist. Her parents, Dennis and Judy Chadwick, didn't lead her to the academic grindstone.

"I'd say I'm pretty self-motivated," Chadwick said. "My parents don't put a lot of pressure on me. They've said, 'If you don't do well in class, that's OK, as long as it was the best you could do.'"

At Williams, Chadwick said she intends to be part of a musical ensemble. She sings and plays the piano and flute.

"I feel sports is more of an individual endeavor. With music, especially band and orchestra, it's absolutely necessary for everybody to play together.

"It's such an amazing feeling after a great performance, even better than anything I've had in athletics."

Leah Cummings

Lawrence High

At a time when 18-year-old Leah Cummings is preparing to get out on her own for the first time, she's drawing lessons from an unconventional source.

Cummings, selected as one of three Academic All-Stars from Lawrence High School, is a volunteer with Douglas County's hospice organization. The program serves people with less than six months to live.

"I've been involved with three patients," she said. "These old women were great. They had stories to tell. From them, I've learned the value of life."

She plans to rely on their words of wisdom, as well as her grandfather's problem-solving skills and a grandmother's easy-going spirit and insight from her parents, Ernie and Debby Cummings, when she enters Kansas University this fall to study journalism, business, political science and Spanish.

Her broad academic interests are a trademark. She had a 3.92 GPA and a score of 32 on the ACT.

"I have never been able to narrow my focus. However, this has not been a negative quality. I have gained an appreciation for all types of people and their differing beliefs."

Cummings also has an intense interest in just about anything musical, especially vocal performance, piano and music theater.

"I want to be in public relations and end up working anywhere they have Broadway productions," Cummings said.

Performing with the Lawrence Children's Choir helped shape her adoration of music. She was with the private choir for more than four years.

"It's a great organization," she said. "It creates leaders. The choir teaches you to be confident in yourself."

She expresses that attitude when speaking to student groups as a volunteer for Students Teaching about Tobacco and Every Seventeen Minutes, a drinking and driving awareness program.

After graduation this month, she'll attend a YMCA summer camp in Chase County. She was a camper there for nine years and was a volunteer counselor last year. This summer, she'll make a bigger splash at Camp Wood.

"I'm going to be a lifeguard," she said.

Diana Jordan

Lawrence High

Lawrence High School senior Diana Jordan is often reminded about the risk of taking life for granted even in the act of standing up straight.

"I was diagnosed with scoliosis in seventh grade. In a successful attempt to correct the severe curvature, I had a titanium rod and six screws put in my spine."

That experience taught Jordan about patience and faith. She leaned on those traits to stand tall in LHS classrooms and earn a 4.0 grade-point average. She earned an ACT score of 32.

Hard work made her a National Merit Scholar finalist and an Academic All-Star.

"I thank God for what he's given me," she said. "I try not to take anything for granted."

Jordan spread herself thin in high school by participating in orchestra, choir, band, aviation and French clubs, student council, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, National Honor Society and more.

But her course selection this spring took a spirited shift away from advanced-placement classes.

"I needed a fifth-hour class," Jordan said. "It was either sewing or welding. I choose sewing. I don't regret it."

The result will be a new skill and a quilt, she said.

Jordan enjoys perhaps too much the Internet. "I lose sleep over it. The possibilities are endless." She's also devoted time in high school to writing short stories and reading historical fiction.

A merger of her technological and literary skills will serve her well when sending e-mail to her parents, Dean and Joyce Jordan, from Southwest Baptist University.

She selected the four-year liberal arts school in Bolivar, Mo., for philosophical and academic reasons.

"I'm pretty conservative," she said.

She also expects to get the kind of personal attention from faculty that will allow her to become a skilled high school English teacher. She'd like to fit the mold of Lynne Renick, an English teacher at Southwest Junior High School.

"We had great discussions in class," she said. "It was great."

Tristan Moody

Lawrence Free State

Tristan Moody hasn't been the same since visiting Kennedy Space Center before the start of second grade.

"It was good for me," Moody said. "I don't think my parents enjoyed my excitement. I had the entire launch sequence memorized. That qualifies me as a space nut, I guess."

And now, as a Free State High School senior and Academic All-Star, Moody plans to feed his interest in flight by studying aerospace engineering at Kansas University, which has one of the nation's best university programs in that field.

Moody will do so with the financial support of a National Merit scholarship and School of Engineering scholarship from KU. He had a high school GPA of 3.94 and an ACT score of 33.

"I've always been interested in airplanes and space flight," he said. "I'm self-motivated, and I've had a desire to learn as much as I can in the fields I'm interested in. Trying to get into those fields requires a wide base of knowledge a lot of math and physics."

Moody counts computer programming among his hobbies.

Another preoccupation is music, which has centered around school choral groups, piano and percussion. Don't expect to see him anytime soon strutting his stuff with a band at the Bottleneck.

"I don't think I have the voice for pop music," he said, "but I hope to possibly minor in music at KU."

It's in the music realm that one of Moody's unusual skills is evident.

"For some reason, I have the ability to memorize music," Moody said. "It's helped me a lot."

His recall skills go deeper.

"I can still remember my seventh-grade locker combination, even though I never used it," he said.

Other points of interest:

l Favorite book, "Green Eggs and Ham" by Dr. Seuss because it encourages people to try new things.

l Most embarrassing event in high school falling in a mud puddle during marching band rehearsal with such force that it broke his drum harness. The move was given an 8.5 on a scale of 10 by the band's director.

Moody is the son of Bob and Patsy Moody, also of Lawrence.

Jay Wiesner

Lawrence High

Sword collector Jay Wiesner cuts to the chase regardless of the subject.

"My most unusual characteristic is my extreme honesty," said Wiesner, a Lawrence High School senior and member of the 2001 Academic All-Star Team. "If someone asks me how I feel, or what I think, I will tell them the truth. It gets me in trouble."

Wiesner doesn't mess around with his hobby either. His collection of reproduction swords includes a Master of Zorro blade, a German short sword and an English broad sword.

"I have a little bit of everything," Wiesner said.

The collection won't be making the trip to Grinnell, Iowa, where Wiesner will attend college. He's headed to Grinnell College to play football for the Pioneers and begin preparing for a career as a history professor.

At LHS, Wiesner enjoyed mixing it up in the classroom and on the field. He was no bench warmer.

He's the first LHS varsity football player to be a member of the scholars' bowl and High Q teams. He also was a Sunflower League honorable mention offensive lineman and co-captain of the state champion High Q team.

"I enjoy a little academic competition," Wiesner said.

He'd like to earn a master's and a doctorate in history, possibly at the University of Chicago, and teach in college.

"At that level, kids are really choosing to be there," he said.

Other fun facts? Wiesner loves music, but can't stand to listen to rap. He's a fan of "Animal Farm" because author George Orwell "says so many things with one sentence."

Wiesner said he was inspired by his parents to set high standards in high school. He had a 3.61 GPA and an ACT score of 31.

"My dad went from being a Dillons stock person to being a certified public accountant," Wiesner said. "My mom deserves a lot of credit for helping him do that."

Kirk and Terri Wiesner convinced their son education was a solid investment. Jay Wiesner's parents didn't allow him to have a part-time job until two summers ago. "School was my job," he said.

Lauren Gantz


Lauren Gantz feels torn between her two loves music and writing.

She'll attend Emporia State University this fall, but she doesn't know whether she'll major in communications to become a journalist or music to become a choir teacher.

"I like anything that has to deal with expression," she said. "I like creative writing. I don't think I'd have an attention span to be a novelist, and there's not much of a market for short stories and poems.

"I've always liked music, and I want to keep that part of my life no matter what I did. If I can find some way to combine them, that'd be great."

Gantz will graduate summa cum laude from Perry-Lecompton High School with a 4.0 GPA. She scored a 32 on her ACT, including a perfect 36 on the reading section.

Gantz, the daughter of Fred and Sandy Gantz of Lecompton, was involved in scholars bowl three years and played flute in band four years. She was in select choir two years and was named to the District Honors Choir two years.

She was a four-year member of SADD and Drama Club, a three-year member of National Honor Society and was manager for the softball team for four years.

Away from school, she's been active in 4-H and served as her club's treasurer, vice president and secretary during high school. She also was her club's junior photography leader, and one of her photographs was judged among the 36 best at the Kansas State Fair in 1999.

She enjoys writing poetry, and her poems have appeared in several national publications. She recently began learning to play guitar and has transformed some of her poems into songs.

"I guess I'm just glad I made the most of my years in high school that I was involved in variety of activities to find out what I like and what I didn't like," she said. "It will help me down the road."

Jeremy Glen Immer


Academic All-Star Jeremy Glen Immer said high school has been fulfilling, but he's ready for the bigger challenges college has to offer him. And he expects to offer the world something of himself.

"Photojournalism has been a huge artistic outlet and has given me something to do, and I plan on doing it for the rest of my life," Immer said. "I hope to offer that to the world."

Immer has been an exceptional student at Eudora High School, where he has earned a 3.9 grade-point average and scored a 34 on his ACTs. He attributed his academic success to the great teachers he has had and the support they have given him.

"They were all a big influence," he said. "It would be difficult to select just one as a major influence since they have all encouraged me so much."

He also said his family has been a significant support system for his successes.

Immer, senior class president, said he enjoyed the many experiences of high school, including his involvement in school blood drives, the Kids Vote program, the school newspaper, student government and more.

But he said it's time for him to move on and see what the world has to offer him.

"I've enjoyed (the experiences of high school) a lot. I think I go to one of the best high schools around, but I am ready to move on."

Immer said he's anxious to become a part of the "real world."

"I can't wait to experience new things and feel really challenged," he said.

Immer plans to attend Kansas University in the fall, where he will major in chemical engineering with a biomedical option. He said he also hopes to further his photography skills by getting involved in the KU art department.

Immer is the recipient of a Watkins-Berger Scholarship and Engineering Dean's Scholarship from Williams Natural Gas, both from KU.

His plans for the future after college:

"In 10 years, I think I am going to try and work in research and development, I am going to do a lot of photography in my spare time and have a nice family and house."

Amanda Leach


Academic All-Star Amanda Leach said her great learning experience at DeSoto High School has directed her to become a future teacher.

"To actually teach at the high school level, I can be involved," she said. "I love helping people out and introducing them to new things."

Leach said her older brother has helped motivate her to become such an accomplished student, achieving a 4.0 grade-point average and 29 ACT score.

"My older brother always excelled and accomplished a lot," she said. "I felt like I should follow in his footsteps."

Leach admitted to surpassing her brother's achievements in some subjects. She said she's discovered herself to be a great calculus student and maybe a teacher.

"I'm one of the people in the class who really understands calculus, so sometimes my teacher, Dwight Spencer, says I should be the one teaching the class," Leach said.

Aside from her love of math, Leach has developed a great appreciation for theater. She said her participation in forensics has taught her a lot.

"My overall experience on the forensics team has helped me to conquer fears of public speaking and has definitely helped me in my school work."

Leach said she hopes to share her experiences with her future students.

"I've really enjoyed high school. I got to try out a whole lot of activities to see what I want to be involved in," she said. "It introduced me to acting, and I hope to pass that along someday."

Leach's high school involvement is extensive. She has been involved in the yearbook, cheerleading, Girls State, theater, forensics and more.

Although Leach said high school has been wonderful, she is looking forward to college at Baker University. There, she plans to earn a degree in secondary education and participate in forensics and yearbook.

"I will definitely miss (high school)," she said. "But I am going to be on the forensics team at Baker and will get to travel and compete. I also want a greater challenge academically; I'd like to push myself a little harder."

Advice Leach has for future goal-oriented students like herself:

"Get involved in your school any way you can, she said. "You'll never experience it again, and those memories are irreplaceable as long as you go out and make the effort to do something great."

Amy Runnebaum

Santa Fe Trail

Amy Runnebaum credits Leroy Ming with sparking her interest in chemistry literally.

One of Runnebaum's sophomore chemistry experiments went awry, setting a Bunsen burner on fire. Ming ran over to shut a gas valve off, preventing more damage.

"I didn't burn anything down," she said.

That incident didn't deter Ming, who convinced Runnebaum to pursue a degree in chemistry at Kansas State University. She wants to someday become a researcher.

Runnebaum will graduate as valedictorian of her class with a 4.0 GPA at Santa Fe Trail High School in Carbondale. She scored a 29 on her ACT.

She was involved in softball and the dance team for four years, serving as captain of each her senior year. She was involved in National Honor Society two years including one as president and the Kansas Association for Youth four years including two as vice-president.

She also was a four-year member of Students Against Destructive Decisions and Future Business Leaders of America.

"I've liked being involved generally in school having something to do all the time," she said.

Away from school, Runnebaum was involved in church activities and was a member of her local Girl Scout troop.

The daughter of Dan and Carol Runnebaum of Carbondale, she hopes to join a scholarship house at Kansas State and be involved in the university's honors program.

"I'm looking forward to college," she said. "I'm going to miss all my friends, but I'm excited to go."

Jeff Taylor


It all started with Tinkertoys and Lincoln Logs when Jeff Taylor was a young child.

His fascination with creating cars and tall buildings out of the wooden toys may serve him well in his future.

This fall, Taylor, a Wellsville High School senior, plans to follow in his father's footsteps and attend Kansas State University. He has been accepted into the university's engineering honors program and he plans to study mechanical engineering so he can design products someday.

In his favorite class, physics, Taylor already has helped design small-scale bridges out of pasta and balsa wood. He said the projects were entered into the high school engineering competitions at Kansas University.

"We're given the design specifications and we see if can build it," he said.

When he's not using his math skills, Taylor is leaping over poles. He said he has enjoyed participating in pole vault competitions on the track team and running in cross country.

"Pole vaulting was something I always wanted to try since junior high," he said.

Taylor also played football and basketball in high school.

In his community, Taylor has been involved with the Wellsville Baptist Church's youth group for eight years and currently serves on the church's teen council. He's taken several mission trips with his church including one year when the group assisted at an American Indian reservation in Oklahoma. Every year, the church group goes to Branson, Mo., where he has attended various leadership and decision-making workshops.

"I'd say it's made me a better person," he said.

Whatever activity it might have been, Taylor attributes his academic success and school involvement to his parents, Ken and Sue Taylor.

"They always told me how important school was, and my mom made sure I was on the right track," he said.

Darren Welch


Though Darren Welch has many interests ranging from art and math to drama, he's excelled in public speaking.

From the get-go, Welch, a senior at Tonganoxie High School, has been involved in debate and forensics. He is a three-time regional champion in the state's Class 4A division, and he won the state debate competition during his sophomore and senior years. On the forensics team, he received first place in informative speaking two years in a row and fourth place in extemporaneous speaking this year.

At the end of the month, Welch will compete in the national high school debate competition in New York City.

"One of my proudest achievements is in debate and forensics," he said. "I've put a lot of time into it and I've been able to see the rewards."

Welch keeps busy.

He said he sometimes spends 10 to 12 hours at school attending classes, doing homework and participating in other activities such as the math club, knowledge bowl team, art club and thespian productions. Last fall, he played a part in "Fiddler on the Roof."

"I've given up a lot of my free time, but it's been worth it for me," he said.

Welch thanked debate and forensics coach and teacher Steve Harrell for getting him involved in the activities.

"He's not only taught me about speech, forensics and debate, but about life skills," Welch said. "He's been a real role model for me."

Welch earned a 4.0 grade-point average and a 34 on the ACT.

But he couldn't have done everything without the assistance of his parents, Pat and Shirley Welch.

"They've always supported me no matter what endeavor I've taken on," he said.

This fall, Welch will take on his biggest undertaking yet. He has received a full-ride to the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, where he plans to major in engineering. He said he would like to be a nuclear engineer and conduct research and development at a high-caliber facility such as the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

"Math and science will always be my two of my passions in life," he said. "I would like to give something back to the community and become successful."

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