Archive for Sunday, May 12, 2002

Students stand out in Class of 2002

May 12, 2002


Bryce Huschka, Ottawa High

Giving back to the community is an important part of Bryce Huschka's life.

Huschka, a senior at Ottawa High School, has been involved in International Key Club, the Franklin County Leadership Class and was the youth representative for the recent selection of the Ottawa city manager.

He hopes to follow this interest by going into politics or work with some type of service organization.

Huschka, the son of James and Sherry Huschka, said his favorite activity had been International Key Club, where he served as a lieutenant governor for the past year and helped organize the state convention in March.

"It was by far the most rewarding group activity I did, because I discovered what the word team really means and what you can accomplish," he said.

With his many extracurricular activities, Huschka said he had to find a balance with schoolwork. He has a 4.0 and is tied for first in class rank.

"Some times I learned the hard way," he said of his many activities. "It just taught me that I need to prioritize and not do as much, but everything I do, do it very well."

This year, Huschka also testified in front of the Kansas Legislature about mandatory community service for high school students. He said it was important that everyone get a taste of volunteer work.

"If you told students about it, explained it and have them do it once, it can change a life," he said.

Huschka said an easy example was delivering Meals on Wheels.

"If you show them how easy it is to take an hour of your day, I think people would do that," he said.

Next year, Huschka will attend Kansas State University where he plans to major in engineering with minors in leadership studies and Spanish.

After his undergraduate studies, he would like to attend law school.

"I'm really looking forward to getting out on my own, starting my own life and just seeing what I can do," he said.

Bryan Gurss, Tonganoxie High

Bryan Gurss has been coming to basketball and football games at Kansas University since he was a year old.

He's an excellent athlete in his own right playing basketball, running cross country and track, and teeing up on the golf course.

But in August, the Tonganoxie High School senior will come to the Lawrence campus, not for sports though he does plan to take in as many athletic events as possible but for academics.

"I could have played basketball for smaller schools, but they didn't offer engineering," Gurss said. "KU has a pretty good engineering program. I decided I could play basketball just for fun in college and get the education that I want."

Gurss, the son of Thomas and Barbara Gurss, decided on engineering simply because he loves math and he's been told good mathematicians make successful engineers.

"There's just something about working with numbers that I understand really well," he said.

That's apparent by looking at Gurss' transcripts, which show that he took AP calculus when he was a junior and now has moved on to an advanced independent study in math.

Gurss scored a 30 on his ACT his highest score was in math and he has maintained a 4.0 grade-point average, even while playing sports, participating in clubs and performing community service.

Although he has volunteered for a recycling program, a highway cleanup project and at a soup kitchen, his favorite act of charity has been volunteering as a youth sports coach.

"I really enjoy going out there with the kids and trying to teach them something," he said. "If they succeed, then I feel a lot better."

Gurss isn't sure yet which particular area of engineering he'd like to focus on, nor is he set on a long-term career. He's just excited about coming to KU and getting a taste of all the opportunities at his fingertips.

"I'm thinking, let's just get through the first year of college and see what I like," he said.

Micah Salkind, Free State High

As a senior, Micah Salkind decided he wanted to try out for the cross country team at Free State High School.

He ended up as an alternate on Free State's varsity squad that placed third at state.

"I'd always enjoyed running on my own, so I thought I'd give it a shot," he said. "It ended up being really fun."

After the cross country season ended, Salkind continued training with the team and ran track this spring.

In the fall, he will attend Brown University in Providence, R.I., where he plans to run intramural cross country and has ambitions to pursue a pre-medicine curriculum, or possibly anthropology or writing.

He'll also continue to study music. In high school, he played French horn and mellophone in the band while also singing with the Free State choir and chamber singers. He sang in Shirray Shabbat, which does alternative services at the Jewish Community Center, and this year, qualified for the district and state honor choir.

In college, he intends to keep singing in chamber groups and acapella groups.

Salkind, the son of Neil and school board member Leni Salkind, also participated in the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization at the Jewish Community Center, where he was president his sophomore and junior years.

"Lawrence has a really small Jewish community; it's just barely off the ground," he said. "It was an interesting experience for me to be a leader and plan activities."

Salkind praised the opportunities he's had in high school.

"Everything I've experienced really made it stand out as one of the best places to get a public education in the state of Kansas," he said.

Salkind said he had to find a balance between schoolwork, activities and friends. He's maintained a 4.0 grade-point average through high school.

"I don't study a ton, but I make time for schoolwork in the evenings that some kids don't," he said. "I wanted to do real well in high school."

Patrick Bengtson, Lawrence High

Ask Patrick Bengtson about U.S. presidents, especially soldiers turned chief executive, and he'll fire off an interesting anecdote.

Bengtson, a Lawrence High School senior who will attend Kansas University, plans to build upon his interest in presidential biography by studying political science and history in college.

The odds are long, but he'll try to make a little history himself with a career in politics.

"My dream would be to be a representative in Congress," he said. "Obviously, I'll need a back-up plan. I'd like to go to law school."

In preparation of his future, Bengtson has drawn personal insights from the past three presidents.

He appreciates the no-nonsense approach of the elder George Bush and learned the value of being truthful from Bill Clinton. He admires the perspective of George W. Bush, who views public service as an extension of community service.

But, Bengtson said, his most significant presidential role model was Dwight Eisenhower.

"He went from humble beginnings to the White House," he said. "He never tended to get a big head."

Bengtson has earned a 4.0 grade-point average at LHS. He also scored 33 on the ACT. He's been involved in American Legion Boys State, Youth in Local Government Club, Model U.N., Scholars Bowl and Student Council. He's volunteered at a local soup kitchen.

He credits his father, KU professor Tim Bengtson, and his mother, Kathryn Bengtson, with instilling in him a love of learning.

"From an early age, education was always stressed," he said.

Lynn Feng, Free State High

Lynn Feng doesn't need subtitles when watching Chinese movies.

"My parents don't speak English around the house," said Feng, a bilingual senior at Free State High School.

And, if the movie scene is set in Beijing, she might recognize landmarks from her hometown. She lived in China for several years before her folks, Shengli Feng and Yaping Yu, moved the family to the United States. She typically returns to Beijing during summer months, and last year spent four weeks feeding, observing and writing about panda cubs at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

Feng's exposure to Chinese and American culture, and her command of Chinese and English, will shape her academic studies at Yale University, as well as her career goals.

She intends to double major in economics and international relations at Yale.

"I'm interested in policy and politics," Feng said.

A career in diplomacy is a possibility.

She said her parents should be credited with setting high academic standards for her.

"Education was really emphasized," she said.

Feng earned a 1520 on the SAT and compiled a 4.0 grade-point average at Free State. She's a National Merit Scholarship finalist, varsity tennis player and community volunteer.

She's tutored students in Chinese and won gold keys for a self-portrait and an eight-piece portfolio at the Scholastic Art and Writing Contest.

Her advice to younger high school students: balance friends, academics and extracurricular activities.

"You have to sacrifice some weekends," Feng said.

Amanda Pearce, Wellsville High

Amanda Pearce will attend Emporia State University this fall to learn to be a psychologist or a teacher. But she's already got a head start on helping others learn before she even graduates from high school.

Pearce, a senior at Wellsville High School, has coached younger kids in softball, basketball and volleyball, and served as umpire for baseball games. She has also been a role model in her community's DARE anti-drug program.

"They're just a joy," Pearce said of younger kids. "When they accomplish something they didn't think they could do, it's really exciting. And it makes you feel good about yourself."

Being a teacher, she said, will help her repay the support she's received in achieving academic success. She has a perfect 4.0 grade-point average and scored a 27 on the ACT.

"I always wanted to give back, for what people have done for me," she said.

Pearce has made the good grades while being involved in a variety of clubs and sports. She played volleyball and basketball all four years of her high school career, and served her class as both treasurer and secretary through the years.

"During the day I use my time as wisely as I can," she said. "Most of my classwork is done in the classroom; I'm not a person who can sit and do nothing."

Pearce has been recognized at Kansas University Physics Day and with Wellsville High School's Citizenship Award, among other honors.

She said she owed her success to her parents, Robert and Connie Pearce.

"They've always wanted us to do the best we could and they've always encouraged us."

Leslie Short, Lawrence High

Lawrence High School senior Leslie Short isn't afraid to admit it. She likes calculus.

"Isn't that scary?" she said.

That's even after the B-minus she received in her sophomore pre-calculus class was the only grade that kept her from having straight A's during high school.

Now, Short is looking to translate her love of math and science into a career.

She'll attend Wake Forest University this fall and major in either biology or chemistry. After that, she wants to attend medical school or pursue a Ph.D. in molecular biology or biochemistry to do cellular research.

"How the body functions is absolutely amazing," Short said. "The mechanics of how it all works and how it evolved is neat."

Short is getting a jump-start on a medical career this summer when she works as a certified nursing assistant at Brandon Woods Estates. She may transfer her license to North Carolina to work during college.

"I can interact with people and be helpful and still have a job," she said. "It's a good way to get experience and decide if I want to go to med school or go to the rigors of research."

Short, the daughter of Rick and Bonnie Short, said being involved with her youth group at First United Methodist Church had been one of the highlights of high school. The group makes a yearly mission trip to Tennessee to help low-income residents.

She's also volunteered at Jubilee Cafe, played on the LHS golf team, served as the LHS representative to the Lawrence Memorial Hospital board, and received a superior rating in the state National History Day competition.

Short credits the Raintree Montessori School, where she attended from ages 3 to 12, for her academic success.

"It shaped my personality and character," she said.

Julia Gegenheimer, Lawrence High

Julia Gegenheimer wants to know more about the world.

"I really like history and learning about how countries relate to one another," she said.

A straight-A student at Lawrence High School, she's been accepted to Yale University, where she plans to major in international relations.

"At Yale, if you major in international relations, you have to have a double major," she said, "so I'm thinking about majoring in history or political science." She wants to study abroad, too.

"Some day, I hope to work overseas," she said.

Gegenheimer, a National Merit Scholarship finalist, figures her interest in all things international stems from the fact her mother is from France "I've been to France," she said. "My grandparents, aunts and cousins live there." and her participation in Model United Nations at LHS.

Asked to list the teachers who've influenced her the most, Gegenheimer cited Model United Nations sponsor Mike Ortmann. "I had him for European history my sophomore year and then three years in Model U.N.," she said. "He really pushed me to work as hard as I could."

She also mentioned:

l Terry Wells: "I only had him one semester for a writing class, but he taught me more about dealing with 'life issues' and college than any other class."

l Cheryl Chaput: "I don't like math that much, but I loved her class."

l Ann Anderson: "I went to Raintree Montessori for elementary school, and she was my teacher there for third through sixth grades. But she wasn't just my teacher, she was my friend and my mentor. She's been a huge influence on me."

She also cited her parents, Peter and Lan Gegenheimer. "They've always been there to support me," she said.

Katrina Cook, McLouth High

Being a quiet observer of people and the surrounding world always has come naturally to McLouth High School senior Katrina Cook.

"I was really quiet when I was younger," she said. "I kind of just learned to listen to other people."

Cook also spent that quiet time planning her future. The 18-year-old decided long before she reached high school that she would immerse herself in as wide an array of activities as possible to figure out what she enjoyed most before she went to college.

With that in mind, she's participated in Future Business Leaders of America, placing first at a state conference in marketing and fifth in economics. She was stage manager for the school's production of the "Sound of Music" and played clarinet in the school's band.

Cook also has competed at the state level in Knowledge Bowl and belongs to the National Honor Society. She's the senior class treasurer.

Between these activities, Cook, the daughter of William Cook and Tess Zagaruyka, excels in the classroom she has a 4.0 grade-point average, scored a 31 on her ACT and will have 18 hours of college credit when she graduates later this month.

Yet she still finds time to volunteer for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Douglas County AIDS Project and local blood drives.

With the benefit of all these experiences, Cook finally has narrowed her choice of career to chemical engineering. At least that's the degree she plans to pursue when she arrives at Kansas University in the fall with a Watkins-Berger Scholarship and a scholarship from the chemical engineering department.

"My favorite classes have been math, and I loved chemistry, so I tried to find a major that worked with my two favorite subjects," Cook said.

Catherine Kelly, Free State High

One of Catherine Kelly's best qualities is her eclecticism.

She counts among her high school friends a hip-hop disc jockey, a state tennis star, a folk music devotee and an aspiring music video producer. At Free State High School, she's jumped into sports, orchestra and drama activities while studying Latin and French.

Kelly was accepted to eight prestigious colleges and universities, despite an unwillingness to narrow her field of study. An interdisciplinary program perhaps built around a study of English might be best, she said.

"There are so many areas that I find interesting," Kelly said.

She said a range of literary, historical and musical influences could be combined with the instincts of a law school graduate for work at the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities or a related organization.

"I'd get to read interesting writing and be exposed to interesting music," she said.

Or, you never know, Kelly might blossom into a novelist like her favorite writer, Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Dillard.

All that must wait until Kelly graduates this month from Free State where she maintains a 4.0 grade-point average and earned a 32 on the ACT. She was a National Merit Scholarship finalist, performed on the violin as a member of the State Festival Orchestra and earned two varsity tennis letters.

Kelly has settled on attending Washington University in St. Louis.

She learned to appreciate the value of education at an early age. Her parents, Alton and Mary Kelly, teach French at Kansas University.

"I've had to work hard to get the grades," she said. "But I thought it was fun to learn new things, too."

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