Archive for Sunday, February 27, 2005

Journal-World Academic All-Stars include musicians, athletes, editor

February 27, 2005


After reading through 28 high school superstars' nominations, Rand Ziegler made his 15-year-old son read some of them.

"It was an intimidating stack," said Ziegler, associate dean for faculty at Baker University. "I said, 'This is the kind of resume I'd like you to put together when you're graduating from high school."

The 2005 Journal-World Academic All-Stars are, clockwise from bottom center, Nat Wells, Lawrence High School; Lynne Stahl, Free State High School; Shawn Turner and Jennifer Harness, Ottawa High School; Flora Jiang, Free State; Chelsey Forge, Oskaloosa High School; Marie Hull, Free State; and Kristin Lynch, Baldwin High School. Not pictured are Emma Willis, Oskaloosa, and Hunter Samuels, Tonganoxie High School.

The 2005 Journal-World Academic All-Stars are, clockwise from bottom center, Nat Wells, Lawrence High School; Lynne Stahl, Free State High School; Shawn Turner and Jennifer Harness, Ottawa High School; Flora Jiang, Free State; Chelsey Forge, Oskaloosa High School; Marie Hull, Free State; and Kristin Lynch, Baldwin High School. Not pictured are Emma Willis, Oskaloosa, and Hunter Samuels, Tonganoxie High School.

The 28 nominees for the 2005 Journal-World Academic All-Star team boast impressive resumes, excelling in grades and areas such as music, sports, agriculture, volunteer work and leadership.

Ziegler and two other judges picked 10 students for the All-Star team, nine of whom have 4.0 grade-point averages.

The 10 winners are Chelsey Forge and Emma Willis, Oskaloosa High School; Jennifer Harness and Shawn Turner, Ottawa High School; Marie Hull, Flora Jiang and Lynne Stahl, Free State High School; Kristin Lynch, Baldwin High School; Hunter Samuels, Tonganoxie High School; and Nat Wells, Lawrence High School.

The Journal-World honored the all-stars and their parents Friday with a luncheon at the Hereford House.

"It's not only the students who are being honored here. It's a family affair," said speaker Tim Bengtson, an associate professor in Kansas University's William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

He gave the students four tips for success.

"Work hard," Bengtson said. "It's a cliche for a reason, and that is because it's true. Hard work compensates for virtually any deficiency."

Robert Harrington, professor in the psychology and research in
education department at Kansas University, and Rand Ziegler,
associate dean for faculty at Baker University, were judges for the
2005 Journal-World Academic All-Stars selection. Also a judge, but
not pictured, was Stanley Lombardo, KU professor of classics and
director of the KU Honors Program.

Robert Harrington, professor in the psychology and research in education department at Kansas University, and Rand Ziegler, associate dean for faculty at Baker University, were judges for the 2005 Journal-World Academic All-Stars selection. Also a judge, but not pictured, was Stanley Lombardo, KU professor of classics and director of the KU Honors Program.

He also encouraged them to learn to communicate well, to be nice to people and find a career they love.

He recalled asking filmmaker Spike Lee how Lee got interested in film. Lee said he took a film class during college on a whim.

"Don't go through life doing something you don't want to do," Bengtson said. "Keep searching until you find something that really excites you."

Area high school principals and guidance counselors nominated 28 high school seniors for the newspaper's ninth annual team. Winners were selected based on academics and test scores, extracurricular activities, community involvement and an essay on how they would spend $10 million.

The nominees represent 12 high schools: Baldwin, DeSoto, Eudora, Free State, Lawrence, McLouth, Oskaloosa, Ottawa, Perry-Lecompton, Santa Fe Trail, Tonganoxie and Wellsville.

The three judges were Ziegler; Stanley Lombardo, director of the KU Honors Program; and Robert Harrington, professor in the Department of Psychology and Research in Education at KU.

Each All-Star receives a certificate and a backpack.

The 2005 Lawrence Journal-World Academic All-Star Team:

Chelsey Forge

Most of the silver dollars and Susan B. Anthony dollars Chelsey Forge's grandfather used to give her are still in her piggybank.

She also deposits her birthday and Christmas money into her savings account, as well as 75 percent of her paychecks.

"I've always liked saving more than spending," the 17-year-old Oskaloosa High School senior said. "I'm not saving up for anything in particular. It's just who I am, I guess."

Perhaps it's not surprising Forge wants to become an accountant.

"I have like this control thing where I like to have everything balanced," she said.

Forge said she knows how she would spend $10 million, if she had it: Half would go into certificate of deposit accounts.

"I can't stand the thought of gambling with my money in the stock market," she said.

She's gearing up for the state competition of Future Business Leaders of America, where she'll take accounting and business law tests.

She's also been involved in groups ranging from Youth Against Drugs and Alcohol to the National Honor Society at Oskaloosa High School.

She's distributed and collected kettles for the Salvation Army, planted flowers at school and in her community, and served as a counselor at a Rotary leadership academy.

In spite of her activities and 4.0 GPA, Forge says she doesn't let stress get to her.

"I don't like complaining and whining," she said. "It's just better to look on the bright side."

Forge plans to study accounting at Baker University. After she graduates, she'd like to find an accounting job that involves traveling.

Despite big plans for the future, Forge doesn't intend to part with those silver dollars and Susan B. Anthony dollars.

"I'll probably just hang on to them for a while," she said.

Her parents are Dennis and Sherry Forge.

-- Sarah Fox

School: Oskaloosa High SchoolGrade-point average: 4.0Class rank: 1Parents: Dennis and Sherry ForgeHonors, activities: Delaware Valley League "Top 5 in Class" award (9-12), Principal's Honor Roll (9-12), Student of the Month (three times during grades 9-11), Kansas Honor Scholar (12), National Merit Scholarship Commended Student (12), Presidential Scholarship to Baker University (12), American Leadership Scholarship to Baker University (12), Student of the Year in 13 classes (during 9-12), Future Business Leaders of America (9-12), FBLA Secretary (10-12), FBLA Quality Member Award (11), FBLA national competition (10), National Honor Society (11-12), NHS secretary (11), NHS public relations chairwoman (12), Students Against Destructive Decisions (9-11), SADD Secretary (10-11), Youth Against Drugs and Alcohol (11), The Salvation Army kettles (11-12), the Salvation Army Adopt-an-Angel program (11-12), March of Dimes (10-12), Rotary Youth Leadership Academy Counselor (11).College: Baker UniversityCareer plans: AccountantMajor: Accounting

Jennifer Harness

Jennifer Harness wants to become a nuclear medical physician and is considering college majors such as engineering physics.

But the Ottawa High School senior says she also keeps in mind the ancient King Solomon, who was unhappy at the end of his life despite his money and power.

"I have to stop and think -- it's not wrong to want education, but it can't be everything," the 18-year-old said. "After you're gone, you can't take those things with you."

During high school, the 4.0 GPA student has been involved in everything from Scholars' Bowl to marching band and color guard to math club.

She says she thinks her Ottawa Bible Church mission trip to Canada will help her when she's a physician someday.

She learned about many different people when she spent four days serving food at a soup kitchen in Toronto last summer.

"I was kind of worried at first because I didn't know what would be expected of me and who would be coming in," she said. "It was hard to tell them no sometimes, they couldn't have more food."

Walking through Toronto and seeing all the people who lived on the streets enlightened and humbled her, she said.

Harness also volunteered last summer in the radiology department at Ransom Memorial Hospital in Ottawa, helping move hundreds of files.

She's considering going next year to Kansas University, Kansas State University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute or Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Her parents, David and Cynthia Harness, started her interest in math and science, she said.

Her father is an electronics technician, and her mother teaches high school algebra.

"Since I grew up as an only child, both of my parents have had a profound impact on my life," she said. "My mom and my dad are very meaningful to me."

-- Sarah Fox

School: Ottawa High SchoolGrade-point average: 4.0Class rank: 1Parents: David and Cynthia HarnessHonors, activities: Scholars' Bowl (10-12), Two Medals in Science Olympiad (11), Academic Letters (9-12), High Honor Roll, (9-12), Platinum Club for high test scores (inducted in 9), National Merit Semifinalist (12), Chamber of Commerce award (9-11), Regional and State Solo Music Festival Superior 1 Ratings (9-11), Who's Who Among American High School Students (9-11), United States Achievement Academy Awards (10-11), Color Guard (11-12), Pep Band (9-12), Concert Band (9-12), Art Guild (9-12), Key Club (9-12), Writers' Cafe (9-11), Writers' Cafe president (11), Owls Club (10-12), Owls Club co-president (11), National Honor Society (11-12), International Club vice president (12), Math Club (12), Ransom Memorial Hospital volunteer (2004), Ottawa Bible Church Mission Trips to West Virginia (2002) and Canada (2004), Ottawa Suzuki Strings violinist (9-12).College: Kansas University, Kansas State University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute or Massachusetts Institute of Technology.Career plans: Nuclear medical physicianMajor: Physics, Engineering physics or nuclear engineering

Marie Hull

Marie Hull is a Kansas Honor Scholar, an AP Scholar and has a 4.0 GPA.

But her face lights up when she talks about surviving ninth grade in Lawrence after moving from Topeka.

"When you first move somewhere, you don't have as many friends," she said.

The Free State High School senior said she's still a nerd but a more confident one.

During ninth grade at West Junior High School, other members of the cast and crew of the school's fall play voted to give her an award for her outstanding work.

"Most of (the other winners) were ninth-graders, and they had been in all the shows," she said. "I was a newcomer. I was just like, 'People accept me -- this is amazing.'"

And she said though she hadn't decided where she'll go to college -- she's been accepted at KU and the University of Wisconsin-Madison -- she knows she'll be fine wherever she goes.

"Before (moving), all I knew was the suburbs of Topeka," she said. "There are more places than the suburbs of Topeka."

Hull has participated in math league and pom squad at Free State High and the Topeka Model United Nations. She also has danced since kindergarten and is co-president of a community service organization at Free State.

She says she doesn't know what she wants to study in college or what she wants to do after college.

But if she had $10 million, Hull said she would spend some to buy stock in Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. She believes it's a good investment.

"I don't put much stock into the Atkins diet," Hull said. "I think it's a fad. Besides, I would never feel guilty about eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts because I could look at it as part of my investment."

Hull turns 18 today. Her parents are Robert and Marilyn Hull.

School: Free State High SchoolGrade-point average: 4.0Class rank: 1Parents: Robert and Marilyn HullHonors, activities: Scholars' Bowl (10-12), High Q academic competition (12), American Math Competition (10-11), Math League (11-12), Kansas Honor Scholar (12), Principal's Mark of Excellence (10-11), Brown University Book Award (11), AP Scholar (11), Honor Roll (9-12), Prudential Spirit of Community Award (12), Key Club (10-12), Spanish Club (12), National Honor Society (11-12), Math Team (11), Pom Squad (10), Youth Volunteer Council (10-12), Sunflower Girls' State (12), Brandon Woods Retirement Community server (10-12).College: Kansas University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Northwestern University, Boston University or Grinnell College.Career plans: UndecidedMajor: Undecided

-- Sarah Fox

Flora Jiang

Free State High School marching band trumpet players learned this fall to say phrases such as "rubber chicken," "hello" and "green grass" in Chinese.

"During marching season, you can hear them yelling Chinese across the field," senior Flora Jiang said.

The 17-year-old senior with a 4.0 GPA taught her fellow trumpet players Chinese as a sort of inside joke.

Growing up in Lawrence, Jiang said she felt torn among three cultures: home, school and her relatives in China. She felt she had to study more than many of her friends at school.

Her home in Lawrence has air conditioning, four bedrooms and more than one bathroom. But her relatives in China live in cramped apartments, she said.

Her parents moved to Lawrence from China when her mother got a scholarship to Kansas University.

Jiang was born in Lawrence and visited China for the first time when she was 4 years old. She discovered her elementary school-age cousins there had three to four hours of homework a night.

"They didn't really have time to play with me," said Jiang, now 17. "I didn't like China much then at all."

But Jiang grew to like China as she kept visiting her relatives. Now, after teaching English to college students there last summer, she says she's obsessed with China.

"When surrounded by loving grandparents, hovering aunts and a roomful of cousins, it is easy to forget that I am in a 50-year-old ... one-bedroom apartment," she said. "There's always love around."

Jiang said she planned to major in Chinese and economics at the University of Pennsylvania. She wants to become a translator, a college professor or work in international business.

She is a National Merit Semifinalist and a Kansas Honor Scholar. She also has competed in state piano festivals, leads the soprano section in Free State's chamber choir and volunteers at the Lawrence Public Library.

Her parents are Guoyi Jiang and Xiufen Bi.

School: Free State High SchoolGrade-point average: 4.0Class rank: 1Parents: Guoyi Jiang and Xiufen BiHonors, activities: National Merit Semifinalist (12), Harvard University Book Award (11), Kansas Honor Scholar (12), AMC/AIME math competitions (11), National History Day (11), Principal's Mark of Excellence (10-12), Regional and State Piano Festivals (10-12), Marching Band (10-12), Marching Band Trumpet Section Leader (12), Symphonic Band (11-12), Chamber Choir (12), Chamber Choir Soprano Section Leader (12), Multicultural Club Co-President (11-12), National Honor Society (11-12), NHS secretary (12), FYI Club (10), Spanish Club (12), Teaching English in Jinzhou, China (11); Pioneer Ridge Retirement Community volunteer (11), Lawrence Humane Society volunteer (10-11), Lawrence Public Library volunteer (9-10, 12), National Honor Society volunteer activities (11-12)College: University of PennsylvaniaCareer plans: College professor, translator or international businesswomanMajor: Chinese and economics

-- Sarah Fox

Kristin Lynch

Baldwin High School senior Kristin Lynch said she realized a couple of years ago that perhaps she should have trained to be a dancer.

She said she often found herself starting to dance as she walks around town.

"It's a little late to start training now," Lynch said. "I would say that's OK, though. But I'm glad I realized I enjoy dancing because I might take a few classes in college."

Lynch has other interests in the arts. As a fifth-grader, she began playing the flute and now plays it and the piccolo in the high school band. Her experience with the instrument has taken her to state and regional competitions, where she's earned high rankings.

Lynch, an honor roll student, also makes jewelry for herself and friends and has decorated her room.

"My room is a homage to my artsy style," Lynch said. Her closet door is an ever-growing collage and is "completely covered with pictures and quotes from magazines."

Lynch also has a keen interest in math. She plans to attend Kansas University or Kansas State University, where she will pursue a degree in secondary education so she can teach math.

"Math has always made sense to me," she said. "It's a common language."

Lynch said someday she would like to open a vegetarian cafe. For two years, Lynch has been a vegetarian.

Lynch recently began sharing some of her favorite vegetarian recipes online as part of her senior project at Baldwin High. Her Web site is

Lynch said she wanted to continually try new things, a cue she says she takes from her grandmother, Lawrence resident Juanita Lynch.

"I love how she was always willing to try new things," she said. "One time we learned how to play chess with each other through a book."

She is the daughter of John and Stephanie Lynch.

School: Baldwin High SchoolGrade-point average: 3.98Class rank: 4Parents: John Lynch and Stephanie LynchHonors, activities: High school Honor Roll (9-12), Kansas Honor Scholar (12), Second in State in Geometry on Emporia State University math test (11), Baker University Honor Band (10-12), District Honor Band (10-12), 1 Rating at State Level in Flute Trio (10-11), National Honor Society (11-12), flute section leader in band, tennis (10-12), Forensics (10-11), Debate (12), Vinland Fair volunteer (9-10), Orchestra for "South Pacific" (11), Orchestra for "The Sound of Music" (12), walked in Relay for Life (11).College: Kansas State University or Kansas UniversityCareer plans: High school teacherMajor: Secondary math education

-- Alicia Henrikson

Hunter Samuels

Tonganoxie High School senior Hunter Samuels says he can't explain why he is able to rattle off statistics and trivia on several subjects.

He easily remembers names of people he has met, can give you details of historical events and can spout sports statistics at the drop of a hat.

"It's just really odd," Samuels said. "I can forget to take out the trash, but I can remember all this other stuff."

Samuels says he prides himself on his random knowledge of facts, but his talents are not merely mental.

He has been a wrestler since age 6. This year, he's a co-captain of the wrestling squad and made a trip to the state wrestling tournament this weekend with two teammates. He has participated on the wrestling team all four years of high school and on the football and baseball teams.

He has been involved with several school clubs, including Future Business Leaders of America and the Science Club, and also participated in community activities, such as ringing bells during the Salvation Army's Red Kettle Campaign and helping with a safe trick-or treat event for children in Tonganoxie.

Samuels has kept a 4.0 grade point average throughout high school and received several academic honors. In his spare time, he relaxes with friends and family.

"My friends and I are really trying to spend time together and really enjoy the rest of the year," he said.

Samuels says he plans to attend Dana College in Blair, Neb., or Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. Interested in math and numbers, Samuels says he intends to major in business and aspires to one day have his own business. But Samuels says he's open as to what kind of business it would be.

"I just think it would be great to be in charge of something that's successful and does well," he said.

He is the son of Gene and Merri Samuels.

School: Tonganoxie High SchoolGrade-point average: 4.0Class rank: 1Parents: Gene and Merri SamuelsHonors, activities: Educational Excellence Award (10-11), Civic Award (10-11), National Honor Society (11-12), National Honor Society chapter President (12), Kansas Honors Program (12), Pride of Tonganoxie Nominee (11), 4.0 GPA throughout school, Future Business Leaders of America (12), Foreign Language Club treasurer (12), Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (9-12), Students Against Destructive Decisions (12), Football (9-11), Wrestling (9-12), Wrestling Co-Captain (12), Baseball (9-12), Bell-Ringer for the Salvation Army (10), Adopt-A-Family (11), Safe Trick-Or-Treat for Children (12).College: Dana College or Creighton UniversityCareer plans: Marketing or business managementMajor: Business, minor in marketing or management

-- Alicia Henrikson

Lynne Stahl

Lynne Stahl used to read X-Men comics because her older brother, Dan, read them.

She spent her allowance on action figures so he would play with her. And she hated asparagus because he did.

Years later, Stahl's brother still influences her: She wants to find a career in writing after he started her interest in English and writing.

"He is the best brother ever," the Free State High School senior said.

Stahl wants to find a job someday that involves traveling abroad and writing.

She has also earned a writing award from the National Council of Teachers of English.

But she also possesses a more unusual credential: She recently became an ordained minister.

The Universal Life Church has authorized the 17-year-old to perform weddings, funerals and baptisms, though she said she hasn't performed any yet.

"My friend told me about this Web site where you can become ordained," Stahl said. "I just thought it would be a cool thing to do."

While Stahl's path to ordination was easy, her other accomplishments required more work.

After playing drums in band for years, earning a 4.0 GPA at Free State and taking advanced math classes even though she doesn't like math, Stahl won a $15,000-per-year scholarship to Cornell College in Iowa.

"I spent hours on their applications," she said. "I didn't even know I would get in.."

Stahl has disciplined herself to take Advanced Algebra II, precalculus and Calculus I. Her father is a Kansas University math professor.

She is a National Merit Commended Scholar. She also is co-president of the Free State High Multicultural Club and has played basketball, softball and soccer for Free State.

Stahl hasn't decided where she'll go to college or what she'll major in. Besides Cornell, she's been accepted to KU, University of the Pacific and Colorado College.

Her parents are Saul Stahl and Susan Stahl, of Lawrence.

School: Free State High SchoolGrade-point average: 4.0Class rank: 1Parents: Saul Stahl and Susan StahlHonors, activities: Cornell College Trustee Scholarship (12), KU Watkins-Berger Scholarship (12), Kansas Cromwell Book Award (12), National Council of Teachers of English award in writing (12), National Merit Commended Scholar (12), Principal's Mark of Excellence (10-11), AAA Travel Challenge participant (12), Spanish Club ornamental director (11-12), Softball (9-10), Multicultural Club co-president (11-12), Marching band (10-12), Outstanding Junior Drumline Member (11), National Honor Society (11-12), Basketball (9-11), Soccer (11), ESL Tutoring (11), Special Olympics Basketball Clinic (10-11).College: Cornell College, Colorado College, University of the Pacific or Kansas UniversityCareer plans: Traveling abroad and writingMajor: Undecided

-- Sarah Fox

Shawn Turner

Judging meat is serious business for Shawn Turner.

The Ottawa High School senior had to learn to identify more than 140 cuts of meat, among other things, for a state Future Farmers of America meat-judging competition. He placed seventh.

"Mom hates to go to the grocery store with me anymore because I'm pointing out every steak in the place," he said.

He also had to learn to identify 65 insects and participated in state FFA entomology contests. He's placed seventh and ninth in state.

As a result, he easily knows the types of insects in his yard.

"You tend to be able to identify them pretty well," he said. "There's ones that have got funky stripes and ones that are metallic. Some of them are beetles, some of them are flies, some of them are bees. Just all sorts."

The 18-year-old said he planned to study agribusiness, agriculture education or agricultural technology management at Kansas State University.

Turner calls joining FFA one of the most important events in his life,

"I honestly do not know what I would be doing right now if I hadn't been led by the FFA," he said. "I was never what you might call a 'bashful kid,' but I also wasn't one to jump on a whim and take charge of what was going on around me."

His family lives on 65 acres outside Ottawa and grows hay and corn for supplemental income. His family stopped farming full-time about 10 years ago, he said.

He is the son of Lyle and Kathy Turner. His father is tree farm manager for Lawrence Landscape. His mother is a substitute office worker at Ottawa Middle School.

Besides FFA, Turner is his senior class secretary and the president of his school's chapter of National Honor Society. He has a 4.0 GPA.

After his all his work in FFA, including Web design, cattle and meat judging, he knows what his favorite meats are.

School: Ottawa High SchoolGrade-point average: 4.0Class rank: 1Parents: Lyle and Kathy TurnerHonors, activities: Future Farmers of America: Supervised Agricultural Experience projects (9-12), State degree (11), Chapter degree (10), Chapter Blue and Gold Award (11) , East Central District sweepstakes winner (11) , Land judging (10-12), Horse judging (11-12), Parliamentary procedure (9-12), Public speaking (9-12), Poultry (11), Dairy products (10), Farm and ranch management (12), Meat judging (9-12, onetime state gold division placer), Entomology (10-12, two-time state gold division placer), Floriculture (10-12), FFA Web site design (10-12, two time state winner), East Central District vice president (12), Chapter president (12), Chapter vice president (11), Chapter secretary (10), State FFA convention delegate (9-11), National FFA convention (11-12).Varsity Scholars' Bowl team (11-12), High Honor Roll (9-12), National Honor Roll (11), Academic Letters (9-12), Who's Who among American High School Students (10-12), Kansas Honor Scholar (12), Ottawa Chamber of Commerce Top 5 percent Honors Banquet (9-12), American history award from local Daughters of the American Revolution (11), National Honor Society president (12), Senior Class Secretary on Student Council (12), Junior Class Student Council representative (11), Student Council Prom committee (11), Student Council Homecoming Ceremony Committee head (12), Student Council Winter Royalty Ceremony Committee head (12), Owls Club (9-12), Owls co-president (11), Franklin County Day on the Farm for third-graders (10-12), public relations and organization for Ottawa Middle School Homemade Holidays Craft Show (9-12).College: Kansas State UniversityCareer plans: Agriculture and helping peopleMajor: Agribusiness, agricultural education or agricultural technology management.

"You can't beat a good porterhouse steak or pork cube steak."

-- Sarah Fox

Nat Wells

Despite -- or because -- some people think George Bush is evil, Lawrence High School senior Nat Wells said he liked being a Republican in Lawrence.

"It's more fun to stand up when there aren't many other people," Wells said.

He helped start the club now known as the LHS Teenage Republicans. The group watched the Bush-Kerry debates with the LHS Young Democrats.

"I think the Democrats outnumbered us 5-to-1 at those debate watches," Wells said. "At the end, we're all still friends."

Wells has served on student council and played golf since he was a freshman. The 4.0 GPA student also is news editor of his school paper, The Budget.

He was chosen as one of two Kansas delegates to the U.S. Senate Youth Program.

The program is expected to include meeting with Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., as well as officials from the departments of state and defense.

Wells' father is a former chairman of the Kansas Republican Party. Wells isn't sure whether he'll run for office someday or what he wants to do for a career.

Wells has been accepted at Kansas University and is waiting to hear back from Georgetown, Duke, Harvard, Yale, Virginia, Washington and Lee, Dartmouth, Princeton, Middlebury and Vanderbilt universities.

He's considering majoring in political science or international relations in college. He picked rice in a paddy and also lived with a host family for three days when he visited Hiratsuka, Japan, several years ago. Hiratsuka is one of Lawrence's sister cities.

"We learned more about Japanese culture in those three days than you could ever learn from a textbook or going on a tour," Wells said.

School: Lawrence High SchoolGrade-point average: 4.0Class rank: 1Parents: Kim and Bonnie WellsHonors, activities: U.S. Senate Youth Program (2005 Kansas delegate), Scholars' Bowl (11-12), Kansas History Day (10-11), Honor Roll (9-12), National Merit Commended Scholar (12), Wendy's High School Heisman Nominee (12), Homecoming Court (12), Student council (9-12), School newspaper (9, 11-12), school newspaper news editor (12), Golf (9-12), Teenage Republicans co-Founder (11) and president (12), Students Teaching About Tobacco (10-12), National Honors Society (11-12), NHS president (12), Take a Second Make a Difference (10), Tailgate crew (12), Truman Presidential Museum & Library intern (12), Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics volunteer (11), peer tutoring (9-12), Peer Education executive board (11).College: Georgetown, Duke, Harvard, Yale, Virginia, Washington and Lee, Dartmouth, Princeton, Middlebury, Vanderbilt or Kansas UniversityCareer plans: undecidedMajor: Political science or international relations

It's good to learn to be friends with people who are different, including Democrats, he said. "You can't just pick Republican friends."

His parents are Kim and Bonnie Wells.

-- Sarah Fox

Emma Willis

After spending the first few years of her life in China and Malaysia with parents who worked for the U.S. State Department, Emma Willis didn't talk like other Oskaloosa children in kindergarten.

"I sat down with my really good friend," Willis recalled. "She said I needed to borrow her crayon. I didn't understand why she said I needed a 'crown.'"

Though those days are behind her, the 17-year-old Oskaloosa High School senior still enjoys being unusual, she said.

The 4.0 GPA student can talk about cattle prices, but she's a vegetarian in a town of cattle farmers. She said she stopped eating meat when she was 9 years old.

"The last thing I ate was chicken nuggets," she said. "I'll remember that for the rest of my life."

She'd been thinking about becoming a vegetarian for a while and then decided to after she watched the movie "Babe," in which a pig doesn't want to be killed and eaten.

"Just seeing a real animal talk about it -- even though it's fake -- not wanting to be eaten..." Willis said. "He's so cute."

She says she plans to attend Kansas University and wants to live in Watkins Scholarship Hall as her mother did.

Willis plans to major in music education, emphasizing French horn and vocal music. She says she wants to teach high school music -- band, choir or both.

She helps teach music to third-graders at Oskaloosa Grade School once a week.

She has been practicing in the Kansas Music Educators Assn. State Festival Choir. She has been named outstanding soloist at the KU Jazz Festival and received 1 ratings in band and choir at the state level. She also teaches piano lessons in her own studio.

School: Oskaloosa High SchoolGrade-point average: 4.0Class rank: 1Parents: Jeff and Sheree WillisHonors, activities: Knowledge Bowl (9-12), Knowledge Bowl Varsity Captain (11-12), Kansas Honor Scholar (12), KU Freshman Honor Scholarship (12), Principals' Honor Roll (9-12), Exemplary level in Kansas state reading and writing tests (11), SADD (9-12), National Honor Society (10-12), NHS president (12), NHS Vice President (11), Future Business Leaders of America (9-12), Student Council (9-12), class president (9, 11) Softball (9-12), Softball All-League Team (11), Basketball (9-12), Band (9-12), 1 Rating in Band at State Solo Fest (10-11), Band Musician of the Year (11), Choir (9-12), 1 Rating in Choir at State Solo Fest (10-11), Musician of the Year (11), Jazz Band (9-12), Outstanding Soloist at KU Jazz Festival (11), Oskaloosa High Theater (9-12), Letterman's Club, (11-12), Teaching piano lessons, teaching and mentoring a third grade music class..College: Kansas UniversityCareer plans: Teach high school musicMajor: Music Education with emphasis in vocal music and french horn

Willis credits her Oskaloosa High music teacher, Stuart O'Neil, for her success.

"I wouldn't have made half the progress I have if he hadn't driven me to better myself," she said.

Her parents are Jeff and Sheree Willis, of Oskaloosa.

-- Sarah Fox

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