Top area scholars honored as ‘best of the best’

You might say they’re the best. Or the brightest. Or the cream of the crop.

But what really makes 10 area high school seniors stand out among dozens of their peers to be named as the Journal-World’s 2007 Academic All-Star Team?

“They take the brains they’ve got and they put them to use,” Andy Tompkins, former Kansas education commissioner, said earlier this week at a luncheon honoring the students at Maceli’s restaurant in downtown Lawrence.

And Tompkins, now an associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Kansas University, says that combination of brains and effort is just what America needs to compete in a knowlege-based world economy.

“It is a matter of effort,” Tompkins said. “It is not just having the connections. It is actually doing something with it. They work hard.”

Journal-World 2007 Academic All-Star Team members are, back row from left, Charles Mersmann, Eudora High; Emily Krystof, Baldwin High; Amanda Vander Tuig, Baldwin; Jennifer Crawford, Bishop Seabury; Amber Peterman, Perry-Lecompton; and Shiv Subramaniam, Bishop Seabury. Front row, from left, are Justin Smith, Tonganoxie; Baoqing Zhou, Lawrence High; and Andy Petz, Free State High. Not pictured, Alexandra Prosser, De Soto High School.

This file photo from 2007 shows Journal-World Academic All-Star Judges, from left, Rand Ziegler, Baker University dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Austin Turney, former Lawrence school board member; and Robert Harrington, Kansas University professor in the department of psychology and research in education.

The 2007 team members are Baoqing Zhou, Lawrence High School; Emily Krysztof, Baldwin High School; Andrew Petz, Free State High School; Justin Smith, Tonganoxie High School; Charles Mersmann, Eudora High School; Jennifer Crawford, Bishop Seabury Academy; Shiv Subramanium, Bishop Seabury Academy; Amanda Vander Tuig, Baldwin High School; Alexandra Prosser, De Soto High School; and Amber Peterman, Perry-Lecompton High School.

They and their parents were honored at the luncheon, and each student received a backpack.

“These 10 students represent the best of the best,” said Chris Bell, J-W circulation manager, who organized the event.

Three judges selected the winners out of 31 high school seniors who were nominated for the annual team.

The selection criteria was based on an essay written by each student on how they would spend $10 million; the extent of students’ community achievement and involvement; students’ academic achievements; and the judges’ overall impression, Bell said.

The nominees came from a pool of 14 high schools in the J-W’s coverage area, with the winners representing eight schools.

The winners all rank at the top of their classes and were involved in activities that included band, government, student newspaper, debate and other activities, he said.

The primary judges were Robert Harrington, professor of psychology and research in education at Kansas University; Rand Ziegler, associate dean of faculty at Baker University; and Austin Turney, a former Lawrence school board member.

“The process of judging them was just fascinating,” Turney said.

Sorting out the top 10 “was kind of tough because most of them would be deserving of honor,” he said.

“My top criteria was really the overall impression,” Turney said. Grade-point average was a basis, but other aspects of their lives, such as where they devoted their energies and some indication of their personality, also came into play, he said.

“These kids not only need to have the brain power, but develop it and put it to work,” Turney said.

Dan Simons, president of The World Company’s Electronics Division, encouraged the students to return to Lawrence after college.

“You are the type of leaders Lawrence needs,” Simons said.