Meet the 2018 Outstanding Performance finalists
Since 1997, the Journal-World has invited area principals and counselors from public and private high schools to nominate their most outstanding senior students for the Academic All-Star team. Last year, the newspaper launched a new scholarship, later renamed the Outstanding Performance award, meant to honor students whose special skills and talents extend beyond the classroom and, often, into their communities.
The award for extracurricular activities doesn’t apply only to students who perform on stage, however. This year’s lineup, curated from Academic All-Star applications and suggestions from counselors and administrators, recognizes accomplished musicians, actors, writers and visual artists, along with students who serve as leaders in their school through organizations such as student council, Scholars Bowl and LINK crew.
Here, meet the Lawrence-area high school seniors who made the Journal-World’s finalist list for the new award and its $500 scholarship.
School: De Soto High School
Parents: Michael and Lisa Moose
This all-star athlete and student earned high praise from English teacher Phil Hamilton, who lauded Moose for his achievements on the De Soto High School Scholars Bowl team.
Moose was “top player” on De Soto’s Scholars Bowl 5A state championship team, Hamilton wrote in his nomination, and also was named regional runner-up and Frontier League Champion in Scholars Bowl play.
“He was a key member of three different state tournament teams that medaled from De Soto during his career,” Hamilton said of Moose, also a “key member” in the robotics team De Soto sent to this spring’s national competition.
Moose, a star of his school’s Rocket Club and Science Olympiad, also competes on the soccer and track and field teams. And the final cherry on top: a perfect score of 36 on the ACT.
School: Veritas Christian School
Parents: Gary and Julie Hammer
For this year’s Outstanding Performance award, the faculty of Veritas Christian School has nominated VCS senior Katelyn Hammer.
Katie, as she’s known around Veritas, consistently “stands out” in all things creative, VCS teacher and college counselor John McFarland writes in his nomination. Hammer excels across multiple fields, including drawing and painting, creative writing, poetry and drama, McFarland said.
For her senior thesis at Veritas, Hammer wrote “The Standard of Beauty for Art,” a “historic, philosophic and worldview consideration of what makes art great, memorable and beautiful,” he said.
“I know her to be a conscientious, self-disciplined student, well prepared for success in future academic and professional endeavors,” McFarland said of Hammer.
School: Free State High School
Parents: Dan and Kristin Wethington
This multitalented student has done well at Free State, where she’s competed on the cross country team (and served as its captain her senior year), soccer team and track team, in addition to singing in the chamber choir and performing in Free State’s annual “Encore” variety show.
Wethington’s other activities include LINK Crew, Student Athletic Advisory Committee and the Free State student council. Even with all her extracurriculars, the high-achieving senior has remained on the honor roll four years in a row.
Ken Hile, a student services counselor at Free State, described Wethington as a “great source of pride” for school staff in his All-Star nomination.
“Besides being an all-around great student, Leah Wethington has shown great leadership in Free State Student Council,” Hile said. “Leah is personable, cooperative, and collaborative. Her skills have been valuable to Student Council, and she does a great job knowing when to delegate.”
School: Eudora High School
Parents: Andrew and Mary Fry
This musically inclined teen impressed the All-Star judges with her talent and dedication to the piano.
Fry, a National Honor Society member, earned a paid job as an accompanist for the Eudora Elementary School honors choir during her freshman year at EHS. Three years later, she’s still working that gig — in addition to the several extracurriculars that keep her school days busy.
At Eudora High School, Fry sings in the women’s honors choir, performs in school and community theater productions, and enjoys creating and sometimes acting in short films for her video production classes. She’s also a frequent competitor at district, regional and statewide music competitions, helping her school’s Cantorei choir bring home “1” ratings at state competitions three years in a row.
Fry plans to attend Iowa’s Luther College in the fall, majoring in piano performance.
School: Baldwin High School
Parents: Kevin and Lori Markley
To say McKinley Markley is simply “very involved” at Baldwin High School, counselor Autumn Weiss writes in her nomination of the high-achieving teen, would be “an understatement.”
In addition to maintaining a cumulative GPA that places her in the top 10 percent of her class, Markley stays active — and excels in — nearly all aspects of student life at Baldwin High, Weiss said.
She’s a leader, serving as captain of her school’s softball team while also excelling in tennis and basketball, for which her teammates voted her MVP. And Markley’s leadership extends beyond sports, too. After serving as class president during her sophomore and junior years, Markley now leads Baldwin High as school president. She’s also a section leader in both concert choir and band.
If that weren’t already enough, the Kansas Honor Scholar and National Honor Society member participates in her school’s LINK peer-mentoring program, letterman’s club, film society and the “Unaccompanied Minors” a cappella group, among other activities.
Markley’s high-school resume is so packed with honors that one of them very nearly slips through the cracks upon first reading: Baldwin High School homecoming queen.
School: De Soto High School
Parents: Chris and Julie Marschall
Quinton Marschall’s talents as a musician make him stand out at De Soto High School. But, as English teacher Crystal Sinclair-King points out in her nomination of the brainy teen, there’s a lot more to Marschall than the many instruments he plays.
“He is also extremely thoughtful and insightful during the many philosophical discussion we have when discussing literature and shows himself as a calm leader in the classroom,” Sinclair-King wrote in her nomination. “He carries himself as an intellectual, interesting and original student and would be very deserving of this award.”
In addition to performing in his school’s symphonic band, marching band, clarinet choir and jazz band, Marschall is the co-founder of what might be one of the quirkiest musical groups around: Going for Ba-roque, an ensemble made up of recorders.
(Yes, you read that correctly. Recorders.)
School: Wellsville High School
Parents: Dan and Shannon Leckner
Samantha “Sam” Leckner has excelled in her Early Childhood Applications coursework while at Wellsville, earning the admiration of family and consumer science teacher Hailey Waymire along the way.
Through the Early Childhood Applications class, high school students work in an elementary classroom a few days a week. During her time in the program, Waymire wrote in her nomination, Leckner has forged a connection with a child who struggles both socially and emotionally in the classroom. Because of that natural ability, the elementary teacher will often have Leckner work one-on-one with the child she’s been able to forge a bond with.
“Other adults that work in the elementary school have recognized her gift of working with children and have approached her about careers in the Early Childhood field,” Waymire said. “This is not considered a traditional extracurricular activity, which truly shows Sam’s spirit of going above and beyond when there (are) no special accolades.”
School: Bishop Seabury Academy
Parents: Ed and Susie diZerega
Among students and staff at Bishop Seabury Academy, Thomas diZerega is known as a “Renaissance man.” That’s how the school’s academic dean, Matt Patterson, describes diZerega in his nomination of the high-achieving Seabury senior.
In addition to excelling in both sports and academics, diZerega serves as a school prefect, leading Seabury’s student senate. “It would be easy for him to stay in his comfort zone” as captain of the soccer, basketball and tennis teams, Patterson wrote, but diZerega’s the kind of kid who “refuses to be typecast” as simply the jock or the brainiac.
That reference to typecasting is both figurative and, it turns out, somewhat literal, too. One of diZerega’s most notable roles to date has been Sir Lancelot in Seabury’s production of “Camelot,” though he’s acted in other musicals as well. He’s also involved in forensics and choir, recently nabbing a perfect score for his performance at a regional choir competition.
This is a young man “who puts his heart into everything that he does,” Patterson wrote in his nomination.