2020 Academic All-Stars logo

Esmeralda Acevedo-Barrios

Lexington High School

Esmeralda is the daughter of Vicente Acevedo and Magdalena Barrios of Lexington. She plans to study elementary education at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Goals: I plan to return to my hometown and find an open teaching position in one of the four elementary schools. After teaching for a few years, I plan to return to college and work toward a master’s and doctorate. I hope to obtain my degrees within a six-year range to potentially work for the school administration. My ultimate goal is to become a superintendent. Through the course of these instances, I plan to assist my parents to pay off the mortgage of our current home to ease their strain of work as they grow older, all while saving for my own home. This will allow me to further give back to my parents, future family and community.

In her own words: “My mother and father were both born in a rural area of Zacatecas, Mexico. Both their lives were dominated by the poverty that was in their region. Consequently, my parents were forced to discontinue their education. As their child, I am often told of the endless stories and hardships my mother and father had to face to be in the country. Their struggles have been the everyday motivation that has driven me to be the student I am. I constantly remind myself of what my parents did for me to be in a place of freedom and opportunity. Lexington is known to be one of the very few towns of Nebraska where diversity exists. Within these ethnicities, an individual can see noticeable differences between the lives of these groups. These differences, along with my parents’ hardships, have been the reason that has further driven me into pursuing an education.”

Achievements and awards include: Valedictorian, honor roll four years, distinguished scholar four years, Kearney Bound scholar, Spanish honor roll, National Society of High School Scholars.

Activities: Tennis.

Community and volunteer service: Community food pantry, community trash pickup, volunteer with the youth tennis program, teacher aide, volunteer at community movie theater, Spanish translator at school conferences.

Most influential teacher: Jerry and Terri Wylie, Lexington Public Schools.

“I have grown to be fond of a select few of my teachers throughout my schooling. Two of the teachers I will always remember are Mr. and Mrs. Wylie. These teachers took the time to get to know me as a student and child. They have been sources of inspiration to pursue a career in education. These educators not only made me enjoy the time I spent at school, but also made me feel welcomed and essential. They evoked happiness and peace whenever I was in the classroom. Both of them let me know that no matter where I came from, I’d be accepted and cared for unconditionally. To this day it is a great joy to see them and say hi.”

Kate Axthelm

Brady High School

Kate is the daughter of Jason and Sharon Axthelm of Brady. She plans to study nursing at Mid-Plains Community College.

Goals: Become a hospice nurse and simply be happy, healthy, and surrounded by loved ones.

In her own words: “I’ve lived in rural Brady my whole life. My life has been enriched by going to a small school and living in a small community. Here in Nebraska, I have grown to be the person I am because of the people in my community building me up, supporting me, investing in me and believing in me. Nowhere else, I feel, can students reach their full potential than in a small town. I want to make my school proud by being the best version of myself that I can be. My parents and community members support me in everything I do, which makes me want to push myself for them.”

Achievements and awards include: National Honor Society, honor roll with distinction four years, valedictorian, President’s Award, Academic All-State in multiple sports, math achievement award, American history award, personal finance academic achievement award, FSC excellence and leadership award.

Activities: National Honor Society, volleyball, basketball, band, FCCLA, one-act play, speech.

Community and volunteer service: Community Halloween, community Santa Night, family fun night, Christmas historical village, blood drive, youth tournaments referee, volunteer at public library.

Most Influential Teacher: Andy Seamann, Brady Schools.

“Mr. Seamann was my most influential teacher throughout my high school career (also junior high). He has always pushed me, wanting me to reach my full potential. He was my weights teacher, but his coaching didn’t just stop in the gym. He constantly held me accountable in the classroom, along with sports. Mr. Seamann gave me tips for sports on ways to improve myself and ways to become a better teammate and leader to my team. But he also was a listening ear when I needed someone to listen, about anything (even when he probably didn’t want to hear it). Mr. Seamann will forever be a role model to me. I will cherish his guidance and motivation with me wherever I go.”

Bethany Burklund

Hershey High School

Bethany is the daughter of Brent and Holly Burklund of North Platte. She plans to study pre-med and biology at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Goals: I plan to become a physician. I am unsure what specialty yet, but I have some interest in dermatology and infectious disease. I would love to come back and practice in Nebraska long-term. However, I desire to join an organization such as Doctors Without Borders and travel the world to provide medical care to those in need for a few years before settling down.

In her own words: “Ever since I was a young child, I’ve always been considered busy and motivated. I always was and am doing something, thinking about something or working on something. I’m a very goal-oriented person. When I have a goal in mind, I will put my all into reaching that goal. I’m very determined with a drive to succeed. From a young age, I recognized the importance in education and getting involved. I knew that I wanted to have a successful career and, in order to do so, I would have to put forth my best effort into school. My parents really pushed me when I was young to volunteer and get involved in my community. I saw the effect that it had in growing me as a person. Volunteering really gave me a passion for helping people. This is a lot of the reason I’ve chosen the career path I have.”

Achievements and awards include: Honor roll four years, second and third place in business communication at Inter-High Day, fifth place in health care administration and personal finance at state FBLA, national FBLA qualifier, Hershey School student of the month.

Activities: National Honor Society, FBLA vice president, Quiz Bowl, one-act play, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, tennis, art club, Health Careers Academy, Nebraskaland University, UNK health sciences camp.

Community and volunteer service: Great Plains Health JV Ambassador, North Platte Berean Church screen projection, Rape and Domestic Abuse Program Peer Advocacy Group, Royal Family Kids Camp, Hershey Public Schools backpack food program, Maranatha Bible Camp craft shop, Hershey elementary chemistry demonstration, Cody elementary fun night, Hershey Public Schools track invitational set-up, Hirschfeld’s Prom Shoppe Crowns and Gowns ambassador, organized fundraiser dance at Hershey Public Schools, North Platte Berean Church community Easter egg hunt.

Most influential teacher: Cynthia Elliott, Hershey High School.

“I have taken Mrs. Elliott’s classes now for all four years of high school. I remember my first day of freshman year at a new school, she looked every student in the eyes and told us that these next four years would go faster than we could ever imagine. She warned us not to take them for granted and to enjoy the ride. That was just her first piece of helpful advice that she would give me over the next several years. She was also my NHS and FBLA sponsor. Mrs. Elliott has always been the teacher that I can talk to and trust. She truly loves her students and her job, and that really shows through. As an instructor, she teaches very thoroughly and understandably. She pushes each and every one of her students and wants all of them to succeed. She has encouraged me and pushed me to work hard to achieve my goals. Mrs. Elliott also traveled to San Antonio with me as a sponsor when I made it to FBLA nationals.”

Jack Carlson

North Platte High School

Jack is the son of Lance and Vikki Carlson of North Platte. He plans to study music education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Goals: I am pursuing a bachelor’s degree in music education so I can obtain experience in the teaching and mentoring side of music in order to broaden my marketability. Later on, I will likely continue with a master’s degree in music education once again or in music performance. Ultimately my dream is to teach at a college/university, or to be performing and privately teaching. Personally, I want to make music with and for others to point toward the glory of God.

In his own words: “Being a musician has helped me be a person with a good work ethic and dedication to my studies, but my heart simply wants to make music with and for people. Ultimately pursuing a graduate’s degree to work as a professor or try my hand in the world of performance is the way I hope to live out this desire in my heart. Ultimately I hope to use what I have learned to help guide others toward the more beautiful truths in life. Doing so as a teacher would also be a huge learning experience for myself. Studying music in college will let my passion for creating art with and for others grow even larger and allow me to critically apply it to everyday life as an adult.”

Achievements and awards include: National Honor Society, honor roll four years, David Distinguished Scholar, Nebraska Legends Scholar, Nebraska Young Artist scholarship, Ugai-Smolan scholarship, All-State Orchestra, Wesleyan Honor Orchestra outstanding orchestral musician award, lettered in band, orchestra and choir, Homecoming king, Mid-Plains Community College Presidents List.

Activities: National Honor Society, concert, jazz, pep and marching band, concert and jazz choir, concert orchestra, musical, student council, tennis, soccer, superintendent senior student advisory council.

Community and volunteer service: Church worship team, Backyard Bible Club, Miami mission trip, national anthem performance.

Most Influential Teacher: Marta Holscher-Nelson, North Platte.

“Ms. Marta Holscher-Nelson was the first person to open up the world of music to me. From learning classic American melodies, to miniature musicals, to learning how to play the recorder, Ms. Holscher-Nelson taught and exemplified the beauty in music to me. She encouraged me to be part of the high school musicals (when there were roles in the cast, of course) and always came to our classes with a contagious enthusiasm. I vividly remember watching videos from Quaver’s Music about all the musical instruments and terms. Even more so, I recall a field trip to the local music store, Kittle’s. It was there I knew I wanted to play an instrument after trying them all out. Ms. Holscher-Nelson showed me all music had to offer, and paved the way for every relationship I now hold with my amazing music teachers. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Ms. Nelson.”

Ashley Dye

North Platte St. Patrick High School

Ashley is the daughter of Mike and Lori Dye of North Platte. She plans to study pre-veterinary medicine at Mid-Plains Community College and earn an associate’s degree.

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Ashley Dye

Goals: I plan to attend the University of Nebraska at Kearney in order to achieve my bachelor’s degree. After earning my bachelor’s degree, I plan to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and their joint program with Iowa for veterinarian medicine. My ultimate goal is to earn a degree in veterinarian medicine and establish a wildlife rehabilitation center in western Nebraska.

In her own words: “I am motivated by my goal of becoming a veterinarian and opening my own wildlife rehabilitation center. I have always held compassion for animals and I have helped rescue injured birds. I rescued a baby ground squirrel and began the process of making sure he was properly cared for. He became ill due to an ear infection, so I educated myself on the necessary care and reached out to a wildlife rehabilitation center within the state. I transported him the four-hour drive to Louisville, Nebraska, and he was given professional care. I have heard stories of other people in similar situations as mine and have struggled for help. After recognizing the need for a wildlife rehabilitation center in western Nebraska, I knew it would be my ultimate goal to open my own veterinarian clinic and wildlife rehabilitation center.”

Achievements and awards include: Honor roll four years, lettered in speech, cross country, track and chorus, academic All-State in cross country and music, third place state Poetry Out Loud, NPCC Foundation scholarship, MPCC President’s Freshman Academic Tuition scholarship, Bausch & Lomb honorary science award, nominated for Omaha World-Herald All-Academic Team.

Activities: Student council secretary, cross country, track, speech, play production, swing choir, National Honor Society president, S.A.I.N.T.S. letter club vice president, McDaid elementary aide.

Community and volunteer service: Student council campus cleanup, serving dinner at the Retired Friends Dinner, ringing bells for Salvation Army, concessions stand at St. Pat’s, leading rosary, Irish Fest, St. Pat’s BBQ, crossing guard, snack shack, student aide, serving dinner at Salvation Army, bringing items for food drives, bringing flood relief supplies, National Honor Society trash walk, selling concessions at Nebraskaland Days, selling discount cards for the Activities Association, selling Herberger’s coupon books, selling 50/50 tickets, bringing food for RCIA, helping with the Elementary Track and Field Day, babysitting in the church nursery.

Most Influential Teacher: Jim Bauer, St. Patrick High School.

“Mr. Bauer is important to me because he has always been kind and compassionate. He takes the effort to get to know his students better and he is easy to approach. Mr. Bauer makes sure that we, his students, understand the subject we are studying and has no problem with helping us. I have begun to enjoy learning about science due to his class. I have also had the opportunity to be Mr. Bauer’s student aide for my junior and senior year of high school. He has always been understanding and flexible with my schedule. Science is going to be a huge part of my college education, so I am extremely thankful and appreciative of Mr. Bauer and all that he has taught me.”

Ashton Erickson

Hayes Center High School

Ashton is the daughter of Jeff and Kelly Erickson of Wallace. She plans to study communication science disorders at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Goals: To earn a master’s degree and become a speech-language pathologist. This career will allow me to help individuals who have difficulties communicating with others. I enjoy helping others and working as a speech pathologist will give me opportunities to help individuals of all ages.

In her own words: “I am a diligent worker both in school and out of school. I am motivated to succeed academically because I enjoy learning and want to build a strong educational foundation for myself. A strong educational foundation will allow me to find a career where I can be prosperous. A prosperous career will open doors for me to lead others and make an impact. I am motivated to give back to community because my community has given so much to me. I am always willing to volunteer in my community because I know that I am only making my surroundings better. I also know that it is important for everyone to do their part in making the world a better place, and I am able to do this by being an active member in my community.”

Achievements and awards include: Valedictorian, National Honor Society president, Inter-High Day first place athletic training and second place family and consumer science, state champion agriculture sales team, state champion range judging team, state runner-up parliamentary procedure team, state speech qualifier, journalism academic all-state, district runner-up Quiz Bowl team, district champion basketball team, district runner-up volleyball and basketball teams, third place district Quiz Bowl team, district champion persuasive speaker, veterinary science and individual and agriculture sales individual district runner-up persuasive speaker, Huskers Traditions scholarship, Cornhusker Girls State delegate.

Activities: FFA, National Honor Society, journalism, drama, speech, Quiz Bowl, student council, band, volleyball, basketball, track, High Ability Learners, Science Olympiad.

Community and volunteer service: 4-H, Salvation Army volunteer, blood program leader, Nebraska Cattlemen’s Ball server, Hayes Center Senior Center server, Malone Community Center volunteer, Hayes Center Booster Club referee, S.T.E.M. night coordinator, Wallace Youth Club volunteer, Wallace Methodist Church Bible School leader, Hayes Center United Church of Christ server.

Most Influential Teacher: Randy Vlasin, Hayes Center High School.

“My most influential teacher throughout my school career is Mr. Randy Vlasin. Mr. Vlasin is the agriculture education teacher and FFA adviser at Hayes Center and I have had the privilege of working with him for the past four years. Mr. Vlasin has helped me develop my leadership skills and grow as a person. Additionally, he has led me to success during my time as an FFA member. With him as my adviser, I have been fortunate enough to be on a state champion agriculture sales team, state champion junior range judging team, and state runner-up parliamentary procedure team. Mr. Vlasin has taught me that even though I come from one of the smallest schools in Nebraska, I can accomplish just as much as kids who come from the largest schools in Nebraska. I am undeniably grateful for all Mr. Vlasin has taught me and will cherish these memories forever.”

Karlie Gerlach

Maywood High School

Karlie is the daughter of Russ and Lisa Gerlach of Wellfleet. She plans to study environmental science communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Goals: One of my personal goals is to become a positive advocate for the agriculture industry. Therefore, my future career aspirations include becoming an agricultural lobbyist. In this career, I will be able to be a voice for the industry and advocate for it as well. To prepare for my future career endeavors, I plan to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. At the university i will major in agricultural and environmental sciences communications and complete a minor in agricultural economics. This specific major will help me with the communications and advocating side of the career of a lobbyist. The minor I plan to complete will help me further understand ag policy development as well as the economic side of our industry. Along with my education, I plan on participating in any clubs that the college has to offer that would benefit me in my future career. With this education and participation in clubs, I will be able to pursue my own personal goals as well as my future career goals.

In her own words: “I am motivated to accomplish academic and community achievement because of my drive to be the best that I can be. Being the best version of myself helps hold myself accountable and makes me a better person of character, the most rewarding aspect from being the best that I can be is the impact that it has on others. When I am the best version of myself and going after the goals that I have, I am also able to act as an example to others. With the confidence, work ethic and determination that I use to accomplish my goals, it is my hope that others go after their own goals in the same manner. When I see others accomplish their own goals, it is rewarding to see them succeed. Being the best version of myself while I accomplish my goals is a great leadership opportunity that I plan to carry on into my future endeavors.”

Achievements and awards include: National Honor Society, honor roll with distinction, Inter-High Day first place physics and second place personal finance, Believers and Achievers award, academic all-state volleyball, Cornhusker Girls State delegate, RPAC all-conference best of show art award.

Activities: National Honor Society, student council, FFA, TeamMates, journalism, one-act play, art club, volleyball, basketball, track, golf.

Community and volunteer service: FFA trash pickup, Feed the Farmer and Wellfleet Lake cleanup, National Honor Society trash pickup and food drive, youth athletic camps, Best in the Midwest Jackpot Show, Ag Valley annual meeting server, Frontier County Fair Board meal, 4-H food stand, Fort McPherson Memorial Day flowers, St. Paul Lutheran Church.

Most influential teacher: Kim Stengel, Maywood Public Schools.

“Mrs. Stengel has played many vital roles in my high school career. Through each role she has helped me grow as an individual through my character and leadership. I have become more confident in myself and my abilities from the guidance that she has given me. She has taught me that a positive attitude is a key factor in succeeding. This is something that I have learned to apply in academics and other activities. She is one of my biggest cheerleaders when I am going after my goals. Mrs. Stengel has always believed that I will achieve anything I set my mind to. Her confidence in me makes me believe that I will truly succeed in all I do. With her constant support throughout my high school career, I know that she will always be there if I am in need of any guidance or positive words. Honestly, it is very difficult to put into words the impact that she has had on me. Although my senior year has been cut short because of today’s events, I will always cherish the times that I had with her in high school. The times that we have shared are some of my favorite memories of high school. Mrs. Stengel will always hold a special place in my heart.”

Andrew Jack

Eustis-Farnam High School

Andrew is the son of Neil and Kristen Jack of Eustis. He plans to study agriculture economics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Goals: I plan to come back to my hometown and own my own business. Not quite sure what that will be at the moment but something with agriculture and run my own cattle on our family farm.

In his own words: “Living in a small town like Eustis, the community has shown me what it means to be active throughout the community. In a small town like Eustis, almost everyone is trying to contribute to the town and to making us thrive in every possible way. If we did not have people dedicated to keeping our town going, we could easily end up being a ghost town down the road, but I know that the people of this little town take pride in our community and will not let that happen. They have motivated me to be very involved in every way possible. We want Eustis to be a place for new people to want to raise their kids knowing that it is a safe environment and that their kids will get the education they need to succeed. We are always trying to improve our community one step at a time.”

Achievements and awards include: National Honor Society, honor roll, Presidents Education Award for honor roll, perfect attendance and A average, Believers and Achievers school winner, Elks teen of the month, Eustis Chamber of Commerce student of the month, FFA state champion food science team, FFA national Silver Emblem team and individual, FFA president, National Honor Society president, team captain in football and basketball, lettered in football, basketball and golf, district honorable mention in football, NCPA academic all-state, Cornhusker Boys State representative.

Activities: Football, basketball, golf, Quiz Bowl, one-act play, FFA, United Methodist Youth Fellowship, E-Unit, National Honor Society, student council.

Community and volunteer service: Rise Against Hunger, cemetery cleanup, youth basketball helper, Sunday School teacher, Bible School helper, church cleanup — God’s Gift Our Hands, youth wrestling helper, Big Give — cleanup, Wurst Tag setup and tear-down, church sound system, National Honor Society blood drive, hanging American flags, youth fellowship Santa, Operation Christmas Child, Farnam Community Carnival, Veterans Day program, Wurst Tag popcorn stand, making wreaths for military graves, volunteering at Senior Center, youth basketball coach.

Most influential teacher: Ben Spiegel, Eustis-Farnam High School.

“Mr. Spiegel came to Eustis when I was a sophomore so it may be a surprise that I am picking someone that I have only been around for three years. Mr. Spiegel was the teacher that I feel like I could relate to the most and he would always listen to what I had to say. No matter what the situation was he was willing to help. Being a younger teacher I think it was easier for him to relate to the situations that we face in high school and he is always willing to help me with college questions or even something not related to school. Spiegel was also one of my football coaches for three years and he always knew how to bring the best out of me on the field and in his classroom.”

Courtney Kastens

Anselmo-Merna High School

Courtney is the daughter of Matt and Marci Kastens of Anselmo. She plans to study criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Goals: Career-wise, I hope to one day work for a federal agency. My personal goal is to work in many different places and gain many experiences over the course of my life.

In her own words: “In Washington, D.C., an unfinished depiction of Martin Luther King, Jr., stands looking over the tidal basin. The memorial is designed to be finished when the creator feels that equality has been gained for everyone. My motivation for success is to be able to create a better world for my generation and the ones that follow. I believe that the world can be a safe and accepting place for everyone if everyone would wish it to be that way. I’ve always wanted equality for everyone, but I didn’t have a way to put it into words until I experienced the memorial and its legacy for myself. The memorial’s meaning and representation is a realistic depiction of my goals and aspirations in life. Benefiting everyone’s future is my ultimate goal and motivation for success.”

Achievements and awards include: National Honor Society, MNAC second team all-conference academics, Cornhusker Girls State representative, Junior Law Cadet, UNK Regents Scholarship, UNK honors program endowed scholarship, UNK honors program room scholarship, Nic Ostergard Memorial Scholarship.

Activities: National Honor Society, band, choir, speech, one-act play, Quiz Bowl.

Community and volunteer service: 4-H, Girl Scouts, St. Alselm Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.

Most influential teacher: Erica Crouch, Anselmo-Merna High School.

“The class I was most worried about when I entered high school was Mrs. Crouch’s English class. They were notoriously difficult to earn high grades in, and the goal that I had set for my high school career was achieving an A in every class. During my freshman and sophomore year, it was a struggle for me to earn the grades I felt I deserved, but eventually I began to understand why she graded so strictly and how to work to the best of my ability. When I first participated in competitive speech in my junior year, she helped build my confidence up in a way that I don’t believe anyone else could have. While I had her as a teacher, I learned to face challenges with discipline and dedication. Mrs. Crouch has impacted my life in a way no other teacher has, and for that, I am grateful.”

Keegan Nitsch

North Platte St. Patrick High School

Keegan is the son of Bob and Barb Nitsch of North Platte. He plans to study chemical engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Goals: I plan to pursue a master’s degree in chemical engineering or a Ph.D. in biochemistry, and I plan to research genetic engineering.

In his own words: “I have always been extremely academically motivated. My motivation has propelled me to reach great heights in my schooling, and my motivation stems from my desire to learn. I have always been a curious person, and that curiosity inside of me makes learning fun and enjoyable. I have especially taken a liking to science classes. There is nothing more interesting to me than learning about how and why the universe, and everything in it, works the way it does. To help the world, I want to discover the secrets of the universe’s inner workings, and use that knowledge to create something worthwhile. I always strive to learn more about the world, and I hope that I can learn enough about the world to help change it for the better.”

Achievements and awards include: National Honor Society, 36 on ACT, Inter-High Day first place biology, National Merit commended scholar, Presidential Scholar candidate, University of Nebraska-Lincoln honors program, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Regents Scholarship.

Activities: Cross country, lettered in basketball and track, state qualifier in high jump, Quiz Bowl, student council.

Community and volunteer service: Eagle Scout project, Nebraskaland Days concessions, National Honor Society trash walks and blood drives, student teacher aide, Irish Fest.

Most Influential Teacher: William O’Malley, North Platte St. Patrick High School.

“The most influential teacher in my life is Mr. O’Malley. He is a science teacher, and he has taught me earth science, biology and anatomy. His classes have always been fun and entertaining, which makes his classes engaging. I learn in his class, and I seem to retain the information for a longer period of time than other classes. Science is also my favorite subject and Mr. O’Malley happens to be amazing at teaching it. He understands the material and presents it in a way that engages the mind, is easy enough to understand, and in a way that I will remember it for a long period of time. He leaves some of the connections up to the students to make, which is much better than simply regurgitating information and having the students write it all down.”

Molly Paxton

Mullen High School

Molly is the daughter of Dusty and Mindy Paxton of Tryon. She plans to study biological science and pre-medicine at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Goals: I have focused my passions and goals around becoming a doctor. After my high school graduation from Mullen Public Schools in May 2020, I plan to either attend the University of Nebraska Lincoln or Nebraska Wesleyan in the fall. For my undergraduate degree I will study biological sciences and the pre-medicine pathway. If I choose Wesleyan, I plan on running cross country and track at the collegiate level. Upon graduation, I plan to attend medical school either at the University of Nebraska Medical Center or Creighton. My career goal is to become an obstetrician. I would also like to specialize in diabetic patients. I have a passion for helping people, and I would love to help bring life into the world. This career is my most appealing choice at the moment, I job-shadowed an OB/GYN in North Platte to help me prepare for my plans and goals, and I enjoyed learning about the profession. If being an obstetrician isn’t in my future, my second option is to be a dermatologist. This option appeals to me because I wouldn’t have to be on call, and if I have a family, it would be easier to balance work and home life. Upon obtaining a doctorate degree, I plan to move back west in the Kearney or Grand Island area to practice. As of right now, my plans are pretty set in stone, but there is always a possibility of change, and I am excited to start my adult life and figure out where my path may lead.

In her own words: “Academics and my community have always been extremely important to me. As a little girl, I was always interested in learning as much as possible from as many people as possible, and that mentality has not changed as I have aged. My parents have always motivated me to be the absolute best version of myself that I can be at all times. I have also been blessed with the most supportive and uplifting teachers and community that I could ask for. I am extremely proud of where I come from, and that motivates me to make them proud with everything that I do. Lastly, I am motivated to achieve because I have high goals and plans for my future. In order to accomplish them, I must always remain self-driven and determined. I have many people to thank for holding me accountable, and I will never be able to repay them.”

Achievements and awards include: National Honor Society vice president, honor roll four years, Academic All-State in cross country and speech, Presidential Award for academic excellence, U.S. Bank Believer and Achiever, valedictorian, state speech qualifier, state track, cross country and basketball qualifier, FCCLA state secretary, Miss Teen Rodeo Nebraska, Nebraska High School Rodeo Queen, student council president.

Activities: National Honor Society, volleyball, cross country, basketball, track, speech, FCCLA, FFA, high school, Spanish honor society, TeamMates, student council.

Community and volunteer service: Partner Up Rodeo, National Honor Society feeding the homeless and Scholastic Book Fair, FCCLA Read-A-Thon, 4-H projects including painting the fairgrounds, community cleanup, teaching horse 4-H and turtle races at the fair, TeamMates Christmas cards for veterans.

Most influential teacher: Sara Hardin, Mullen High School.

“Sarah Hardin is absolutely my most influential teacher. Throughout my years at Mullen High School, I have taken every opportunity possible to be in her classroom. I have never had a teacher that has forced me to be organized, held me accountable, and has been so determined to help their students succeed quite like she has. She is also a big part of why I chose to pursue a degree in biology. While taking her classes, if I ever had an issue or didn’t understand a concept, she was always there to lend a helping hand. Mrs. Hardin is one of a kind. She is extremely passionate about teaching, and I hope to be as motivated and determined in my career as her. I will never be able to thank her enough for all that she has taught me, but I will remember her wisdom and enthusiasm forever.”

Sydney Pelster

Wallace High School

Sydney is the daughter of Ben and Jill Pelster of Wallace. She plans to study business administration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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Goals: Returning to a rural area of Nebraska highly interests me because of the job opportunities and community support. I want to be an effective communicator, task manager and hard worker. With these characteristics I hope to find a job that I love in a rural community. I am confident that with all of these attributes I will be able to make a positive impact on my workplace and the people that I work with. Once earning an entry-level position at a job that I love, I hope to continue working my way to high-level jobs in the company. With coming back to a rural community I hope to be able to start a family and raise my children in a small community just like I was. I plan to challenge myself for the next four years so that I have the best chance possible of being a successful wife, mother and woman in the field of business. I hope that through hard work throughout the rest of high school and my college career, I will make my professional and personal goals something very attainable for me. I know that I have the skills and work ethic necessary to be successful.

In her own words: “I am motivated to achieve academically and in the community by knowing that I can be a role model for younger members of my school and community, wanting to make a positive impact on my community, and setting myself up for success in the future. Some of my favorite moments from high school are when I have younger students come up to me after events and tell me that someday they hope to be having as much fun and success as I am in high school. Part of my motivation also comes from the fact that I know I am making a positive impact on my community by the things that I am doing.

“The final thing that motivates me to achieve is knowing that I can make the most of my opportunities in high school to set me up for success in college and life after college.”

Achievements and awards include: Honor roll four years, David Scholarship, Nebraska Business Honors Academy, Academic All-State volleyball and basketball, all-conference volleyball and basketball, Cornhusker Girls State delegate.

Activities: National Honor Society, FFA, volleyball, basketball, track, one-act play, speech, Quiz Bowl, student council, band, choir, 4-H, Nebraska Farm Bureau ag crew.

Community and volunteer service: Red Cross blood drive, blood donor, Elsie United Methodist Church youth group, Wallace Youth Club, 4-H Council, Feed the Farmer, trash pickup, Wallace vacation Bible school, Elsie vacation Bible school, Elsie United Methodist Church advisory committee, Partner Up Rodeo, summer reading program.

Most influential teacher: Christy Sheets, Wallace High School.

“Mrs. Sheets has been my most influential teacher throughout junior high and high school because she has always encouraged me to push myself to my fullest potential. I have had her as a math and Spanish teacher since eighth grade and she has constantly made sure that she is giving me an amazing education that will allow me to be successful. Mrs. Sheets has not only given me opportunities to learn in the classroom but has also taught me many life lessons along the way. She is the first person to give an encouraging word of advice. Mrs. Sheets is supportive of all of my life endeavors and I would not have had an as successful time in high school if it were not for her.”

Trevor Ross

Callaway High School

Trevor is the son of Rodney and Mary Ross of Callaway. He plans to study animal science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Goals: I plan to come back to Callaway and take over my father’s ranch.

In his own words: “I am very involved in the community of Callaway. My dad is a member of the Seven Valleys Rodeo Association, so I help them out a lot. I take money at the gate, make hamburgers and clean up after the rodeos. I attend Callaway Senior High Youth Group. I am a member of the Morning Star United Methodist Church. I am also involved in a lot of activities in the school. I play football, basketball and am involved in play production. I am also a member of student council and National Honor Society. I love helping other people out. In a small school you have to be involved in everything to make it work. I do it for my friends that care more about different activities than I do. I do it to make my family proud.”

Achievements and awards include: Honor roll, National Honor Society, Callaway Scholastic Honor Society, Custer County Corn Growers scholarship, lettered in play production, band, football and basketball, district champion and fourth and fifth place in state play production, academic All-State in football, state FFA qualifier.

Activities: National Honor Society, FFA vice president, Citizenship Washington Focus delegate, Cornhusker Boys State representative, National Agricultural Youth Institute, Legion baseball.

Community and volunteer service: As Citizenship Washington Focus delegate I volunteered at the Custer County Fairgrounds, community projects as a member of Tail Twisters 4-H Club, usher for Morning Star United Methodist Church, projects for the Callaway senior high youth group, volunteer for the Callaway Good Life Center, volunteer for Seven Valleys Rodeo and Callaway 4-H horse show, volunteer for the Sandhills Open Road Challenge.

Most influential teacher: Darin Ellis, Callaway Public Schools.

“Mr. Darin Ellis has been my math instructor since my seventh grade year. He has also been my play production coach since my freshman year. He has helped me evolve into an amazing math student. He has given more instruction, than just out of the textbook. Being a teacher means more than just giving you homework. It means getting to know your students and giving them the knowledge to succeed later in life after school. He helps students realize their strengths and turn their weaknesses into strengths. He has helped me learn how to be a man and make things better for myself. He helps me remember just how lucky I am to be where I’m from, and not to forget where I come from.”

Jacob Rupe

Eustis-Farnam High School

Jacob is the son of Shannon and Julie Rupe of Eustis. He plans to study agriculture business at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Goals: To graduate with a bachelor’s degree and to take advantage of the opportunities that UNL has to offer to gain a wide knowledge of agriculture outside of southwest Nebraska. Agriculture has so many different opportunities and at this point I am not sure exactly what I want to do within ag. I hope to return to the Eustis area and be involved in many different activities and organizations, including leadership positions.

In his own words: “I have always been self-motivated to succeed academically. I take pride and honor in a job well done. I also know that each year education builds on top of the last, so therefore, that it is important to understand and grasp the concept before you go forward. My math teacher helped to instill in me a concept that took some time for me to understand, but that is that we learn from the mistakes that we make. This is true in education and life as well. Because of this, I don’t worry so much about making mistakes, but instead I concentrate on learning. This concept has helped me to have academic success in school. As far as community achievement, growing up in Eustis and being active in many different organizations, has given me a sense of great pride in my small town. I know that in order for communities to survive and thrive it takes people to volunteer their time and talents. It was exciting to be a part of the Eustis Wellness Center and to get to see the dream become a reality. I look forward to seeing the impact that it will have on the health and wellness of our community.”

Achievements and awards include: National Honor Society vice president, ESU Summer Honors Program, high honor roll, President’s Education Awards for honor roll, A average and top two in class, EF Believers and Achievers school winner, North Platte Inter-High Day second and third place in accounting, McCook Inter-High Day first place in accounting, Brandon Burlsworth character award, Elks teen of the month, Eustis Chamber of Commerce student of the month, FFA state team second- and third-place food science, FFA district food science team champions.

Activities: Class president four years, student council vice president, FFA, one-act play, Quiz Bowl, Science Fair, team captain in football and basketball, track, Cornhusker Boys State delegate, 4-H and FFA.

Community and volunteer service: E-Unit (youth portion of Eustis Area Community Foundation Fund), volunteered with Wurst Tag, Farnam Community Carnival, volunteer for youth league T-ball and baseball, Sunday League youth basketball, Eustis pee-wee wrestling, National Honor Society events, St. John Lutheran Church day camp and vacation Bible school volunteer, church cemetery cleanup.

Most influential teacher: Ben Spiegel, Eustis-Farnam High School.

“Who is my most influential teacher is a hard question to answer. Every teacher I have had has had an impact on my life. There is one teacher that has stuck out, however, and his name is Mr. Spiegel. He has been my history, government and economics teacher. He was also one of my football coaches for two years. He is always willing to talk to students about things other than just school. He is my favorite teacher I have ever had and was also my favorite football coach. He is a guy who is easy to talk to and is always willing to help others even if it is not something in one of his classes. He really sets a good example on what a good man is and is one of my persons I am proud to call a role model.”

Jacob Woodmancy

Perkins County High School

Jacob is the son of John and Kathy Woodmancy of Grant. He plans to study mathematics at Concordia University.

Goals: To go to college for four years to study to become an actuary. I want to have my tests taken by the time I graduate.

In his own words: “My desire to reach my full potential is what motivates my academic and community achievement. Throughout my life, I have been given various opportunities from my tight-knit community that I’m extremely grateful for. Therefore, it’s my objective to give back as much as I can. In order for our community to change for the better, rather than expecting others to do things for me, I’m dedicated to changing it myself. One act of kindness through volunteering can change someone’s whole life. Along with being a well-rounded member of my community, taking advantage of our good education system is also vital. This gives me the drive to learn as much as I can from anyone who can teach me. I love to learn, and I love to be taught new things through various enrichment activities. My curiosity about the unknown world is a huge factor in my yearning for knowledge.”

Achievements and awards include: All A honor roll all four years, 31 ACT score, McCook Inter-High Day first-place mathematics and chemistry, Quiz Bowl captain, Eagle Scout, Marjorie Jackman Community Service Award, FFA state degree, NSAA district actor awards, NSAA district speech champion in humorous prose and oral interpretation of drama, NSAA 11th place Class C state golf, Academic All-State in one-act play, Academic All-State in golf, Great Plains Communications scholarship, Concordia University President’s Scholarship, Concordia University men’s golf scholarship.

Activities: National Honor Society, golf, speech, mock trial, one-acts, marching band, concert band, jazz band, musical, cross country, Quiz Bowl, FFA.

Community and volunteer service: Methodist church Sunday school and Bible school teacher, junior golf counselor, Boy Scouts, play taps at Veterans Day and Memorial Day services, honor society blood drive, volunteer at Perkins County Fair, planting trees, trash pickup.

Most influential teacher: Troy Kemling, Perkins County Schools.

“Mr. Kemling was my seventh grade math teacher. He saw the potential in me when I was that young and supported me throughout my math journey. He saw that I was not being challenged in math and decided to take it upon himself to challenge me. He gave me the eighth grade math book and told me to work through it. Throughout my seventh grade year I worked through the eighth grade math book so that I could learn Algebra 1 in my eighth grade year. Mr. Kemling knew it was controversial to allow me to work at my own speed because our principal was not very supportive. Even though the principal disliked what he did, he still allowed me to move on to Algebra 1. That allowed me to grow immensely in math. He supported me so much and I will always be thankful for his influence on my life.”

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