“This is the beginning of anything you want.”
One of the assignments Gary Henry, Suzanne Williams and I enjoy each year is our opportunity to interview the top of the class at county high schools and Oakland High School. Just talking to these outstanding students gives me hope for our future because they have excelled not only in the classroom but also in the community, in athletics, in extracurricular activities and spiritually.
My assignment this year was to interview the top highest honors group which this year includes six students — four guys and two gals — who finished their high school careers with perfect straight A’s or 5.0 grade point averages.
What is amazing to me is these students just don’t sit at home and study. Each of them was involved in the community and their school. They were class officers, student council leaders, helped build the Twin Lakes All-Abilities Playground, represented their school in academic and athletic competitions and still maintained a straight A average.
Quite frankly, I don’t know how they did it. Breezy Keppy told me her planner is with her everywhere she goes. Ben Roush said he maintains a list in his notebook of upcoming assignments that keeps him on task. All six emphasized the best advice they can give incoming freshmen is, as Everett Lau said, “Don’t procrastinate. Don’t wait until the last minute.”
Each of the six are planning varied careers. Ben Roush and Michael Whitacre plan careers in civil engineers. Whitacre will attend Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology while Roush is a Presidential Scholar at Lake Land College and plans to finish his degree at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Everett Lau, The Prairie Press Weather Wizard, will study geography and broadcast meteorology at Eastern Illinois University. Griffin
Johnson and Breezy Keppy will attend Indiana State University and plan careers in nursing. Johnson hopes to be an anesthetist while Keppy eventually plans to become a nurse practitioner. Sidney Imeroni will attend Northwestern University in Evanston and major in biology with a pre-med emphasis and minor in theater.
Ask them who they look up to, their answers are wise beyond their years:
Griffin Johnson said his mother, Amie Branson is his hero. “She went back to nursing school as an adult and is a registered nurse so we could have a better life.”
Everett Lau said his grandmothers, Nancy Englebright and Doris Lau have been an inspiration. “They are so hardworking and compassionate. I can only hope to be like them.”
Breezy Keppy is inspired by her mother, JoEllen Henson. “She’s a single mother who sacrificed everything for us. She’s taught me great life lessons and is so supportive of whatever I do.”
Michael Whitaker has been inspired by football Coach Jeremy Clodfelder. “He came into a difficult situation and taught us failure is not an option. We were at a low spot in our program. He showed us what being a great leader is all about.”
Sidney Imeroni said she knows anything is possible thanks to the example set by Stephen Elledge, a world-renowned geneticist and 1974 graduate of Paris High School and country music star Brett Eldredge, also a PHS grad. “I’ve talked to Dr. Elledge on the phone. When you think you can’t do something, just look at Dr. Elledge and Brett. It doesn’t matter if you come from a small high school, you still have an opportunity to make a difference.”
Ben Roush is inspired by his father, who has worked his way up in his profession. “He works hard and set goals for himself. He’s my hero.”
These six academic leaders spoke during commencement Friday at Paris High School. I’m confident they will do well in life and won’t forget the community they called home.