Something comes along with the caps and gowns, the senior yearbooks, the graduation goodbyes. It's a delicate yet unmistakable feeling that at once unnerves and exhilarates seniors.
Soon-to-be graduates can’t be certain what form the future will take, and after 18 years of supervised schedules, that’s part of the excitement.
But judging by the accomplishments of the top achieving seniors in eight area schools, the future looks as bright as a Rising Star.
Hence the name of The Advocate-Messenger’s new project recognizing students for academic achievement, extracurricular involvement and community service.
A seven-member board — made up of education and community service experts, Advocate Executive Editor John Nelson and this reporter — selected 16 seniors as Gold Stars in the inaugural class of Central Kentucky Rising Stars. Board members chose the students from a group of 42 of the area’s most outstanding young adults, as nominated by their high schools.
The Gold Stars and all nominees are honored in the Advocate’s special Rising Stars section in today’s newspaper and on our website.
With so many accomplished students in the mix, board members, including Libby Suttles, Heart of Kentucky United Way director of marketing, struggled to make their Gold Star selections.
“I was utterly amazed by this group of applicants in terms of their commitment to serve in our community, to set lofty goals in the field of education,” she said. “It was personally motivating to read their stories. It makes me want to try harder to be a better person.”
In the end, the Gold Stars included a national spokesperson for the Children’s Miracle Network, a licensed minister, a Junior Miss winner, an all-state cross country runner and a member of the Junior National Association for the Deaf, among others.
The diverse group is united by exceptional grade-point averages, 11 of which are 4.0s or higher (Students can obtain GPAs greater than 4.0 by taking extra-weighted advanced, honors or Advanced Placement classes). Their not-so-average ACT score is about 29, and 11 got a taste of college during the prestigious Kentucky’s Governor’s Scholar Program last summer.
Garrard County’s Krysta Waldrop has had more than a preview of university life the past two years as a student at the Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Math and Science on Western Kentucky University’s campus.
But the Gold Stars don’t exhaust all of their energy in the classroom. Eleven play sports, including, tennis, soccer, volleyball, cheerleading, baseball and track, among others. Allison Grant of Mercer County Senior High School won a regional tennis championship, and Lincoln County High School’s Deanna Yocum will take her superb soccer skills to Campbellsville University this fall.
While many students struggle to balance school and sports, Yocum said her time on the field actually aided her academic pursuits.
“Athletics really helped me to stay focused because I knew I didn’t have time to be getting into trouble and doing all the crazy stuff teenagers do,” she said.
An abundance of community service activities also limited the Gold Stars’ free time in high school.
They’ve volunteered for organizations, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, Habitat for Humanity, Kentucky Special Olympics and Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center.
Burgin High School’s Faithe Goff completed more than 600 hours of community service with Future Farmers of America, Kentucky Changers, 4-H and other service groups and churches.
She said it’s great when students volunteer for an hour or two at a time, but that’s not her style of service.
“When I commit to do something for community service, I like to do an all-day thing,” she said. “I go full throttle with it.”