Four young women represent academic achievement at North Crawford and Seneca Schools – three valedictorians and one salutatorian.
At North Crawford, with matching academic records, Bailey Stevenson and Regan Evers are co-Valedictorians. At Seneca, Danielle Boland is the Salutatorian and Taylor Redman the Valedictorian.
Each of the young women has pursued excellence in their academic career. Each has had encouragement. Each was willing to work through difficulty. And each wanted the door of possibility to open, when the moment of graduation arrived.
Given the opportunity to impart a word of encouragement to younger students, all four had the same message. Work hard and expect to make your way through adversity, because achievement is a path to opportunity. It’s the key to being able to follow your dreams and to making your own security and success in this world.
“I want to be able to do the best I am able and not look back wishing I had done better,” Boland said. “I want to be able to go where I want.”
Many peers were focused more on the moment, not thinking about how their grades might impact their choices after graduation, Redman noted.
“It didn’t really hit them until this year,” Redman said.
The girls all practiced long-term thinking and strategy to earn their honors.
“I just never quit,” Stevenson said. “A lot of people quit when things got hard, but you have to keep going. So when I was struggling, I would ask for help and if I knew I wasn’t going to do well, I would focus on getting extra credit to bring my grade up.”
Evers recounted feeling lost in pre-Calculus.
“I had to regroup and I just started working my way through (the material), teaching myself,” Evers said. “I always push myself to reach my full potential.”
Choosing your classes shouldn’t be based on what is easiest.
“We’ve taken harder classes,” Boland said. “They help you be prepared, they let you learn how to balance a lot of tasks, how to balance life and academics.”
Stevenson was quick to credit one of her teachers – North Crawford math instructor Eileen Robel – with helping her to learn to set goals when she was in eighth grade.
“At the end of the year, she helped us plan our next year,” Stevenson said. I knew I wanted to get back into her class, so she helped me set academic goals.”
Family expectation also helped some of the girls.
“My parents are divorced. They didn’t finish college and they both regretted that, so they always told me that I should strive to not make the same mistakes, that I can make better choices and make the best of my circumstances,” Evers said. “They made sure I thought about my future.”
Stevenson’s parents taught a similar lesson.
“They were always asking me what I wanted to do, what I wanted to be, and reminded me of what I needed to do to get there,” Stevenson said. “So, the idea was always sort of there, I was always thinking about how I was going to answer those questions.”
Even if not as explicit in their questions, Redman also felt the responsibility of parental expectation.
“My parents always had expectations and standards that they expected me to meet,” Redman said. “I knew they expected me to work.”
For Boland, it was moral support that she drew upon from most.
“I’ve always sort of set my own expectations for myself,” Boland said. “My parents supported me, but they also let me figure out for myself. They were moral support, but they let me do my own thing. They were there, if I wanted to ask for help.”
“But I didn’t,” Boland said.
All four girls were heavily involved with school activities. The ties they made are one of the things they know they will miss.
“There are lots of people that I don’t talk to elsewhere, this (the school) is where I get to see them,” Boland said.
“We are a small school and it lets you be involved in a lot of activities and with your peers,” Redman said. “It gives you more opportunities.”
The school activities will be lost with graduation and all of the girls knew that this would change some of the relationships they have built.
“Participating in athletics the same way is something I’m not going to be able to do,” Ever said. “We (friends and teammates) won’t be able to see each other every day. It will be a big test of our friendship when we are gone and on our own, to see how we handle that, how we maintain it.”
Stevenson echoed Evers sentiments, saying she had been lucky enough to share sports all these years with her sisters and her friends.
“I don’t have as many responsibilities now,” Redman said wistfully. “Life is easier.”
Redman plans to attend the University of Wisconsin LaCrosse where she plans to pursue medical studies with an eye to being a Physicians Assistant.
“I want to be successful, be able to provide for myself, to finish my dream of being able to help others and make a difference in the word,” Redman said.
Boland is still working on deciding her path. She plans to attend UW-Richland while exploring her interests. In the meantime, she is pondering a shorter goal as well.
“I have been on some church mission trips,” Boland said. “I would really like to do a longer trip, maybe three months, to be of help. Maybe go somewhere in Latin or South America. But you have to pay your way, so I have to figure out how to do that first. It’s expensive.”
Stevenson is headed to UW-Madison where she plans to study to be a pharmacist.
“I think it’s a field where there will always be something to learn, always be new things happening,” Stevenson said.
Evers will also be attending UW-LaCrosse. She plans to focus on biomedical sciences.
“I think I learned to be fascinated with the body and the physical-mental connections in health from my grandfather,” Evers said.
Pairing that fascination with a love of science, she sees the field as one that satisfy her curiosity and offer plenty of opportunity.