At the head of the class: Seymour senior scholars give advice to young students

On a wall in Jennie Chase’s second-grade classroom at Emerson Elementary School are pictures of students she has taught over the years.

Each of those students is special to Chase, and she wants to remember their faces, she said.

Before the end of the school year, a couple of those faces showed up in her classroom again.

On May 16, a group of Seymour High School seniors visited Emerson to talk to younger students about hard work and perseverance, making good decisions and being positive role models.

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The group also visited Seymour-Redding, Seymour-Jackson and Margaret R. Brown elementary schools along with St. Ambrose Catholic and Immanuel Lutheran schools.

To emphasize their message, the seniors wore their purple and white graduation gowns along with their various earned academic cords and medals. The only things missing were their graduation caps and the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Each of the seniors rank in the top of their class and will receive the Seymour Scholar Award, the school corporation’s highest honor, during commencement Sunday.

To be a Seymour Scholar, students must have 54 credit hours, 11 credit hours in Advanced Placement courses and a cumulative 3.9 grade-point average with no grade less than a B.

This year’s scholars are Rebekah Franke, Molly Hayes, Trent Hohenstreiter, Anna May Huff, Connie Li, Claire Loebker, Alexandra Maithy Nguyen, Alan Perry and Victoria Snook.

Two of them, Perry and Hohenstreiter, had Chase when they attended Emerson and were able to find photos of themselves on Chase’s wall.

“Alan had such chunky cheeks,” Chase said.

That cute little kid went on to be a three-sport athlete, playing football, basketball and baseball. He will attend Cedarville University in Ohio in the fall on a scholarship and will play college baseball.

Perry said it makes him feel good knowing that little kids know his name and look up to him.

“I know when I was that age how much I looked up to kids in high school,” he said. “I thought they were like superheroes, so I know what it means. Having them say my name is a little bit humbling, and it brings a smile to my face. I think it’s awesome.”

Hohenstreiter also was a successful athlete, running track and cross-country and swimming. He served as class president and led the school’s Riley Dance Marathon fundraiser to its most successful year yet. He will attend the University of Indianapolis on a scholarship to study mathematics and chemistry and run.

Their successes, along with the other seven Seymour Scholar Award recipients, are what younger students need to see are possible, Chase said.

“This is what I want you to do when you’re in high school,” she said. “I want you to come back and encourage young children to do well in school, be involved in school with sports and high grades.”

The class had the opportunity to ask questions about what it’s like to be in high school. They asked questions about lockers, classes, teachers and if high school students get recess.

Students wanted to know if the scholars had a lot of homework and how they were able to get it all done.

Although they may not like doing homework, Hohenstreiter said it’s a good tool for practicing and becoming a better student.

“It’s important to build good habits now,” Hohenstreiter said.

When he was in elementary school, he would come home and do his homework immediately, he said, so the rest of his evening could be spent doing what he wanted.

That habit continued into high school, he said.

“It may seem like a drag and you don’t want to do it, but it’s important. It really is,” he said. “It’s there to try to help you, and you have study halls and student resource time.”

Loebker said it’s not easy and not always fun to study and do homework, but getting good grades is worth it in the end.

She was a member of National Honor Society, earned high honor roll status all four years of high school and will attend St. Mary-of-the-Woods College in the fall to study nursing and participate in cross-country.

“You’ve got to work hard, and then you’ll be where we’re at when you’re our age,” Loebker said.

As school gets more difficult, Hohenstreiter said students shouldn’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask questions.

“If you don’t understand it, you’re not going to sound dumb by asking questions,” he said. “The main thing is it shows you care and that you want to learn.”

That’s why teachers are there, to help students, said Franke, who plans to attend Indiana University and study elementary education to become a teacher.

“Your teachers want to help you. It’s their job, and they want you to learn and succeed,” Franke said.

Another important piece of advice Hohenstreiter had for students is to get involved in different activities.

“Doing the extra stuff has helped me academically because it has made the atmosphere more fun,” he said.

He also said it has given him lots of friends and adult role models he has come to rely on for help and guidance.

Seymour High School Principal Greg Prange said he is proud of the scholars and knows their achievements and success won’t end after graduating high school.

“Not only are they very strong students in the classroom, they are true leaders,” Prange said. “Among them are outstanding competitors, musicians, volunteers and team players. They have great potential for becoming significant leaders in society, and I am confident they will make a positive impact wherever they work and live.”