Congratulations to the Class of 2009 and especially to Lake Linden-Hubbell senior Amber Koepel, winner of The Daily Mining Gazette's Student of the Year $1,000 scholarship.
Koepel will graduate as co-valedictorian with a 4.0 grade point average. Not only a star in the classroom, but also she kept busy elsewhere, serving as president of the National Honor Society and student council. She also participated in music, athletics, drama and other activities.
The award marks not only the end of another school year, but also the end of another edition of our Student of the Week presentation. Eleven area high schools participated, each submitting the name of a student once a month. Recently, officials at each school were asked to nominate a senior for the Student of the Year scholarship.
Nominees wrote a letter of application and an essay about what they learned in high school and how it would help them in college. Each application also included a letter of reference.
Koepel said in her essay that extra activities were the key to her success in high school. A sophomore hiatus from basketball proved to be a downturn. "I sat at home and started to become a couch potato. ... I got lazy and didn't feel like doing my homework."
Once Koepel stepped up her level of activity, things improved across the board. Being busy kept Koepel happy, and being happy kept her stress level down and her academic performance up.
She plans to employ the same strategy at Ferris State University in the fall as she begins the pre-pharmacy program. The 17-year-old is the daughter of Jeff and Trina Koepel of Lake Linden.
"Amber leads by example," said LL-H principal Craig Sundblad. "She has done all of this while being consistently upbeat and positive, something that she passes on to others."
Leadership and positive energy were common themes among the scholarship candidates, according to Jane Nordberg of Portage Health's communications staff and member of the scholarship committee. "Obviously, all were worthy of consideration. There were a lot of individuals who showed growth through their high school years, learning from mistakes, stumbling and coming back. That's going to happen in real life. They showed good character."
The other nominees for the award will each receive a $100 scholarship as the Gazette's Student of the Year from their individual school.
A round of thank-yous is in order. Thanks to the school officials who worked with us through the year to help with our Student of the Week presentations, thanks to our scholarship committee for making a difficult decision and thanks to our advertisers, found at the bottom of the Student of the Week page every week, who funded the scholarship.
Lifting up our brightest and best is a great idea. It lets people know we appreciate their efforts. Scholarships can help them reach their potential, and exalting our young leaders can inspire even the younger among us to strive for excellence.
Congratulations to Amber. We wish you the best. Congratulations to the entire Class of 2009. You've made us proud.