ELK MOUND — While attending middle school in Eau Claire, Keshia Stahlbusch developed a deep friendship with a slightly older schoolmate, Vannessa Marsh. The two girls became as close as sisters, sharing confidences and participating in and attending various statewide events with the Future Farmers of America organization.
“We did almost everything together,”Stahlbusch, an Elk Mound High School senior, said of their relationship. “She was always there for me, when things got rough at home or at school. We were growing up together, and like an older sister, she had a way of knowing just the right things to say to pick me up when I was down.”
Losing such a friend in her teen years was not a challenge Stahlbusch expected to face, but that has been exactly the case in recent times. Marsh died suddenly and tragically from an automobile accident this past September.
“I took her death very hard. We were super close. But again, the people, Mr. Goodrich, and the teachers here helped me pull through,” Stahlbusch explained. “I have had to really overpower when it comes to school, to make sure my work gets done no matter the circumstances I am experiencing.”
Keshia, the daughter of Tracy Kappus and Kevin Stahlbusch, still enjoys raising and showing animals through FFA and takes great pride in her involvement with her paternal grandparents’ family farm.
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“We call it ‘Stahlbusch Farm’ and are milking 100 Holsteins right now. My grandma and grandpa are a big part of my life. They are huge role models to me,” Stahlbusch said.
“I can talk to my grandma about pretty much everything, and they have both told me I always have a place with them. Whenever we talk about my problems, my grandma assures me I do not have to stress on anything; I am always welcome to stay with her and Grandpa.”
These assurances and the encouragement of her school “family” have given Stahlbusch a positive sense of the future. For these and other reasons, Keshia Stahlbusch has been selected as this year’s Extra Effort award recipient from Elk Mound High School.
The honor only reinforces her determination to pursue a post-secondary education. This fall she plans on attending Chippewa Valley Technical College to pursue cosmetology.
A good fit
“When the award was discussed in-depth with our selection committee, Keshia stood out as the clear choice for our recipient,” said Elk Mound guidance counselor Hugh Goodrich. “She is an introspective student who came to us at the start of her junior year, having confronted a turbulent home life, socioeconomic challenges, and the shaky academic ground that resulted from the stresses she has faced.”
Goodrich described Stahlbusch’s greatest strengths as resiliency and deep compassion for others.
“Her daily actions center on treating others with dignity and respect. Her ability to care for all persons while pushing on through her own problems has transformed her into a remarkably confident student,” he said. “Keshia is now not only primed for her graduation from high school but is a good candidate to succeed at the post-secondary level.”
Adding to that confidence is the help Stahlbusch said she receives for a learning disability that results in needing a quieter environment and more time to take tests.
She noted her appreciation, both for the award and for finding her footing in the Elk Mound School District.
“I feel so honored to have been chosen for this recognition by my school. My move last year from the larger school I went to in Eau Claire has been a good fit for me.
“I have experienced a lot of drama in my life, with my parents splitting up and my feeling so drawn into the middle of their differences. In that bigger school with so much also going on between students, coming to this smaller school has been wonderful. I just love coming to school here.”
Karin Javanovich, a multi-categorical special education teacher with the district, has mentored Stahlbusch with constant encouragement since the two met.
“Keshia works very hard to meet her goals despite many obstacles,” the teacher noted. “She is kind, respectful and has many wonderful gifts. She has tutored at the elementary school and works well with students of all ability levels. It is remarkable to see her go out of her way to help kids with her always-positive attitude and cheerful smile.”
In turn, Stahlbusch credits Ms. Javanovich for “really reaching out to me and pushing me to make sure all my work is done and turned in. Other teachers also have been so encouraging to me, making me feel that I have choices for my future.”
It is perhaps Stahlbusch’s own personal experiences that have earned her accolades for her ability to put herself in the shoes of others and paying forward the supportive seeds nurtured all along her path.
“Her daily actions center on treating others with dignity and respect. Her ability to care for all persons while pushing on through her own problems has transformed her into a remarkably confident student."
Hugh Goodrich, guidance counselor, Elk Mound High School