Staying focused and excelling in the classroom can be difficult for high school students.
That’s why the Chippewa Falls Area Chamber of Commerce rolled out the red carpet to honor those who are at the top of their class.
The 34th annual Excellence in Education celebration honoring the top five percent of the graduating class from Chippewa Falls Senior High School and McDonell Central Catholic High School was held Wednesday night at Lake Wissota Golf and Events Center. The crowd included the honored students, their families, academic community members and each student’s educator they chose as having impacted their educational career.
Ben Lane, chair of the chamber, said the event is an important one as it allows the leaders in the community to recognize the next generation.
“This is our chance to recognize the importance of education,” Lane said. “These students are our future and I’m honored to be here tonight with them, their educators and the businesses and organizations supporting our efforts.”
The students honored (and their chosen influential instructor) include: Faith Anderson (Tamara Slowiak, Chi-Hi), Addy Bengtson (Jayne Jochimsen, Chi-Hi), Eleanor Blair (Tony Reiter, McDonell), William Butak (Karen Drydyk, Chi-Hi), Shadia Escorcia-Cure (Mark Cloutier, Chi-Hi), Joseph Forster (Becky Bauer, Halmstad Elementary), Luke Franz (Michael Thompson, Chi-Hi), Joshua Gienapp (Becca Bestul, Chi-Hi), Cali Goulet (Angie Opilinger, Chi-Hi), Sophie Heller (Monika LaPoint, Chi-Hi), Alissa Hering (Chrissy Seibel, Chi-Hi), Cory Hoglund (Alice Butler, (retired) Notre Dame Middle School), Grace Kasparek (Molly Malone, Chi-Hi), Victor LaBelle (Laura Jensen, Chi-Hi), Adrienne E. Olson (Ron Buckles, Chi-Hi), Makayla Romundstad (John Kinville, Chi-Hi), Mikayla Runge (Jeff Keding, Chi-Hi), Katherine Rushmann (Pam Bowe, Chi-Hi), Caleb Smithberg (Warren Bowe, Chi-Hi), Catelyn Swenson (Ruth Buchner, Chi-Hi), Sydney Thies (Michael Renneke, Chi-Hi) and Mitch Vanyo (Virginia Welle, Chi-Hi).
In addition to each student receiving a trophy and a certificate and the instructor receiving a framed photograph of them with the student that chose them, a few other influential members of the community spoke on the importance of the students being honored and the school system in general.
The keynote speaker for the night was Chi-Hi graduate and licensed professional counselor and executive director for REALiving, Holly Hakes. Hakes said the key for the honored students’ success in college will be handling stressful situations with grace and patience. She said the two keys include making a list of self-care activities to do in stressful situations and eat right, drink right and sleep right.
“If you can do those things when things get a hard, I’m very confident that you’re going to have the magic bullet to help yourself be successful through the rest of your life,” Hakes said. “You will know how to be your own champion. You are the only person who has complete control over you, so I know you’ll be able to handle it.”
The last portion of the evening included the presentation of the Unsung Hero Award to longtime coach and teacher at McDonell Area Catholic School Denny Laramy. Laramy has been involved with McDonell since the late ‘50s/early ‘60s and he said any day he wakes up and gets to come to the school is a great one.
“Every morning when I wake up, I look down at my big toe and if there is no tag on it, it’s a good day,” Laramy said. “This has really been my whole life. I call this school a home away from home. This has been a wonderful day.”
Each student honored at the 34th annual Excellence in Education celebration will be individually featured in the print edition of The Chippewa Herald starting on Monday, May 6.