Meet the SOTYs

May 13, 2012 By Steven R. Peck, Publisher

That's newspaper office shorthand for the 2012 Students of the Year

Through 30 years of our annual Student of the Week program, concluding for the current school term with today's Student of the Year layout on page B-6, several themes have been consistent, but each new group of honorees adds distinct details that make the year all their own.

Higher education is a priority for Students of the Year. A college scholarship attends the award, after all. Year after year, the wisdom of the long-ago planners who envisioned a community college for Fremont County is affirmed through the college plans of the "SOTY," to use our newspaper office shorthand for Students of the Year.

In 2012, fully half the honored students either already are enrolled at Central Wyoming College or plan to be, with a nearly equal number aiming for the University of Wyoming either immediately after high school or after a stint at CWC.

That's an echo of the plans unveiled at many a Student of the Year luncheon through the years. But the SOTYs aren't monolithic in their planning. This year, Daniel Oldman of Arapahoe Charter says his immediate intention is to make some money this summer working in construction. If college follows, he'll be glad he did.

Zach Zenk of Riverton High School has an out-of-state roadmap, intending to enroll at Black Hills State to begin a degree program in secondary education.

Secondary ed -- that's high school teaching -- was mentioned in the acceptance remarks of two other SOTYs -- Lander's Derrick Peil, who has his sights on an career as an English teacher, and Dean Littleshield of St. Stephen's. Public school teaching is one of our nation's vital professions, and Wyoming's teacher pay scale makes it an attractive place to do it.

Another honoree with intentions outside Wyoming's borders is Jaimie Lee of Dubois High School. Her plan of action begins with pre-veterinary training at the University of Wyoming, to be followed by a degree in veterinary medicine from the highly regarded program at Colorado State University.

Danica Maddock of Wind River High School has a more immediate career track. She'll attend the Paul Mitchell School in Idaho to learn the skills of a professional hair stylist.

Music holds an important place in the lives of at least two SOTYs. Dominick SunRhodes-Babington of Wyoming Indian High School plans to study music at CWC, whose arts programs always have been a standout part of the curriculum. Littleshield said music would be part of his coursework at CWC as well.

The foundational schooling at Central Wyoming College has put Kelli Niemeyer on a purposeful path. CWC's Student of the Year is finishing up her studies there this month, and then intends to go higher at two schools called UW -- pre-med at Wyoming and medical school at Washington.

The ambitions of these young achievers go into the record books with more than 250 other Students of the Year and more than 5,400 Students of the Week through the years. We're proud to have awarded more than $133,000 in scholarships through the years, including another $5,000 for the class of 2012.

Thanks again this year to staff writer Christina George and compositor Tim Kepple at the Lander Journal office for their weekly work on the Student of the Week page. School coordinators Dora Flagg at Arapahoe, Carolyn Aanestad at CWC, Nancy Dixon at Dubois Shad Hamilton at Fort Washakie, Veronica Hitshew at Lander, Nancy Weber at Riverton High School, Lesa Ladner at Shoshoni, Scott Polson at St. Stephen's, Kathy Pince at Wind River and Mildred Goggles at Wyoming Indian join Christina and Tim at the nuts-and-bolts level of the program. It simply couldn't be done without them.

Our appreciation goes out as well to the nominating faculty at the 10 participating schools who recognize talent, sincerity, dedication and achievement in both the obvious and less-obvious ways. Sometimes the SOTY are the all-state quarterbacks and the future Ivy Leaguers, but just as often they are students in whom teachers saw something unique and noteworthy, even if it didn't necessarily generate headlines and trophies.

That too is a strength of this deeply rewarding program, one which we have conducted with great enjoyment for three decades. We can hardly wait for the next lineup of outstanding young people.

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