Area students recognized for success
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
It's been a year to remember for Sana Cheema, especially this month.
Today, she will be recognized for finishing her Hays High School career with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average.
She will receive her diploma at this afternoon's graduation at Gross Memorial Coliseum, along with 169 classmates, and spend the summer preparing to move to Lawrence, where she will attend the University of Kansas in the fall.
But while graduation is a milestone event, Cheema said a whirlwind Sunday earlier this month was pretty special, too.
After being honored at a ceremony in Topeka as a recipient of the Governor's Scholars Award, Cheema stopped by a grocery store to pick up a copy of the Topeka Capital-Journal. And there on the front page was a story about her and 29 other students from around the state who were named to that newspaper's all-state academic team.
"Two in one day, that was special," said Cheema, who should be getting used to pleasant surprises.
Earlier this semester, she was one of 10 students awarded the largest scholarship in the Dane G. Hansen Scholarship Program of Logan worth $26,000.
Every high school in the state is allowed to nominate one senior for the Governor's Scholars award, which is based mostly on academic accomplishments.
Joining Cheema on this year's list of Governor's Scholars Award winners are numerous area students, including four from Ellis County -- one of them Cheema's classmate at Hays High, Kelly Koenigsman. The other Ellis County recipients were Ryan Hammerschmidt from Thomas More Prep-Marian in Hays, Scott Pfeifer from Ellis and Audra Nowak from Victoria.
The Capital-Journal all-state academic team is more selective, as only 30 Kansas students are chosen. The only other academic first team member from western Kansas besides Cheema was Baron Green from Decatur Community High School in Oberlin, who volunteers to assist at the volunteer fire department and the Decatur County Fair.
Part of the criteria for being chosen to the Capital-Journal's all-academic team is how active students are in their community as well as their school, especially volunteerism.
Cheema volunteers in the VolunTeen program at Hays Medical Center, where she said she "gets the chance to help many people in the community."
She also is co-editor of The Indian Call, the school yearbook, as well as a member of the Hays High leadership team, where she serves as a mentor for freshmen and new students, and numerous other organizations.
"Sana defines the words persistence and perseverance," said Suellyn Stenger, Cheema's guidance counselor at HHS.
Cheema missed a year of high school when her family returned to her native Pakistan following her freshman year of high school.
"But," Stenger said, "she did not miss a beat ... and continues to take rigorous courses."
Cheema plans to follow in the footsteps of her parents, who both are physicians, and become a doctor herself someday.
* * *
The Governor's Scholars Awards Program, in its 31st year, honors the top academic one percent of Kansas high school seniors, who are selected from accredited public and private schools.
Following is a list of the 2014 list of other area seniors chosen for the Governor's Scholars Award Program.
Atwood-Rawlins Co. -- Keshia Green; Bird City-Cheylin -- Walker Janicke; Colby -- Mark Bremenkamp; Downs-Lakeside -- Savana Brush; Goodland -- Berkley White; Grainfield/Wheatland-Grinnell -- Hannah Gillespie; Hill City -- Bethany Eckols; Hoxie -- Christopher Weber; Kensington-Thunder Ridge -- Alex Atchison; La Crosse -- Lucas Moeder; Logan -- Logan Kiser; Natoma -- Tatum Pfortmiller; Ness City -- Jessie Rubottom; Norton -- Leif Carlson; Oakley -- Logan Lewis; Oberlin-Decatur Comm. -- Sierra Lohoefner; Osborne -- Dayanara Carswell;
Otis-Bison -- Dalton Steinert; Palco -- Madison McClellan; Phillipsburg -- Stephen Sage; Plainville -- Colton Aldridge; Quinter -- Nicole Knop; Ransom-Western Plains -- Andrew Flax; Russell -- Shiv Gupta; St. Francis -- Randee Grover; Sharon Springs-Wallace Co. -- Clay Schemm; Smith Center -- Taylor Zabel; Stockton -- Makayla Reed; Sylvan-Lucas -- Michaela Merchant; Victoria -- Audra Nowak; WaKeeney-Trego Comm. -- Lee Nowlin; Weskan -- Kelsey Hale; Winona-Triplains -- Faith Edwards.