TMP graduate awarded for academic excellence
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
The school motto synonymous with Thomas More Prep-Marian for many years was changed in 2012 when a junior high was added to the local Catholic high school.
But some of the students who began their high school career before TMP became a six-year program are hanging on to what the slogan "give us four years, and we'll give you a lifetime" represents.
One of those is Jenna Ernsting, who at Sunday's 2014 graduation ceremonies was presented the Thomas More Medal of Excellence, the highest award given to a student at TMP.
The award is voted on by faculty and staff and given to a student who has displayed all-around excellence in Christian leadership, academics, personal conduct and concern for others.
"It's been a great experience here at TMP, one that will last me a lifetime," Ernsting said, chuckling at the irony of her statement.
"I love that motto, wish they wouldn't have changed it," she added. "I've had my lifetime here, such a great experience, I want another."
Ernsting said she was able to rely on "the family support of TMP" while dealing with some health problems that forced her to miss most of the final nine weeks of her junior year.
After experiencing tingling in her left arm after hitting it on an escalator, she was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome where "even wind would make the pain almost unbearable," she said.
Following a summer of intense rehabilitation last year, Ernsting hit the ground running her senior year.
"The people at TMP were so supportive," she said. "That family atmosphere was my saving grace."
Ernsting added astronomy club her senior year to her already long list of activities that included serving as editor of both the school yearbook and newspaper and Governor of the Kansas District Key Club, another life-changing experience, she said.
"Besides getting the chance to meet so many people, I learned a lot about serving selflessly for your community," Ernsting said of her experience in the high school branch of the Kiwanis International civic organization.
Now, she plans to enjoy a relaxing summer before beginning the next step of her education in the fall, majoring in agriculture communications and journalism at Kansas State University in Manhattan.
Now a graduate of TMP, Ernsting said she is looking forward to returning to Hays for alumni events.
"The Christian education I received, along with the culture aspect with the resident students, it's amazing how much my horizons have been broadened," she said of the school's residency program that includes international students.
The other two nominees for the Thomas More Medal of Excellence were Jacob Brull and Monica Michaud. All three were brought to the front of the audience at graduation.
"Both of them were so deserving," Ernsting said of her fellow classmates. "I thought it would be one of them. I was surprised, but very pleased, when they said my name. I am so honored."
Seniors who earned the other two top three awards given at graduation were Levi Dreiling, who received the Monarch Service Citation, and Ryan Hammerschmidt, Medal for Academic Scholarship. Hammerschmidt finished his high school career with a 99.98 percentage.
Underclassman also are recognized for three similar awards in the areas of leadership, service and scholarship, with leadership being the highest. So if a student with the highest grade percentage earns a higher award, the scholarship award for academic excellence goes to the next highest grade percentage.
Scholarship -- Junior Alyssa Keil (98.91 percent); sophomore Melissa Pfeifer (100 percent); freshman Raegan Billinger (99.125 percent).
Service -- Junior Grace Volker, who also had the highest GPA in her class (100 percent); sophomore Hannah Michaud; freshman Lizzie Leiker.
Christian leadership -- Junior Matt Mindrup; sophomore Jared Rack; freshman Megan Koenigsman, who also had the highest GPA in her class (99.75 percent).