Determined to get diploma
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Carly Schmidt was one of those honored graduates wearing a white cord around her neck at Sunday's Hays High School graduation.
But it was the set of strings dangling from her graduation cap that meant the most to Schmidt.
It was a milestone moment for Schmidt when HHS Principal Marty Straub told the seniors sitting in front of him at Gross Memorial Coliseum to move their tassels to the left side of their caps, signifying their graduation was official.
That hadn't seemed possible for Schmidt two years ago when a string of family illnesses and accidents kept her out of school the second semester of her junior year.
At first, she thought about completing her high school credits through the Learning Center, where she had taken classes that semester.
"But I decided I wanted to get back my senior year," she said.
It was her time spent in hospitals and at home caring for her family members that ultimately led her to that decision.
She had learned about the allied health program for high school students, run through North Central Kansas Technical College, so she checked it out and enrolled.
Schmidt, who spent half a day at NCK Tech and the other half at Hays High her senior year, found her niche.
"I wanted to get my full education," Schmidt said of her decision to attend HHS rather than finish through the Learning Center. "I wanted to get involved."
She indeed was involved.
Schmidt was voted student senate president at NCK Tech, completed the allied health program and now is a certified nurses' aide.
On Sunday, she graduated with a 3.75 grade-point average and will continue her education at NCK Tech this fall, in the licensed practical nursing program.
That hadn't seemed possible two years ago when her dad was severely injured in a motorcycle accident, her brother became seriously ill from a tick bite and her mom was diagnosed with cancer.
"Two weeks after that, my dog got run over and died," said Schmidt, who developed some health issues herself.
"Even if you think you have it tough, you always see someone else who is having a worse time," she said.
Now, Schmidt will take three scholarships she earned this year and head to NCK Tech full-time and keep trying to accomplish more goals, something Jerold Harris challenged the graduates to do.
Harris, math teacher at HHS, was chosen by the seniors to give the graduation speech this year.
He talked about how people in the 1950s said it was impossible to run a 4-minute mile, but Roger Bannister changed that when he recorded a time of 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds May 6, 1954, at Oxford University in England. Now, more than a thousand men have run sub-4-minute miles.
"Is there a 4-minute mile in your life, a barrier you thought difficult to overcome?" Harris asked the graduates.
He advised them to find a support system they can lean on, to learn from failures and move on, to push past discomfort and to learn barriers often are mental, not physical.
Sixty-eight of the 170 seniors graduated with honors, with a GPA of 3.6 or higher, and wore colored ropes to signify three different levels from 3.6 to 4.0. More than 100 graduates have received scholarships of some kind to continue their education.
Six of those were recorgnized for finishing their high school careers with perfect 4.0 GPAs: Sana Cheema, Kelly Koenigsman, Breanne Kruse, Rachel Luedders, Chase Lynd and Wendy Zimmerman.