Pride was motivator for Marion co-valedictorians

Staff writer

Excitement is the word.

Marion High School co-valedictorians Ryan Nelson and Elizabeth Goentzel are excited to graduate May 11, excited one phase of their lives is ending and another is beginning.

They’re excited to go to college — Nelson to the University of Kansas and Goentzel to Fort Hays State University.

They have barely had time to think. Both of them have already pre-enrolled. Nelson has orientation later in May.

In the few moments of reflection they have available, feelings of apprehension have crept in.

In truth, school and learning have been easy for both high school seniors. They are wondering how they will handle college, when the curriculum becomes increasingly complex and specified.

It’s not that Nelson and Goentzel have not worked hard, but, in high school, it was about pride, not survival.

“The state mandates that you go to school,” Nelson said. “You might as well be the best student you can be.”

With dueling 4.0 grade point averages, most of the report cards Nelson and Goentzel have received were all As. They agreed there is a particular pride in that accomplishment. Both of them are more motivated to keep Bs off their respective records.

Goentzel said her greatest moments of school-related anxiety were waiting to find out if she had done enough on a final exam to keep a borderline A.

One example she gave of this happening was in her sophomore chemistry class taught by Bruce Rhodes. Goentzel and Nelson took the class at different times but agreed that it was one of the more difficult classes they encountered.

Rhodes posed one of the most memorable test questions they had experienced: correctly figure the formula for gunpowder. Students failed the question if the substance did not explode.

Goentzel is planning to major in chemistry at FHSU, receiving a scholarship directly tied to pursuing a chemistry degree. She said she has always enjoyed the fantasy of the mad scientist, tinkering with mysterious liquids in a lightening-lit laboratory.

More than anything, she likes the finality involved with science.

“It’s either right or wrong,” she said. “If it’s wrong, you work on it until its right.”

Nelson pointed out that he is almost the exact opposite — reveling in the gray area. He plans to major in visual communications at KU. Visual communications is a broad major, featuring broadcast journalism, advertising, photography, and graphic design. He plans to immerse himself in one of the latter two fields.

He developed an interest in images, and the ways to enhance them after a Jim Versch photography class. One of his favorite pastimes is messing with pictures in Photoshop.

“Putting panda heads on people,” he said.

Although Goentzel and Nelson accept that some culture shock is inevitable, they are much less worried about fitting in at their respective schools.

They said they are excited to meet new people and have new experiences.

 

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