WHS recognizes high honors students


Whitewater High School student Ali Ketterhagen receives recognition for being a high honors student during the school’s annual high honors banquet. (Tom Ganser photo)

Keynote speaker gives tips for the future

By Tom Ganser


Keynote speaker Holly Humphrey encouraged students to dream high and be willing to learn about what they are not aware of in her speech at the third annual Whitewater High School High Honors Reception.

The High School hosted the April 26 event to celebrate the academic achievements of students.

Humphrey attributed the students’ high GPA to being either gifted with genetic materials from parents and early exposure to brain stimulation, and perhaps many early reading experiences and social interaction.                   She said it could be a combination of those factors and exceptional hard work and work ethic.

“Where we get in life, is largely the result of that work ethic. . . . So whether you were born with the right genetic material or whether you have a work ethic that is already being developed and developing wonderful habits that will serve you well over the course of your lifetime, the thing that matters for you going forward is that the work ethic ultimately aligns with your passions and with your opportunity to make an impact in this world,” Humphrey said.

Humphrey, a 1975 WHS graduate, grew up on a dairy farm on Highway 59 between Whitewater and Milton.

As the Ralph W. Gerard pofessor in medicine and dean for medical education at the University of Chicago, Humphrey oversees medical education for students in the Pritzker School of Medicine and for residents. She also oversees fellows in graduate medical education programs at The University of Chicago Medical Center. She joined The University of Chicago faculty in 1989, becoming the first clinical-educator to be awarded tenure.

Humphrey attended the First United Methodist Church in Whitewater, noting that her great-grandfather had helped lay the cornerstone for the church.

“Little did I know when I was a young girl sitting in the pew that I was beginning the process of nurturing my soul which is in fact probably the single most important quality that I take to my patient experiences today,” she said.

While attending high school in what is now Whitewater Middle School, Humphrey found herself surrounded by kids from the city, books, and “amazing” faculty.

“It’s fair to say that my intellectual development skyrocketed,” Humphrey said.

She also described as an “incredible privilege,” playing a flute, purchased by her father thanks to the sale of a cow, in the WHS band. After calculating that the unlikely probability of making it into a major orchestra, Humphrey admitted that she had to “pivot” to Plan B.

“Always be open to Plan B,” Humphrey said. “Dream big. Be ready to pivot, but dream big. There really is nothing out of your reach. There are a lot of challenges, and I do not diminish those for a moment, but dream big.”

Acknowledging that it is important to pay attention to GPA and not take it for granted, Humphrey also urged the students to consider learning about things that they are unaware of, and to take advantage of opportunities to better understand and learn from the diversity around them.

“It turns out that today, that’s the most important thing that I do because my patients come from all walks of life,” Humphrey said. “Learn how to fail, because the key to your success will be how you recover from failure.”

“I want to encourage you to cultivate your soul (and to) develop an anchor,” Humphrey said. “The beginning of developing that anchor that happened as I sat in the pew of the United Methodist Church turns out to be really important.”

Community of care

Humphrey shared a Facebook post following the April 7 soft lockdown of the schools due to the appearance of a man near the middle school carrying a gun.

The post began “This community cares and we are so honored to live here,” and described how so many people had come together to support one another, and especially teachers, law enforcement personnel, and others directly involved in the situation.

“That’s the Whitewater I remember,” Humphrey said. “This is the community that planted those seeds in me and that reaped a benefit that goes way beyond me to the patients and families whom I’ve had the privilege of caring for over my years as a physician.”

Humphrey invited questions from the audience, including one that sought her advice on what students who may be interested in enrolling in professional/advance degree programs, including medicine, should focus on, beyond GPA.

“Develop good habits for life, including good study habits. Those habits, when they’re good, will very often lead to learning for the sake of learning which is what fuels me today,” Humphrey said.

Humphrey also recommended developing great habits for sleeping, exercise, and eating healthy.

“Believe it or not,” she observed, “those are the kinds of things that trip people up,” she said.

“Find good teachers. Find good peers,” Humphrey added. “Learn from one another. Those experiences both in the classroom and outside of the classroom are fundamentally important.”

Humphrey told the students to then apply what they learn in service to their community.

“That is what this is all about, because we’re on this earth not for ourselves, not to live our life for our own personal satisfaction, but to make an impact bigger than us, broader than us,” she said.

Principal Doug Parker began by telling the audience that the academic quest formally begins in kindergarten, but never truly ends, which was partly why everyone was gathered in the auditorium that evening.

“I share this with you to highlight how our school community supports our learners, and to thank you, the parents, for making education such an important part of your students’ lives,” Parker said during the April 26 event.

The event recognized 159 students whose cumulative grade-point average through the fall 2016 semester was 3.5 or higher. The 159 total represented 28.1 percent of the 565 students enrolled at the high school, and included 42 students with a perfect GPA of 4.0. Parker noted that more than 100 of the 159 “high honors” students were present.

Parker said there have been 14 National Merit Scholars in the history of the high school and that four current students are still in the running for the awarding of a National Merit Scholarship next year.


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