Class of 2019 has three valedictorians, one salutatorian

Posted May 16, 2019 at 5:46 pm

j A-W Autumn Stowe Aaron Hartman Jennifer Ritz Brooke Koele.tif

By Julie Ann Madden

Akron-Westfield’s Class of 2019 has 40 graduates, including two juniors, Isabelle Fegley and Donovan Irizarry.

The class is short on girls — only one-third of the class is female — most class photos have two rows of boys with a row of girls in front.

There are 40 unique personalities, according to the class’ three valedictorians and one salutatorian.

Another interesting fact is the class has three sets of twins: Josh and Jeremiah Armstrong, Autumn and Chase Stowe, and Jennifer and Sarah Ritz. Jeremiah completed his high school studies through home-schooling.

The Class of 2019 is also the first to have a student graduate from Western Iowa Tech Community College with two associates degrees before graduating high school. Autumn makes A-W history achieving this fact.

Having three valedictorians after the district’s grading scale was changed at the beginning of 2017-2018 school year may be a rarity, too.

Current salutatorian Aaron Hartman, whose Grade Point Average is 3.937, told The Akron Hometowner he would have been the class’ fourth valedictorian if the grading scale hadn’t changed.

“I think we should have been grandfathered into this scale,” said Valedictorian Autumn Stowe.

“It’s too late now,” said Aaron, who received three “A-” grades. “Life goes on. Can’t do anything.”

“We’re pretty close,” said Jennifer.

“Everyone is hardworking — almost everyone has a job,” said Autumn.

All four knew they wanted to be valedictorians before they started high school.

Autumn knew since she was little.

“It’s kind of been my goal since eighth grade,” said Jennifer Ritz.

“I like to beat my sisters at things,” said Brooke Koele, “and they aren’t valedictorians.”

Their hardest classes were Kent Johnson’s Government and Economics courses and Ellen Gant’s Physics.

Brooke and Autumn enjoyed Kim Meerdink’s Chemistry class the most while Aaron said “all” Mike Baker’s mathematics classes and Jennifer listed Chemistry, Advanced English, and Kent Johnson’s Sociology.

Parents and family members topped their list of credits for their academic success.

“Teachers,” came in a close second for these scholars.

“At bigger schools, students don’t have the one-on-one time,” said Brooke. “Here all the teachers are willing to help.”

“I don’t think there’s a single (A-W) teacher that if you walked into their room and said, ‘I need help,’ they’d just tell you to go away. They want to see you do your best.”

Being involved in all of A-W’s extracurricular activities and the community’s activities are what they enjoyed most about high school.

Brooke added, “Getting to know upperclassmen when we were younger, and now getting to know underclassmen.”

“The opportunity to be involved in everything because not everyone gets a shot to do that,” said Aaron. “You’ve got to make the most of what you’ve got.”

“Being so involved in school — and we really do have a great community, it’s been nice,” said Autumn. “There are a lot of people in (the A-W community) who feel like family.”

“Being involved in activities makes it easier to get good grades,” said Jennifer. “I’m more motivated when I’m in stuff than when I’m not.”

The other three agreed.

“It also teaches you time management,” said Brooke.

Aaron was involved in Student Council, National Honor Society, FFA, Choir, baseball, football, basketball, both Individual Events and Large Group Speech, and the school play. He also participated in track two years and golf one year. He is a member of the Westfield Congregational United Church of Christ and works for the City of Akron and his family’s Hartman Farms. He plans to attend Des Moines Area Community College to complete General Studies, then transfer to South Dakota State University in Brookings, S.D., where he will study Animal Science, Pre-Veterinary.

Autumn was involved in Student Council, National Honor Society, FFA, Large Group Speech, and mentored National History Day students all four years of high school. In addition, she participated in Individual Events Speech for three years and track one year. Autumn works at Akron Care Center and is a member of Westfield Congregational United Church of Christ. She will be attending University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, studying Biochemistry and Psychology on the path to become a doctor.

Brooke competed in Volleyball, Basketball and Golf and sang in Choir. She is a member of Trinity Lutheran Church. Brooke works at Hummers Roadhouse and Akron Golf Course. This fall she will begin studying Early Childhood Education and Special Education at South Dakota State University in Brookings.

Jennifer participated in Student Council, National Honor Society, Dance, Cheerleading, Large Group Speech, Track and 4-H. She also participated in the Band’s percussion section three years and Volleyball one year. Jennifer is a member of St. Joseph’s – Ellendale Catholic Church where she is an altar server. She is employed at Akron Care Center. Jennifer will be studying Biology – pre-Physician’s Assistant at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Neb.

“Actually try — just don’t go through it just to go through it,” said Aaron as advice to underclassmen.

“Don’t wing it,” said Brooke. “Actually study for tests because it will help.”

“You get out of it what you put into it,” said Autumn.

“Grades do matter,” said Jennifer. “They make a big difference when trying to get into college.”

“And what scholarships you get,” added Autumn.

“Colleges always look at your transcripts,” said Aaron.

“Enjoy it while it lasts,” added Aaron.

“Get involved,” said Brooke.

“Try to be involved as much as possible and try to meet a lot of new people,” said Jennifer, “because it goes by faster than you think.”

“Stay in school,” said Autumn.

Each says “Thank You” to the A-W community members.

“Thank you for giving us so many opportunities to get involved and help others,” said Jennifer.

“Thank you for always being there to support us in extracurricular activities,” said Brooke, noting many come to students’ events. “It’s nice to know people support us.”

“Thank you for always being so friendly and wanting us to do well,” said Autumn.

“Thank you for taking time out of your life to be part of my life,” said Aaron. “It’s time you can never get back.”

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