Meet the 2021 Academic All-Star finalists | News, Sports, Jobs

Meet the 2021 Academic All-Star finalists | News, Sports, Jobs


Every year since 1997, the Journal-World has invited administrators and counselors from public and private high schools in the Lawrence area to nominate their most outstanding seniors for the Journal-World’s Academic All-Star team.

As in previous years, a panel of three judges reviewed applications for the award and $500 scholarship. The top 12 All-Stars were chosen based on their strong academics, extracurricular involvement and essays. The honor is meant to recognize some of the most promising area high school seniors.

This year, Audrey Nguyen-Hoang of Bishop Seabury Academy was selected as the winner. Here are the 11 runners-up for the class of 2021, along with some accomplishments, aspirations and items of note, as taken from their application materials.

Morgan Brusven

Morgan Brusven, 2021 Academic All-Star finalist

School: Tonganoxie High School

Parents: Amelia and Jeff Brusven

Highlighted accomplishments: Family, Career and Community Leaders of America national qualifier for 2019 and 2020; National Honor Society recipient, 2019-2021; Second Team All-State for golf in 2019 and 2020; Kansas Honor Scholar, 2020-2021.

Aspirations: Brusven plans to attend the University of St. Andrews in Scotland to study biology. Later she plans to attend medical school.

Of note: Brusven said a knee injury she sustained when she was a sophomore in high school was one of the most important moments of her life. While she believes many would rather forget such an injury, she said the mental, physical and emotional challenges she ultimately overcame made her more confident in her abilities.

“No one can tell me what I can and cannot do, because I believe in myself,” Brusven wrote in her application. “This was a life-changing experience because it taught me that my dreams are never too big and that if I keep pushing I will achieve them.”

Spencer Burmingham

Spencer Birmingham, 2021 Academic All-Star finalist

School: Veritas Christian School

Parents: Dea and Larry Burmingham

Highlighted accomplishments: Second degree blackbelt in Taekwondo; participated in Midwest Christian School’s Academic and Fine Arts Festival for written works the last three years, receiving superior scores each year; earned leadership scholarship from the University of Arkansas.

Aspirations: Burmingham wants to study at the Walton Business School at the University of Arkansas. He said he hopes to eventually lead teams in either sales or management.

Of note: Burmingham said in his application that during his high school career, he had wanted to focus on learning how to be a good leader. He said he believes leadership can be found in larger or small groups and in all aspects of life. Through his participation in football, Burmingham said he found ways to become a leader, even during his junior season when he was out because of an injury.

“Leading is not simply taking a position of authority, but rather taking the responsibility to enact change and growth among the people one has been tasked to lead,” he said.

Lyle Griggs

Lyle Griggs, 2021 Academic All-Star finalist

School: Bishop Seabury Academy

Parents: Emily Hill and Burke Griggs

Highlighted accomplishments: Founder and president of Bishop Seabury’s Academic WorldQuest Club, which qualified for nationals this summer; competed in policy debate and qualified for the state debate tournament each year of high school; showed poultry competitively in six states; received several awards related to leadership and academics.

Aspirations: Plans to study history, environmental studies or ethics, politics and economics at Yale University. After earning a bachelor’s degree, he said he plans to attend law school and hopes to work in either state or federal government.

Of note: Raising and showing poultry competitively is a central part of Griggs identity, raising many different varieties, he said in his application. This past year, he said he raised homing pigeons, but almost all of them were killed by a racoon. He said he was crushed by the loss, but that was just one of the several setbacks he had experienced raising poultry, and he began rebuilding his flock.

“My years of keeping and breeding poultry have certainly taught me the value of resilience. Until my recent pigeon experiment, however, the birds themselves had never been my teachers,” Griggs said. “Now, amid the current chaos, I draw inspiration from my one remaining homing pigeon. When changes leave me disoriented, I know what to do: I circle a few times, get my bearings, and fly.”

Addison Hinterweger

Addison Hinterweger, 2021 Academic All-Star finalist

School: Santa Fe Trail High School

Parents: Lisa and Michael Hinterweger

Highlighted accomplishments: Santa Fe Trail High School’s 2021 class valedictorian; 2021 Kansas Governor’s Scholar Award; National Honor Society, 2019-2021

Aspirations: Hinterweger plans to study political science at Kansas State University. She said she has been inspired by recent elections to consider running for political office in the future with a goal to help unify the nation.

Of note: Hinterweger said in her application that the most important person in her life is her mother, who has always pushed her to be successful while also being aware of her limits.

Despite struggling with anxiety and depression, Hinterweger said she has been able to relate to her and understand her emotions. She said she also admires her mother’s work ethic, noting she often worked late into the night to complete a project.

“She never once thought to quit midway through, as she is not one to give up,” Hinterweger said. “My mom is my role model because she has an amazing work ethic.”

Jacob Hofman

Jacob Hofman, 2021 Academic All-Star finalist

School: Baldwin High School

Parents: Jeannette Blackmar and Jack Hofman

Highlighted accomplishments: Participated in National Honor Society, named to High Honor Roll three straight years, and earned several scholarships

Aspirations: Hofman plans to study education and political science in college. At the time of application, Hofman had not yet decided where to attend college, but said he was leaning toward Kansas State University. After college, he said he wants to teach a U.S. government course in high school and possibly run for political office.

Of note: Hofman said he looks up to both of his parents, who have supported him and believed in him to accomplish whatever he puts his mind to. Without their support, he said he wouldn’t know what to do with himself.

“All in all, I have been very lucky with who I am surrounded by, day by day,” Hofman said in his application. “If they weren’t there, I do not think I would be the person I am today. I am beyond thankful for my parents, and I hope I can be the person they want me to be.”

Joseph Leuschen

Joseph Leuschen, 2021 Academic All-Star finalist

School: Lawrence High School

Parents: Marci and Carl Leuschen

Highlighted accomplishments: Named a National Merit Finalist, an AP Scholar with Distinction, and received Lawrence High Academic Excellence award

Aspirations: Leuschen plans to study biomedical engineering or computer science in college. At time of application, Leuschen had not yet decided on where he would attend college, but had applied to more than 10 prestigious universities, including Duke University, Northwestern, Harvard and others.

Of note: Leuschen said in his application he feels fortunate to have grown up in Lawrence because of the town’s “spunk and eccentricities” and famous college basketball team. He said the town also provided him with a diverse group of friends and peers who have helped him learn of other customs, religions and cultures.

“My life and experiences in Lawrence have crafted my overall character promoting senses of culture, education, and a passion for basketball,” Leuschen said. “As I transition to the next chapter in my life and move away from the community I have called home for over 10 years, I hope to identify a new set of variables that define my life and experience.”

Kaylie Reese

Kaylie Reese, 2021 Academic All-Star finalist

School: Wellsville High School

Parents: Jackie and Jake Bauer

Highlighted accomplishments: Earned Association for Career and Technical Education’s 2020 Outstanding Business Education Student of the Year award, named Wellsville High School’s Heisman Scholarship winner, participated in Future Business Leaders of America.

Aspirations: Reese plans to study business at Baker University, where she will play on the women’s golf team.

Of note: Reese said in her application she thinks one of her unique qualities is her driven nature to succeed, whether that’s in the classroom or on the golf course. She said she also strives to be as responsible as possible.

“I have never been one to be reckless, but instead, I take things into careful consideration before making decisions or actions,” Reese said. “The adults in my life have been very grateful for this quality because I am always on top of things.”

Hailey Robinson

Hailey Robinson, 2021 Academic All-Star finalist

School: Bonner Springs High School

Parents: Teresa and Michael Robinson

Highlighted accomplishments: Bonner Springs 2021 Valedictorian, participated in National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, and National Spanish Honor Society; earned a Kansas Certified Nursing Assistant license in 2020.

Aspirations: Robinson plans to study nursing at Kansas City Kansas Community College, where she has already started taking classes while still in high school. She plans to become a registered nurse and wants to eventually serve as an emergency travel nurse.

Of note: Robinson said in her application that her mother is the most meaningful person in her life. She said her mother helped her find who she really is as a person, and she strives to be studious, opinionated, outgoing, helpful and kind.

She said seeing her mother give “150%” helped her achieve her goal to become a CNA.

“All of these characteristics are what my mom shows and more,” Robinson said. “I strive to be like her in every way possible, especially in her work ethic.”

Grace Schieferecke

Grace Schieferecke, 2021 Academic All-Star finalist

School: Eudora High School

Parents: Linda and Mark Schieferecke

Highlighted accomplishments: Named 2021 Kansas Honor Scholar, 2020 National Merit Commended Scholar, 2020 Frontier Scholars Bowl champion, earned many Science Olympiad awards.

Aspirations: Plans to study biology or biochemistry at either Kansas State University or Benedictine College. She plans to eventually work in medical research.

Of note: Schieferecke said in her application that she enjoys learning how things work and finding solutions to complex problems. She said she believes she needs to use these skills to help others and make the world a better place.

“I believe it is my obligation to give my time and talents to help people who have not had my same privileges,” Schieferecke said. “By combining these elements, I hope to use my gift of problem solving to help those suffering through untreatable or incurable illness.”

Joe Ward

Joe Ward, 2021 Academic All-Star finalist

School: Perry-Lecompton High School

Parents: Lynn and Darrel Ward

Highlighted accomplishments: Named National Merit Commended Scholar and Rural and Small Town Recognized Scholar; participated in National Honor Society, took second place in State Scholars Bowl and fourth place in State Debate; on track to become an Eagle Scout.

Aspirations: Ward plans to study molecular biology at the University of Kansas.

Of note: Ward said his best friend Jack has been the most influential person in his life over the last 11 years, noting he either introduced him to his favorite hobbies or encouraged him.

“My humor and personality has changed over the years, but it always seems to happen in tandem with Jack’s changes,” Ward said. “I would be an entirely different person had I never met him, and I am extremely thankful for him.”

Brennen Wolfe

Brennen Wolfe, 2021 Academic All-Star finalist

School: McLouth High School

Parents: Becky and Dean Wolfe

Highlighted accomplishments: Named to school’s gold honor roll all for years of high school and participated in FFA.

Aspirations: Wolfe plans to get an apprenticeship to become a commercial electrician.

Of note: Wolfe said in his application that the most important moment of his life was when he was named president of his FFA chapter.

“This leadership position really taught me how to be a better leader and how to be comfortable talking in front of crowds,” he said.

Dingding Ye

DingDing Ye, 2021 Academic All-Star finalist

School: Free State High School

Parents: Chenglan Ding and Qiang Ye

Highlighted accomplishments: Named National Merit Finalist, U.S Presidential Scholars Program candidate and AP Scholar with Distinction; All-State violist and two-time winner of the statewide piano honors competition; participated in National Honor Society

Aspirations: Ye plans to study electrical or mechanical engineering, but was undecided on where to attend college.

Of note: Ye said music is a creative passion of hers and she has experienced and felt the many different stories classical music composers have created through their music. She said this led her to become interested in the technical and theoretical aspects of music.

She said she began to experiment with the use of microtonal scales in music, which are notes played in between the intervals of standard classical music. Despite some finding the use of microtones “weird” or “wrong,” she said she finds them “no less beautiful melodically or mathematically.”

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