Paving the way for their peers in and out of the classroom are Kylie James and Hayden Gittner, the O’Fallon High School October Students of the Month.
Nothing seems to hold them back from their passions — athletic and academic — as both have been chosen for numerous honors and awards over the years.
Kylie is the OTHS cross country team captain and a soccer star, earning awards through the years.
Hayden has been a disciplined ballet, jazz and tap dancer for over a decade. He’s even been a dedicated youth dance class instructor at Dance Station in O’Fallon for years.
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“I feel very honored to have been chosen as OTHS Student of the Month, and I hope to be a positive role model for the community,” Hayden said.
Kylie said: “I feel honored to be named Student of the Month for our school. There are so many bright, intelligent people at our school that we kinda of work together as a community and help each other prosper.”
Less than a tenth of 1 percent of students who take the ACT earn a top score of 36 — Kylie is in that pool.
In a letter to Kylie recognizing this exceptional achievement, Marten Roorda, ACT Chief Executive Officer, stated, “Your achievement on the ACT is significant and rare. While test scores are just one of multiple criteria that most colleges consider when making admission decisions, your exceptional ACT composite score should prove helpful as you pursue your education and career goals.”
“I participate in Model UN, and I’m actually a lead delegate this year. So we’ll go to competitions, and I get to help the younger students kind of learn about the club and get involved,” Kylie said.
Involved with the Robotics Team since freshman year, Kylie said she loves figuring out how things tick.
Last year, Kylie started First Priority at OTHS. First Priority of America’s vision is “to unite the local body of Christ with a plan of action to influence the school with the gospel” by “educating, training and providing resources for Christian students to legally form clubs and share the gospel with unbelieving students on the public school campus,” according to First Priority’s website.
“It’s a Christian club where we kind of help people feel like they’re involved and, like, they’re not alone at school — that they always have a friend or companion here,” Kylie said.
Testaments to Kylie’s leadership prowess include her participation in Scott Credit Union Youth Advisory Council, United Methodist Church Youth Leadership Team and OTHS Leadership Council.
“Recently, I’ve started a mentorship program between the high-schoolers and incoming freshman where we act as a guidance system and kind of teach them: ‘This is what high school is like, and you don’t have to be afraid, and you’re not alone.’ And we kind of give them support to help build them up,” Kylie said.
Volunteering one of Kylie’s “favorite things to do” through UMC in O’Fallon, she said.
“Just being able to make an impact on the community is a great feeling,” Kylie said.
The born leader was handpicked for the Youth Salute Award recently too. In recent years, she’s been recipient to Spanish Honorable Mention and Spanish Top Student Award, Model United Nations Honorable Delegate Award, Basketball Player of the Month and Runner of the Week.
“One thing I really love about the sports is that it’s such a great team dynamic and that there’s always girls there to, like help support you in whatever you’re doing,” Kylie said.
She went on to say, high school “can get really stressful trying to juggle the sports and the homework.”
“But there’s always girls there to kind of help lift you up and motivate you,” she said.
As a senior, Kylie said she’s stepped into that role, taking the younger students under her wing to guide and support.
Over the summer, Kylie is a part-time lifeguard at the O’Fallon Memorial Pool.
Pushing the boundaries in the national dance community, Hayden is one of only two American men since 2007 to earn the Cecchetti Council of America Professional Advanced VII Certificate.
“It was a so amazing to hear and to know that all my hard work had paid off,” Hayden said.
Established in 1951 as a non-profit educational association, CCA training follows a rigorous, classic method closely scrutinizing the laws of anatomy. It develops all of the fundamental elements required of a dancer such as balance, poise, strength, elevation, elasticity, lightness and grace of movement, according to the Cecchetti organization.
“I have been taking dance classes for over 10 years in a variety of styles and have spent countless hours training in the rigorous, repetition-based Cecchetti Method of Ballet,” Hayden said.
Hayden has been a star in many dance productions, some at McKendree University, like “Arabian Soloist,” “Soldier Doll,” “Alice in Wonderland-White Rabbit,” “Chinese Tea” and “La Boutique Fantasque - Jack-in-the-Box,” he said.
He spent four years engrossed in working through Elementary Certificates I-IV and then two more years progressing through the Professional Elementary V and Professional Intermediate VI Certificates.
“In March of my junior year, after three full years of preparation in practical performance and knowledge of French terminology, I passed my two-hour, solo test, proctored by examiners flown in by the Cecchetti Council of America,” which he said was “exhilarating, but difficult.”
When he’s not on stage, Hayden is molding the next generations of great dancers at Dance Station. He’s worn many hats at the O’Fallon dance school, from student to teacher, even custodian to receptionist.
Hayden said, he is currently rehearsing for “The Nutcracker Suite,” which will be performed Dec. 15-16 at McKendree University in Lebanon.
In the classroom, Hayden excels, too. He recently accomplished National Merit Semifinalist status, which is based on a students’ score on the PSAT Exam. Of the 1.6 million who take the PSAT, only about the top 1 percent earn the rank of semifinalist to continue on in the competition for Merit Scholarships.
He has also been recognized with the Illinois State Board of Education Commendation of Biliteracy in Spanish. Hayden has earned various awards for his participation and success with math team and Model UN. But the list doesn’t end there, as he was honored with a first-place Bridge Build Award at a physics competition last year. During the Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering Sectionals, Hayden took home first place in chemistry, third place in physics, and at WYSE regionals, he placed second in chemistry.
“I’m involved with Model UN, WYSE Team, Future Science Professionals, which I am the president of,” Hayden said.
He also said he is involved in math team, physics team and the mechanical team of robotics.
“My future plans include majoring in either engineering or pre-medicine, and I hope to work with the Engineers Without Borders,” Hayden said.
Hayden’s community service involvement includes work as a Zion Lutheran Church preschool activity leader 18 weeks out of the year; ZLC Confirmation secret sponsor; ZLC usher; and Lutheran Church Missouri Synod National Youth meal preparations for disadvantaged in New Orleans, La.