Fourteen young women who attend Belleville schools will be recognized for their successes during the 2016 Young Women of Achievement Awards on Monday night. The annual awards ceremony is organized by the Rotary Club of Belleville in association with the Belleville News-Democrat.
This year’s keynote speaker is Judge Laura K. Grandy, chief judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Illinois. In 2010, she became the first female judge appointed to the bench in the Southern District of Illinois. And similar to some of Monday night’s honorees, the federal judge is a former metro-east student, a product of Belleville school districts 118 and 201. She’s included on her high school’s “Wall of Fame,” which notes her career in bankruptcy law and one case she argued successfully in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, Kawaauhau v. Geiger.
Grandy shared at least two things from her upcoming speech that she has learned since she graduated from Belleville East in 1976: “surround yourself with good people” and “be thankful.”
Grandy describes this year’s group of recipients as having “diverse” resumes. Students are often involved in different groups and take on more than one extracurricular activity or project. She says she’s happy to see the Young Women of Achievement Awards program take place because it honors women in different categories, including academics, arts, athletics and community service. She hopes it inspires young women to keep doing what they do best.
“On one hand, you want to call them overachievers, but I don’t call it overachieving,” Grandy said. “I think we’re all given these different gifts and overachievers aren’t really overachievers — they’re just using their gift ... These girls are inspiring; they’re natural leaders and the neat thing looking at them is you realize how bright our future is in the hands of these impressive young ladies.”
Grandy’s personal definition of success is “enjoying the journey as much as the destination.” In one piece of advice, Grandy said today’s young women should do the same.
“Appreciate the hard work you put into it and enjoy that work,” she said.
These girls are inspiring, they’re natural leaders and the neat thing looking at them is you realize how bright our future is in the hands of these impressive young ladies.
Judge Laura K. Grandy, chief judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Illinois
The 14 award winners will be recognized during a ceremony at 7 p.m. Monday at Bellecourt Manor in Belleville. Doors open at 6:15 p.m.
The recipients of the 2016 Young Women of Achievement Awards in the academics category are as follows:
▪ Shannon Maitland, Althoff Catholic High School, is valedictorian of her class and was awarded Youth Salute and Illinois State Scholar, along with academic excellence awards in math, science, English, social studies and Spanish during her career at Althoff. Maitland plans to major in biology at the University of Mississippi and pursue a career as an orthopedic surgeon. She is the daughter of Kevin and Dede Maitland of Belleville.
▪ Jessica Tetzner, Belleville East, ranks No. 1 in her class with a 5.0 GPA and achieved an ACT score of 30. Tetzner brings critical thinking to the Scholar Bowl Team, Math Team, Science Olympiad and Robotics Club. She is a student tutor, a member of Student Council, Beta Chi Phi as well as Spanish, Math, Science, English and National Honor Societies. She is the daughter of John and Lenora Tetzner of Swansea.
▪ Madison Langen, Belleville West, excels in many of her honors and Advanced Placement classes, achieving a 5.0 GPA and ranking first in a class of 501. She serves as vice president of the Student Council, a member of the National Honor Society, Girls Learn International, Spanish Club and helped create “Halloread,” where students dress up and read to grade-school students. She is the daughter of Ed and Cyndi Langen of Belleville.
▪ Kara Candler, Governor French Academy, maintains a 4.0 GPA, but at the same time, she completes independent studies in AP Comparative Government and Politics as well as AP Macroeconomics. She participated in the National Institute of American History and Democracy Pre-Collegiate Summer Program in Early American History at the College of William and Mary. Candler is also a member of the Math Team and earned the “Best of Earth Science” award at the Regional Science Fair. She is the daughter of Roy and Carol Candler of Caseyville.
Award winners in the arts category are:
▪ Kendall Butler, Althoff, uses her artistic abilities by working in three-dimensional art, preferring to work with clay. Her artwork has been featured in the SWIC High School Art Show and Art on the Square in Belleville. Although Butler is not planning to pursue an art career, she believes her creative skills allow her to think of new ideas. She plans to obtain a degree in aerospace engineering. Butler is the daughter of Gregg and Margaret Butler of Collinsville.
▪ Emma Butcher, Belleville East, excels in both drama and choir. Butcher was active in six drama productions at East, including lead actress in “Happily Never After.” She is a member of Advanced Mixed and Treble Choir, and she served as alto section leader in Concert Choir. Butcher also ranks No. 1 in a class of 550, earned a 5.0 GPA and achieved an ACT score of 32. She is the daughter of Cole and Jessica Butcher of Swansea.
▪ Bailey Guinn, Belleville West, has been part of her school’s theater program for four years, first earning a role in “These Shining Lives” as a freshman. Guinn went on to play Lady Bracknell in “The Importance of Being Earnest,” Gillian in “To Gillian on her 37th Birthday” and Mrs. Keller in “The Miracle Worker.” In her role as Margie in “Good People,” she was named to the Illinois High School Association’s All-State Drama Cast, a recognition presented to two dozen students in the state. Guinn is the daughter of John and Amanda Guinn of Millstadt.
▪ Caitlin Redman, Governor French Academy, has been involved in many productions as an actress and working behind-the-scenes, serving as stage manager every year. Redman will direct the 2016 production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and will star as Kate in “Taming of the Shrew” this year. She has been a member of the Shakespeare Squadron in St. Louis where she had a lead role in “Merchant of Venice” and “Cleopatra.” Academically, she maintains a 4.0 GPA and is active in the Key Club, prom committee and serves as senior editor of the yearbook. Redman is daughter of Jeff and Larisa Redman of Belleville.
Award winners in the athletics category are:
▪ Rachel Mertens, Althoff, has been a varsity member of the volleyball and basketball teams since her freshman year. Mertens earned All-Conference volleyball honors her sophomore and junior years. During summer workouts, she suffered tears to her knee ligaments and was sidelined for her senior seasons. Despite not being able to play, Mertens continued to support the teams by attending every practice and game. Mertens is one of four valedictorians in her class, and she plans to pursue a degree in physical therapy. She is the daughter of Keith and Phyllis Mertens in Belleville.
▪ Rylan Lopez, Belleville East, has excelled in tennis and soccer during her high school career. Lopez was captain of the varsity tennis and soccer teams and was named First Team All-Conference in tennis the past two years. She won the tennis conference title at the No. 3 singles flight and was sectional champion. Lopez was Second Team All-Conference in soccer. In school, she has earned a 4.4 GPA and is a member of the English, Science and National Honor Societies. She is the daughter of Shelly Lopez of Fairview Heights.
▪ Kayla Juenger, Belleville West, is a member of the varsity volleyball and basketball teams at Belleville West and Crush volleyball team at Southwestern Illinois College. Juenger was named MVP of the Quincy Volleyball Tournament and the Metro-East Classic this year. She was also named First Team All-Conference and was named Team MVP. Juenger is the daughter of Jeff and Kathleen Juenger of Belleville.
Award winners in the community service category are:
▪ Heather Gosebrink, Althoff, has a long history of community service starting in grade school. Gosebrink is active in her church as an altar server and member of the youth group. She serves at the local food pantry, participates with the soup bus and other events as president of the youth group. She also serves as community liaison on the St. Clair County Youth Board, vice president of St. Vincent de Paul and a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Gosebrink volunteers with the Memorial Hospital Auxiliary as well as the Rotary Interact Club at the Don Bosco Center. She is the daughter of Frederick and Janine Gosebrink of Shiloh.
▪ Alyssa Bartle, Belleville East, earned a 4.55 GPA while volunteering with many school and community groups. Bartle volunteers with the BASIC Initiative, St. Clair County Youth Board and Teen Court, St. Vincent de Paul, Octagon Club and Big Brothers Big Sisters. She also volunteers for St. Teresa’s Art Club, Project ARK and East’s clean-up day. In addition to being a member of the English, Science and National Honor Societies, Bartle was named an Illinois State Scholar and received the Scholar Athlete Award, Citizenship Award and the Lancer Medallion Award. She is the daughter of Mark and Allison Bartle of Swansea.
▪ Victoria Cheffer, Belleville West, is president of the National Honor Society and is one of the best in her class academically. Outside of the classroom, Cheffer has served the community by volunteering at Mind’s Eye Blind radio, reading more than 30 hours to people who are blind. Working with the Belleville Khoury League, Cheffer organized uniforms for 650 children and secured sponsors to fund the baseball league. She has also volunteered her time recruiting blood donors for Mississippi Valley and building a home for a family in Juarez, Mexico, after fundraising for Casa Por Cristo. She is the daughter of Todd and Elizabeth Cheffer of Belleville.