Over coming the odds with courage and dignity
● By Katelyn Nelson
Nicole Nielson (left) and Gertrude Segbee (right)
The Tri-Cities Exchange Club A.C.E (Accepting the Challenge of Excellence) Award provides recognition to special high school seniors who have shows outstanding determination and perseverance throughout their high school careers. Each has overcome some obstacle–physical, emotional or social to reach his or her graduation goals.
Frequently these student’s achievements are overlooked when graduation awards are given. The A.C.E. Award is unique in that it rewards the student for his or her efforts in school, not necessarily their class standing.
A.C.E Award winners for 2015 include Wal Khat, Gertrude Segbee and Akim Nyang from Mooseheart School. Wal is from a small village in South Sudan. He has been in the United States for about three and a half years. He will be the first person in his family to graduate high school and plans to attend the University of Wisconsin. He wants to become a pilot and return to his home country to help make it a better place to live.
Gertrude is from Monrovia, Liberia in West Africa where she experienced many health and safety issues. She came to the U.S. in 2009 and has been attending Mooseheart for four years. Her life has changed and she now enjoys her life at Mooseheart.
AkimNyang grew up in South Sudan and came to the U.S. in 2011. He began a new life with the “Mooseheart family” and is very grateful for the chance he has been given there.
Amanda Fraze from St. Charles East High School was struggling in her classes and had developed a hostile attitude to her teachers. She experienced a great amount of personal loss during her high school years. Amanda turned her life around and began to confront her fears. Her grades improved along with her attitude. She was given a fresh start and ran with it.
Nicole Nielson, Katie DiFiglio and Catharine Steiner are the winners from St. Charles North High School. Nicole was involved in a horrible traffic accident that nearly took her life. She persevered and never gave up during her recovery process and was able to return back to where she was prior to the accident. She had the words, “Never back down from a challenge that seems too mighty” embroidered on her taekwondo black belt in sixth grade and held onto those words throughout her recovery.
Katie DiFiglio is an excellent student who stands out in her classes. She is enrolled in the Basic Nursing Assistant program. Her exemplary attitude, hard work and determination has allowed her to excel in her goals.
Catharine has coped all her life with a debilitating genetic disorder, recessive dystrophic epidermolysis that causes blistering of the skin due to friction or trauma. Despite her disorder she graduated with a B+ average and plans to attend Elgin Community College and pursue a degree in Computer & Information Services.
Christina Karius and Leo Deitrick are the Batavia High School winners. Christina is a shining star despite the physical and emotional struggles that she faces on a daily basis due to chronic alopecia areata. She possesses a genuine drive to learn and persistence.
Leo grew up in an unstable home and became the head of the house at eleven. In his junior year he wound up homeless with his father and moved in with his aunt and uncle. He got a job and received two raises in three months. He works hard and wishes to be fully self-sufficient. He was enrolled in the Fire Science program through Batavia High School and always looks to find solutions to his problems.
Kyle Bertaux and Sam Traxler are the Geneva High School winners Kyle suffered with depression during high school and grew up in an unstable home. He plays tennis and enjoys psychology. He will be attending Waubonsee Community College and hopes to join the F.B.I. one day.
Sam excels academically and personally despite his diagnosis
of Autism. He was involved in Anime Club, International Club, Television
Productions, Karate and Chess Club. He has been accepted to several local
universities and hopes to pursue a career related to computers.
Alex Miranda and Bradley Flint are the MadesJohnstone Center winners. Both of them excel academically and have overcome great obstacles in their lives.