Gauerke, Briquelet, Podgorny top grads
The hope is that the Valedictorian and Salutatorian of the graduating class will be well-rounded individuals who have successfully navigated challenging academic coursework and engaged in multiple opportunities to give back to their school and community.
Iola-Scandinavia High School Principal Sara Anderson feels that Abigail Briquelet, Angela Gauerke and Brooklyn Podgorny are outstanding representatives of just that.
“Not only have they all worked hard to achieve high levels of academic success but they have also been very involved in school and community events,” Anderson said. “Whether leading a National Honor Society or Student Council fundraising event or participating in athletics and the musical, all three of these young ladies have demonstrated their commitment to being positive role-models and their willingness to serve.”
Gauerke and Briquelet will serve as Co-Valedictorians, while Podgorny will be Salutatorian for the Iola-Scandinavia graduating class of 2017.
Angela, the daughter of Tom and Gwendolyn Gauerke, believes that her hard work and mindset got her here.
“For me, it was about putting forth my best effort and seeing where that would take me,” she said. “I am honored that my hard work has led me to this spot.”
According to Gauerke, she has spent countless hours making flashcards, studying and researching.
“Nobody likes doing homework over the weekend or over a long break and sometimes it seems impossible to keep doing that,” she said. “That’s where a positive mindset about the future comes in. I thought that by doing my best and putting the time and effort in now, I would get where I needed to be.”
She gives credit to her mom, and sister Natalie, for being the two people who have been most influential in my academic life.
“My older sister Natalie has been one of the most influential person in my academic life,” Gauerke said. “She was valedictorian when she graduated high school and she has always been a role model to me. That was in the back of my mind. She was the one who always encouraged me to do it, and to do it well.”
While her mom served as her biggest cheerleader.
“She was always motivating and encouraging me,” Gauerke said. “Every day before I would head off to school, she would tell me to do my best. I now realize what a difference that made. I am so very thankful that these two people are in my life.”
Gauerke plans to attend the UW-LaCrosse in the fall, where she is considering majoring in Business Administration.
“I have really enjoyed all the math courses I’ve taken in high school, but I don’t think that a math major is the thing for me,” she said. “I figure that something in the business world will allow me to work with some numbers while providing a service to others.”
She admits she is a little nervous moving forward.
“I am so excited to meet new people and be in a completely different environment, but at the same time that is what scares me,” she said. “I’ve only known Iola and La Crosse is going to be a whole new experience for me.”
She offers this advice to underclassmen.
“High school may seem like the worst four years of your life,” she said. “If you do the best you can, your future will be that much brighter.”
Gaurke will share the honor of Valedictorian with Abigail Briquelet.
“I feel extremely excited to be sharing this honor with my fellow classmate, and dear friend, Abigail Briquelet,” she said. “Throughout high school, we have pushed each other. Now, we can both look back at our years of hard work and smile, knowing that we’ve made it together.”
For Abigail Briquelet, being valedictorian means an end to an era of incredibly hard work.
“It means being able to inspire others to work hard,” she said. “It proves to myself that I am capable of achieving my goals, no matter how unattainable they appear.”
According to her, as soon as she got started high school she strived to be valedictorian.
“I didn’t know what all it would take, but I felt I owed it to myself to at least try,” she said.
“Over the past four years it was that initial goal that I set that has continued to propel me forth.”
The daughter of Kathy and Chris Briquelet, she plans to attend UW-Madison in the fall, with the intent of then going on to law school.
“My major is currently undeclared, but I am looking at pursuing a degree in either political science, environmental studies, psychology or cconomics,” she said. “I chose this path so that I may advocate for those that don’t have a voice.”
With a law degree she hopes to practice either environmental or civil rights law.
“Through the many opportunities that I have had, I have seen the problems that our world as a whole faces,” she said. “I feel that by going into one of these fields I will be able to, no matter how small, negate the amount of pain that is felt throughout the world today.”
Moving forward she is excited to see what impact she will have.
“I am nervous about the unknowns the future holds,” she said. “But I cannot wait to see the people that I will meet and the places throughout the world I will get to see.”
Going on from Iola-Scandinavia she will never forget the importance of hard work and empathy.
“It is these things that have built the person that I am, and the education that I have received, and to abandon them would be to abandon what has defined me,” she said. “Without a doubt I will miss the people that I have spent the last four years with. They have all contributed significantly to my experience in this place, and to no longer see many of them will be a great loss.”
She couldn’t be happier to share the role of Valedictorian with classmate Angela Gauerke.
“I believe that by having multiple valedictorians we are sending a message to all the younger students that being valedictorian is possible, that hard work really does have rewards,” she said.
“To finish off my high school career with somebody that has been so instrumental in my success, who has been through the ups and downs, makes the experience even more gratifying.”
Brooklyn Podgorny, daughter of Michael and Destiny Podgorny, says she was surprised to learn that she was the Salutatorian.
“To be completely honest, I was not expecting this at all,” she said. “At the beginning of senior year when I found out I was ranked third in my class I was pretty surprised. It has always been important to me to try my hardest to get A’s, but I never thought that it was bring me to this.”
Podgorny recalled a time last year when her parents questioned why she was always working on homework.
“They would always say, ‘Brooklyn, how can you possibly have so much homework?’” she said. “It wasn’t that I had a lot of homework all the time, it was that I always wanted to do the best that I could so it took me a long time.”
She plans on attending UW-Stevens Point in the fall where she will major in early childhood education.
“I chose UWSP because I am one who likes to stay close to home,” she said. “I chose early childhood education because I have always loved working with kids.”
Though she is excited about what the future holds, she too is a little nervous moving forward.
“I am most excited about meeting new people,” she said. “I am scared to see how the workload is in college. I hope my high school teachers prepared me enough.”
Podgorny credits I-S High School language arts teacher Terrell Bonnell for being the one person that has influenced her the most.
“I have had her since I was a sophomore and she has always pushed me to be the best I can be,” she said. “Speech wasn’t easy, but she always kept pushing and helping me.”
She is going to miss the teachers at Iola-Scandinavia the most.
“As much as some of teachers make me mad, I really am going to miss them,” she said. “Just the way I interact with some of my teachers is going to be hard not having in college.”