Top students celebrate teachers’ impact

The Culver Chamber of Commerce and Kiwanis Club’s annual Top Ten awards banquet marked its 19th year in gala fashion last Tuesday evening at the Pretty Lake United Methodist Church banquet center. As in years past, the top ten graduating seniors from Culver Community High School were not only recognized themselves, but given an opportunity to laud the teachers most influential on their scholastic careers and success, alongside a veritable feast prepared by the ladies of the church.
Noting the event was one of his favorite evenings of the year, CCHS Principal Albert Hanselman also recognized the parents of the students, besides thanking event coordinator (and CCHS teacher) Donna Schwartz and the school’s office staff.
Bennett honors Stevens
Student Blake Bennett, son of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Bennett, took the podium first. A participant in the school’s Business Professionals of America (BPA), CAVS service club, cross country, soccer, and track program, Bennett plans to attend the Purdue School of Technology in South Bend and major in Engineering.
Bennett described his honored teacher, Spanish instructor Chris Stevens, as “always...encouraging to me to get me to do better, not just in his class...but in every class I’ve had.”
He said he’s taken Stevens’ advice to work harder to live up to his potential in recent years, and “it’s paid off.”
During his remarks, Stevens described Blake as working “smarter, not harder.
“He’s always been very respectful and even tempered,” Stevens continued, noting Bennett often earned ‘A’s without taking his book home and predicting success for him in his college career.
VanDePutte honors Browder
Kyle VanDePutte, son of Mr. and Mrs. Ken VanDePutte, participated at the school in band, basketball, and golf, and was a Boys’ State delegate who plans to attend Indiana University South Bend and major in Business.
Honoring math teacher John Browder, whom he said he had in 7th grade and for whom he was a Teacher’s Assistant as a junior, VanDePutte said Browder “influenced me to be more responsible and take pride in my work. Mr. Browder quickly shows you there are consequences for your actions, whether good or bad.”
VanDePutte also explained Browder taught both his parents, uncles on each side, and both of his own siblings. “I was scared after all the stories I heard (about him)! But if you do your work his way and are on time, you’ll be alright. The lessons he taught me in 7trh grade went a long way towards making me a successful student.”
For his part, Browder congratulated VanDePutte and his family, describing the senior as a hard worker.
“I see him at every basketball game working for Mr. Elliott and Mr. Berendt, and every day at the middle school doing chores. I see him every Saturday at Park N Shop, and he says ‘Hi,’ and goes about his work...with your work ethic, you’ll do just fine.”
Maes honors Stacy
Senior Mark Maes, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Mark Maes, took part in the Academic Super Bowl, National Junior Honor Society, band, BPA, was a Boys’ State delegate, part of Cavalcade, a cheerleader and member of the chorus, class officer, part of the CYCO service group, a member of the French and Science Clubs, and played basketball, baseball, soccer, and ran track. He plans to attend Ball State University and major in Business and Communications.
Noting he’s been heavily involved in Student Council all four years of his high school career, Maes said his honored teacher, English instructor Tina Stacy, “has taught me more than I’ll ever remember.”
As Vice President his junior year and then President his senior of the Council, Maes said Stacy helped him develop leadership and people skills, and to realize “there are some things I can’t control, some things I need to delegate, and some things just need to be dropped.”
Maes described leading the Make-A-Wish fundraisers of the past two years, organizing homecoming parades, taking part in gift-buying and a Christmas party for Culver’s two Make-A-Wish children, a semester on the yearbook staff, and other activities, praising the life lessons Stacy imparted during these endeavors.
“I’d love nothing more than to take credit for this outstanding young man,” said Stacy, “but all I can do is thank him for letting me be part of his life for a time..Mark is truly one of greatest kids I know.
“I’ve not seen a more kind and compassionate kid who works for others and asks nothing in return.”
Measels honors Arquette
The son of Mr. and Mrs. Brian Hammond, Colton Measels has been part of CCHS’ Art Club, band, BPA, Caval Crier, CAVS Club, drama and fencing clubs, a class officer, Student Council, and has run in cross country and track. He plans to attend Ball State with an undecided major.
Measels said he’s had CCHS teacher Peggy Arquette for “an array of things,” including various classes and interactions with her as a coach.
“She keeps you entertained,” he said. “As a coach for track -- although she was the girls’ track coach -- she was there for everyone, cheering everyone on and saying we did a good job.”
Measels complimented Arquette’s demeanor, which he said was uncomplaining and smiling even as she had to become “a nurse” for her ill husband. “She’s always happy and smiling, and nice and sincere to everyone who walks past her.”
Arquette told the audience one of the most rewarding things she’s experienced is “knowing I made a difference in someone’s life -- it’s like winning the lottery (and) it helps you get through the bad times in life.”
She described Measels as an active student with “true grit,” adding he’s held a job for years and possesses a caring character.
“He’s respectful and helpful to the less fortunate...He lost his father in 5th grade. Today your father would be very proud of your many accomplishments and the man you’ve become. I know he’s watching,” she said.
Banfield honors Sheldon
Nicolette Banfield, daughter of Brett Banfield and the late Christina Diaz, kept busy as part of BPA, Cavalcade, CAVS Club, CCYC, drama, science, and Spanish clubs, as a Girls’ State delegate and track runner. She’s headed for Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis as a Psychology major, and chose to honor CCHS guidance counselor Brenda Sheldon, whose office Banfield said “became a safe haven from the stress” of preparing for tests and the challenges of her senior year.
“She was quick to offer a big hug or a joke. I lost my mother in 2005 (and Sheldon) was there to support me at school. I would call her my pillar of strength, but pillars are hard and cold, and that’s not right!”
Banfield also thanked her father and sisters for their inspiration and advice.
Sheldon, who said if she had a daughter she’d like her to be like Banfield, described the student as “smart, energetic, pretty and full of life.
“I see her interact on a regular basis with all the different groups (at school, and she) seems to be in her comfort zone...and that’s kind of rare. Her enthusiasm is contagious.”
Ahlenius honors Hammond
Also taking the podium was Kaceigh Ahlenius, daughter of Frank and Peggy Ahlenius, and a member of the National and Junior Honor Societies, Academic Super Bowl, a cheerleader, Caval Crier staffer, class officer, and member of the French and science clubs bound for the University of Indianapolis to study Exercise Science.
Ahlenius said she got to know her honored teacher, Theresa Hammond during summer meetings for the school’s Ignition program, and decided to become the science teacher’s Teaching Assistant as a result.
“I look forward to her class daily (and) because of her passion for biology, I developed a new interest. All the lessons will really help me with my biology classes next year (at college).”
Hammond joked the unique spelling of Ahlenius’ first name “led to her being unique.
“I enjoyed having her in class,” continued Hammond. “She’s very smart and asks very good questions.”
Hammond presented Ahlenius with a “prize box” full of items, resembling the prize box she has in her classroom, adding, “Tonight you’ve given me an even bigger prize.”
Bauer honors Elliott
The son of Tim Bauer and Mrs. Tony Manikowski, senior Zoe Bauer has played basketball, baseball, and football, and been involved in the Academic Super Bowl, CAVS Club, and French Club. He plans to major in Communications at an as-yet undecided college. Bauer chose to honor CCHS teacher and coach Kyle Elliott, whom he said he knew going back to Elliott’s t-ball coaching days when Bauer was four years old.
“Whenever I had an issue in my life at school or at home...I would go to him to seek his advice,” recalled Bauer. “I always knew I’d get his honest opinion. Many times he called me into his office to let me know I could be doing better.”
Bauer added Elliott’s positive demeanor and thankfulness for each day gave him cause to seriously consider “how lucky I am” and helped him understand how to “live a happy life.”
“Nobody worked harder than Zoe Bauer when preparing for a game,” Elliott said. “Our basketball team, with the guidance of Zoe, worked extremely hard to get where we are. He didn’t become the school’s all-time scoring leader without preparation (during) summer, all those hours outside of school, (and) late evenings.”
Elliott praised Bauer’s efforts to analyze and improve his playing on the court, and noted he holds the record for playing more games (90) than any student in the history of the school. Having players like Bauer, added Elliott, “makes coaching awfully easy.”
Baker honors Benner
Clarissa Baker, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Gene Baker, has been a member of National and Junior Honor Societies, BPA, art club, and played basketball and volleyball; she plans attending Indiana University in Bloomington with an undecided major.
Baker praised the “humorous stories (and) playful, witty personality” of her chosen teacher, English instructor Vickie Benner, whom Baker said she greatly admires.
“All in all she’s a terrific teacher and an admirable person...I will miss her immensely at college,” Baker added.
Praising Baker’s attributes, Benner said she “really got to know” her last year when Benner’s Humanities class collected money for Haiti, a project for which Baker took the reins, designing and distributing collection containers, working ball games, and organizing student competitions. As Benner’s Teaching Assistant, “she never lets me down,” added Benner. “I saw her at a social event on a Saturday night, and I joked that I had brought some papers for her to check. I think she was actually willing to do that until I told her I was just kidding!”
Handing Baker a bag full of office supplies, Benner joked she planned to send Teaching Assistant work for Baker at college.
Bauer honors Craft
Jaclyn Bauer, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ted Bauer, took part in National and Junior Honor Societies while at the school, in addition to Academic Super Bowl, CAVS Club, BPA, CYCO, served as a class officer, was part of Spanish club and the basketball team. She plans to major in Animal Science and Bio Tech at Purdue University in Lafayette this fall, and chose to honor Monterey Elementary 5th grade teacher Pam Craft.
Bauer described the challenge of being “the new girl” in 5th grade after transferring from Catholic school in Monterey, a situation which she said Craft made “one of the best changes in my life.”
“She opened my eyes to my ability,” Bauer continued, “and the opportunity to look ahead. Ever since 5th grade, I have always taken my studies seriously. Looking into my future, I will have a lot of ‘new girl’ feelings at Purdue, but with the life lessons I took away from her classroom, I will have the ability and power to reach my goals.”
Craft noted several of the teachers honored during the evening had been her own.
“When you have great teachers like Mrs. Arquette, Mr. Browder, Mike Schwartz, and Mrs. Benner,” explained Craft, “you want to be a good role model.
“Some days I feel like the work I do is never rewarded...but (Jackie Bauer) made me feel like I won the lottery! She was the kindhearted kid you wish every student to be, She was a go-getter and an all around great girl to have around.”
Dehning honors Buschman
The daughter of Pastor KC and Mrs. Dehning, student Cassandra (“CJ”) Dehning was part of National Honor Society, Academic Super Bowl, Student Council, BPA, the soccer team, and was a Hobie ambassador, and she plans to attend Indiana University at Bloomington with an undecided major.
Thanking her parents for raising her the way they did, Dehning said her chosen teacher, Mike Buschman, “has been more of an inspiration than he probably knows.”
She described his advice to her while training during her sophomore year to eliminate “can’t” from her vocabulary and believe she could do it. She also was part of Buschman’s math classes over the past three years, and told the audience she often returned to her desk having answered her own questions due to his convincing her she has the power to do so.
Noting math is her favorite subject and she’s exploring careers in that area, Dehning described her enjoyment as Buschman’s Teacher’s Assistant.
“The life lessons (he taught me) will stay with me through college and beyond,” she added.
Thanking Dehning for the honor, Buschman described her as “the kind of student you hope walks through the door.”
He described seeking the five best words to describe her, and elaborated on those he chose: intelligent, capable, independent, clutch (“the person who will come up with the key idea at the key moment to break the project wide open”), and “the best word for her: relentless.”
“As a mathematician,” he added, “I understand math better because I’ve been in the room with her for the last three years...she tolerates nothing but excellence.”
The most accomplished class
In summing up the evening, Hanselman noted, “We live in a cynical society. People will tell you what’s wrong with today’s youth.”
He continued by noting he’s been involved with the school since 1980, and this year’s is “the most accomplished class to have graduated from Culver Community High School.”
The students have served on missions, he said, been champions, raised “tens of thousands of dollars for children with life-threatening illnesses,” raised money to fight cancer “and will walk all night in two weeks” (at Relay for Life to do so).
“This is the best I have to offer. For a society that doesn’t think there’s much good going on today, come see me.”