Elanie Sturgeon: Challenging herself

Iola High School valedictorian candidate Elaine Sturgeon switched to public school in eighth grade after being home schooled. She wanted to balance learning with socialization and sports.

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May 11, 2022 - 3:19 PM

Elanie Sturgeon Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Elanie Sturgeon enjoys challenging herself. 

And after being homeschooled for most of her elementary and middle school years, she decided she wanted to tackle the challenges that come with a transition to public school.

“It’s kind of like I’m on a mission to find what I want to do for the rest of my life,” she said. 

She saw how her older sister was dedicated to dance, and her younger brother was invested in engineering. Surely she could find her true passion, too.

So she took a variety of classes. She tried various sports. She joined clubs.

“I was trying to find out what I really enjoy and what I’m good at,” she said.

“What ended up happening is I became good at a lot of things, but not great at one thing. So I still don’t know.”

Along the way, though, Sturgeon built confidence. She developed numerous skills that have helped her become one of six valedictorian candidates at Iola High School’s graduation ceremony on Saturday.

Those skills also will help her find success in whatever direction she takes next.

AS A homeschooled student, Sturgeon fell in love with learning.

So when she started to attend Iola Middle School in eighth grade, she looked for harder subjects. That continued in high school. For example, she enrolled in college history.

“I hadn’t had much experience with history. I just wanted to see what I could do and I wanted to learn as much as possible,” she said.

“I love it. It’s just fun for me.”

But even more than that was a desire to learn more about interacting with her peers. She wanted to challenge herself on a social level.

Sure, she had some experience with socialization. She had taken gymnastics since she was a young child, and was very involved in her church. 

But public school was completely different.

“It was a weird transition. It was overwhelming. There were so many people here, and I was super self-conscious and dealing with anxiety.”

She soon realized she would have to rethink how she spent her time. She would have to spend more time studying outside of classes, and using her time wisely in seminars.

She had to learn how to balance her academic pursuits with friends, sports and clubs.

“All of those things I hadn’t had to do before.”

It helped that she enjoys learning. That made her classes a little easier to handle — even Travis Hermstein’s history and government classes. 

She took his classes for three years and they were the most difficult she’s ever faced.

“I had to spend hours on homework just to get an A. That was a big accomplishment. I learned I could push myself.”

STURGEON joined a variety of sports and clubs.

She’s participated in cross country and basketball all four years, and tried track one year.

She almost gave up basketball because of a lack of confidence in her skills and ability.

“The girls I was playing with had played together since elementary school, and I started in eighth grade so I had a lot to catch up on,” she said. 

“I pushed through it, and to see myself work so hard and improve was really cool.”

She also enjoyed being part of Student Council, even though that also had its challenges. Her junior year, she ran for secretary. That required her to give a speech before the entire student body.

“I remember being so nervous and anxious,” she said. 

She faced similar anxiety when giving testimony at an FCA event, and for a couple of years took part in forensics competitions and school plays as part of the Players drama club. Those experiences helped her practice public speaking skills.

She’s also taken part in National Honor Society and SADD.

“All the stuff I’ve had to do has slowly built confidence in what I thought I could do,” she said. 

STURGEON plans to attend the University of Kansas, which she’s familiar with as both her parents also attended there.

She enrolled as a psychology major “but that’s only because I had to pick one.”

She plans to keep challenging herself by trying new things, still hoping to find that one thing.

She’s excited by the many choices available at KU. She plans to spend her first year taking whatever interests her. That might mean classes in nutrition, film, fashion and math.

“I’m going to experiment and see what brings me the most joy, and what I can do to help people,” she said. “I want a career where I can help people.”

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