On the morning of the last day of school, Lexie Long was seated on the edge of the stage in the Creitz Recital Hall alongside one of her favorite teachers, Iola High School art instructor, Amy Shannon. A group of students was scattered around the room, which was hung with paintings and decorated with displays of hand-formed pottery. It was the day after the student art show. Long, one of this year’s valedictorians, broke away to speak with the Register about her time at IHS, but not before Ms. Shannon offered this advice: “I would really suggest you take a picture of her with her artwork, because Lexie is multi-talented.”
Long stepped into a quiet side hallway of the Bowlus Center’s basement. Upstairs the band was rehearsing Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance march — the graduation song — in preparation for Sunday’s ceremony. Next time Long hears those notes, she will be saying goodbye to Iola High School from her perch at the top of the class.
Was that an aim of hers from the start?
“School has always been very important to me,” says Long. “It’s been my goal to be one of the valedictorians of our class.”
Long has recently added, to her unblemished academic record, a McFadden Scholarship, an Educational Excellence Award and a Kansas Scholars Curriculum honor, to name only a few.
During her four years at IHS, the well-rounded senior was active in FFA, earning a glut of awards on this front, too.
Long will join three of her co-valedictorians at the University of Kansas this fall. A lifelong Iolan, she knows the shift to a bustling college town will take some getting used to. “I’m sure it will be a change, since Lawrence is a lot bigger. And then being around more people at that school, because it’s a fairly big one. … I guess I’m a little more nervous than anything. But I’m sure I’ll become more outgoing, like I did throughout high school. I know it will be a little bit overwhelming at first, but I’m sure I’ll adapt to it. I think it will be nice that I’ll already know some people there, but it will also be nice to meet new people.”
The soft-spoken Long credits her parents and her teachers — especially Ms. Shannon and Dana Daugharthy, her science teacher — with helping her maintain straight As. “But I think a lot of the motivation maybe came from me. I just always wanted to do better. I wanted to make sure I set a good bar for myself so that I could go anyplace I wanted to for college, and not have to stress about getting into any school.”
Despite her obvious artistic credentials, Long plans to pursue a course of study at KU that will prepare her to become a physical therapist upon graduation.
Which is to say she plans to convert her learning and her many talents into improving the lives of others. She hopes to be a pediatric physical therapist, someone in a position to help children whose bodies are hindered by disease or accident. “I just really want to do something that helps people. And I’ve always enjoyed being with kids.” (She has also worked as a mentor with younger students.)
“It would be awesome to see people witness a miracle, like if they didn’t think they’d ever be able to walk again. If I can get a job where it’s physical therapy for kids, that would definitely be something I know I’d really enjoy.”
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