While some may read for educational purposes, and others simply for the joy of it, Seth Kristalyn does a little of both.
“I’ve always been that way,” said the Iola High School senior, who along with 100 of his classmates will receive his high school diploma during commencement ceremonies Sunday.
When he reads a story, Kristalyn does more than allow himself to get swept in the story, he said, whether it be a science fiction novel or a piece of classic literature.
“It’s always been on a subconscious level, I guess, that I try to read things a little deeper,” Kristalyn said. “I like to try to figure out the author’s thought process. I’ll look at how he develops the characters, the book layout, how long the chapters are. I try to look at everything.”
It’s his love of reading that Kristalyn credits in part for his sparkling grades: he’s been a straight-A student all four years of high school.
Now, Kristalyn hopes to turn that love of literature into a career as a writer. He is slated to begin studying at Pittsburg State University in the fall, where he plans to pursue a degree in English with an emphasis on creative writing.
Kristalyn had several options for college. He considered Emporia State and the University of Kansas, as well as a handful of out-of-state Christian schools.
But Pittsburg State offered the best fit, he said, academically and financially.
“And I want to go to school in a small town,” he continued. “I was born in North Dakota before we moved to Iola. I’m just used to rural settings.”
Kristalyn has earned a number of scholarships to aid in his schooling, including the prestigious McFadden Scholarship. He also gained acceptance into PSU’s Honors College.
“My goal is to at least break even” with his scholarships, Kristalyn said. “It’ll work out.”
The youngest of Bruce and Kim Kristalyn’s four sons, Seth credits his parents for instilling his love of books.
“Dad would read to us from his picture books, and at night he’d read from an epic novel, like ‘The Chronicles of Narnia,’” Kristalyn recalled. “And Mom was trying to teach me to read at a young age.”
By the time he was in second grade, Kristalyn was reading chapter books geared for middle school and high school students.
“I don’t know that I have a favorite author,” he said.
Still today, Seth, like his father, is an avid collector of comic books.
And while his parents stressed the importance of a good education, “it wasn’t like they put a lot of pressure on me,” Kristalyn said. “At the risk of sounding cocky, some things just came easy for me, like reading.”
NOT ALL WAS easy, however, Kristalyn admitted, particularly with math and science. He earned a B in algebra in the eighth grade — his only B in his scholastic career — and skated by with a 90 percent in algebra II his sophomore year in high school.
“There was a little bit of pressure, like if I’d drop the ball on a test, everybody would be shocked,” Kristalyn said. “I knew I had to put a lot more work into math and science.”
The Kristalyn brothers tended to fall into two academic camps. Seth, like Matt, the second oldest of the quartet, was more adept in language arts. Cory, the oldest, and Josh, second youngest, meanwhile, have always had a knack for math and science.
That has held true into college and beyond. Cory recently earned his doctorate degree in chemistry from the University of Michigan. He now works with the U.S. Navy on the Navy’s ongoing effort to find ship materials resistant to barnacles and other debris from the oceans.
Matt recently earned a degree in English from Concordia University in Seward, Neb., and Josh is a chemistry student at PSU.
“Cory and Josh are more of the analytical thinkers,” Kristalyn said. “Matt and I were the ones who looked at the philosophical meanings. I always wanted to know the ‘why.’”
All four excelled in the classroom, “but I wasn’t pressured to do as well as they did,” Seth said. “Any pressure I felt was what I put on myself.”
Kristalyn stayed active in school through music. He played trumpet in the IHS marching and jazz bands. He also ran cross country and track in high school, despite foot surgery that sidelined him for most of his freshman campaign.
“Josh and I really like to run,” he said. “He’s always been faster than I am, though.”
And with whatever spare time was left, Kristalyn worked evenings and weekends at Sterling Six Cinemas.
He’s unsure if he will maintain his hectic pace after high school.
“I want to enjoy my last summer as a kid,” Kristalyn said.
Nor does he expect to be overly sentimental as he caps his days at IHS this week.
“At this point I’m ready to move on,” he said. “I guess I’ll miss the camaraderie with my friends. But mostly, I’m excited to see what’s next.”