Shelby sets high bar to reach her goals

Iola High School senior Sidney Shelby is one of the valedictorian candidates for Saturday's graduation.



May 12, 2021 - 9:47 AM

Sidney Shelby Photo by Richard Luken / Iola Register

Sidney Shelby has a term for the effort necessary to get good grades in high school: thinking at a high level.

“I’ve always been pushed to get good grades, or take hard classes,” she explained. “Taking hard classes requires good skills to learn, to multitask, to set a strict schedule for yourself.

“You need to think at a high level,” she concluded. “I want to think at high levels like that.”

Setting a high bar is nothing new for Shelby, who will be recognized at Saturday’s Iola High School commencement as one of eight seniors who will finish with a spotless 4.0 GPA.

She’s also one of five children of Iolans David and Kathy Shelby to have excelled in the classroom, along with brothers Kyle and Tyler, older sister Kassy and younger sister, Miah.

“Our parents taught us, just do the best you can do,” Shelby said. “If your best gets you a B, then that’s OK. But my best is an A,”

It wasn’t always easy.

While some students often frontloaded high school schedules, thus allowing them to take a bit of a breather schedule-wise their last semester, Shelby’s schedule has been crammed from starter to finish with honors courses.

She did so in order to qualify as a Kansas Honors Curriculum student, which requires additional math, foreign language and science credits than a regular curriculum.

And with her participation in a number of high school clubs, church activities and athletics, it meant plenty of late nights cramming for tests or completing assignments.

“Definitely a lot of times, it’s a matter of prioritizing what’s important,” she said. “If school’s more important than hanging out with friends on the weekend, I’d do that. Or I’d do both, and just work late.

“Late hours with coffee is what kept me going,” she laughed.

SHELBY is “95% certain” she’ll enroll at Emporia State University in the fall to pursue a teaching degree.

Until recently, she’d also considered taking a year off from school to focus on a church mission effort.

That changed when Shelby learned recently she qualified for a lucrative Hagan Scholarship, which would pay for a good chunk of her studies, then perhaps study abroad her junior and senior year.

Or, she could enroll at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. “It’s right by a church we attend all the time,” she said. “I want to be close to people I know, too.”

It’s the familiarity around the halls at Iola High that Shelby has enjoyed most.

“I’m definitely going to miss just knowing everybody,” she said. “I love to say hi to everyone in the hallway I know, and being able to support them in whatever activity they do.”