Valedictorians Sam Breite of Saxony Lutheran and Elizabeth Kiblinger of Notre Dame reflect on their success in school communities

Thursday, June 21, 2012
Sam Breite (Laura Simon)

When Sam Breite gets to the University of Mississippi this fall, he hopes he'll find what he had at home -- a true family atmosphere. He likes what he's seen so far on visits.

Part of what constitutes "home" for the recent Saxony Lutheran High School graduate and top grade earner in his class for four straight years is the school itself, he said. He's always attended Lutheran schools in the area, and said the great teachers he's had for his whole student life have been like family and taught him to give his best effort. Also vital to his successful academic career was the work ethic his parents displayed and passed on, he said.

"I guess that didn't just come naturally," Breite said.

In August, Breite will begin an additional seven years of education when he enters college to study pharmacy. He said he likes to get up early and make the most of his time, so he knows he will succeed after high school.

"I put in a lot of hours to get to this point," he said. "But once you get to the point where you've been headed, there's a lot of satisfaction."

Elizabeth Kiblinger (Southeast Missourian file photo)

During high school, Breite enjoyed time as a member of a school ministry group, wrote for and became editor of the school's newspaper, played baseball and ran cross country and track.

Also managing participation in many activities in addition to keeping her grades above those of the rest was Elizabeth Kiblinger, Notre Dame Regional High School's valedictorian. Kiblinger, an accomplished competitor in track and cross country, will continue to run back and forth between sports and staying academically accomplished when she gets to Maryville University in St. Louis this fall.

This summer she is getting a head start in experience that will relate to the career she wants. Kiblinger plans to become an elementary school teacher and is practicing her skills relating to and teaching children by working at a local preschool.

Her achievements in high school were fostered by good support from her family and teachers at Notre Dame, she said. Also "huge" in her success, she said, was her connection to spirituality.

"I really tried to get into my faith," she said.

Kiblinger said advice she would share with others who want to do well academically is that even if they are shy -- and she admittedly is, and therefore especially proud of how well she did during her speech at Notre Dame's graduation in May in front of hundreds of people -- they shouldn't be afraid to ask questions, especially of teachers, or to form good relationships. That's why teachers are there, she said.

"They make it easy to learn at Notre Dame if you let them," she said. "But they still want you to work hard."

eragan@semissourian.com

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