Going into high school, Jennie Stuart knew she wasn’t athletic, so she stuck to what she knew best — academics and music.
After four years of taking difficult classes, including many Advanced Placement courses, and playing the flute in the band at Seymour High School, her hard work and commitment have paid off, literally.
Because of her success in AP and dual credit courses, she will begin her first year at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus this fall with more than a year of college credits already completed.
On Sunday afternoon, Stuart will graduate with her 296 classmates, having earned the distinction of being a Seymour Scholar and with perfect attendance her entire high school career.
To be named a Seymour Scholar, Stuart and 21 other students completed at least 54 credits and satisfied all of the requirements for the Indiana Academic Honors Diploma.
In addition, they had to earn a minimum of 36 credits in English, mathematics, science, foreign language and social studies, have a weighted grade-point average of 4.90 and earn a minimum of 11 credits in AP courses with no grade lower than a B.
Stuart took four AP classes her senior year — literature and composition, statistics, biology and government.
Besides wanting to earn free college credit, Stuart said she enjoyed the challenge.
“I’ve always liked to challenge myself academically because basically, that’s what I’ve got going for me,” she said. “That’s one of the good things about Seymour (High School), too, they offer so many classes.”
Stuart is planning to pursue a degree in elementary education so she can be a teacher. Her work-based learning experiences this year in classrooms at both Margaret R. Brown and Seymour-Jackson elementary schools have only solidified her career choice.
“That’s probably one of the best decisions I’ve made so far,” she said of the experience. “I loved it so much because I’ve always known I wanted to be a teacher.”
Stuart said when she was little, she would line up her stuffed animals and “teach” them to study for her tests.
Being strong in her faith and an active member of Seymour Bible Holiness Church, where her father is the head pastor, Stuart said she feels called to serve God through mission work in Guatemala, so she has taken four years of Spanish to help prepare for that work.
But even with so much ahead of her, Stuart said there are things she will miss about Seymour High School — most notably band. She has played the flute since sixth grade.
“High school to me, basically, is just band. I don’t do much else,” she said. “I’m a nerd. On applications, it asks what extracurriculars I do, and it’s church, band and nothing really else.”
Through band, Stuart said she developed a strong sense of responsibility, and she met people who shared an interest in music, some of whom became her best friends.
It’s also how she met band director Kevin Cottrill, who has supported and encouraged her gift of music.
Because of her religious beliefs, Stuart requested she not have to attend football and basketball games to play in the band or have to march in parades.
“That’s one thing I’m grateful for,” she said. “Mr. Cottrill has bent over backwards to accommodate me and is very accepting and has helped me find my place.”
That place ended up being one of leadership where Stuart assisted Cottrill by working with other students, helping new band members learn how to march, some of whom didn’t speak English.
Another teacher Stuart said she credits with inspiring her to achieve is her AP chemistry teacher, Rick Schuley.
“He wanted us to try to figure things out on our own and use our problem-solving skills,” she said. “That’s what made him an awesome teacher.”
When it comes to giving her the push she needed to get perfect attendance for four years and to do so well in school, Stuart thanks her mother, Debra.
“She was so excited when I got perfect attendance because she almost worked harder than I did for it,” Jennie said. “Seeing her that happy made it worth it.”
In leaving Seymour, Stuart said she has only one word of advice for incoming freshmen.
“Try,” she said. “You don’t know what you’re good at or what you’ll like until you try.”
What: Seymour High School graduation
When: 2:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Lloyd E. “Barney” Scott Gymnasium at the high school, 1350 W. Second St.
Number of graduates: 297
Valedictorian: Anastasiya Yakovlyeva
Salutatorian: McKenna Curry
Name: Jennie Stuart
Future plans: Attend Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus this fall to major in elementary education
Family: Parents, Dale and Debra Stuart; older brother, Sam
Accomplishments/interests: Seymour Scholar; active member of Seymour Bible Holiness Church, where she plays the flute and guitar and has served as song leader; Seymour High School band and has served as music librarian her senior year; member of Biology Club, Environmental Club and three year-member of National Honor Society; volunteered at the Special Olympics Inclusion Revolution track meet; high honor roll for two years and named Owl of the Month her freshman year; perfect attendance for four years.