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Tea Area School District honors outstanding students at 2023 K-12 Graduation Awards Ceremony

Tea Area School District celebrated the achievements of its exceptional students at the 2023 K-12 Graduation Awards Ceremony held on Monday, May 15. The event, held outside at the Tea Area stadium, also featured the announcement of Teacher of the Year.

This year’s Teacher of the Year was awarded to Mary Beth Sutton. Sutton was honored with the award during the program. She received a $2,500 check sponsored by Reliabank.

Finalists for Tea Area’s Teacher of the Year included Kevin Clark, Elyssa Houtsma, and Jolene Kayser.

While the Teacher of the Year announcement concluded the Graduation Awards Ceremony, the event began with the Regents Scholar awards. This award is bestowed upon students who had not only met the South Dakota High School Graduation requirements but had gone above and beyond in their academic pursuits. These students had completed four years of math, four years of science, and two years of world language or Career and Technical Education courses. Additionally, they maintained a GPA of 3.0 or above, with no grade lower than a C.

The recipients of the Regents Scholar Awards were Jillian Arp, Matthew Halbur, Alyssa Sherman, Nathan Babb, Tobin Hoffman, Sydney Sherwood, Colby Baker, Tate Holmlund, Jessica Skoog, Conner Battleson, Jillian Huenink, Maddix Slykhuis, Jacob Bender, Averi Johannsen, Jackson Smythe, Ella Bialas, Reis Kirschenman, Benjamin Bien, Jonah Kocer, Wyatt Stuntebeck, Logan Boom, Kennedi Lien-Martens, Payton Svanda, Gabriella Brewer, Kiarra Ljunggren, Blake Thompson, Bryce Crawford, Olivia McCalmont, Peyton Thompson, Magdelina Curry, Kendra McKinney, Chloe Unruh, Benjamin Daggett, Ethan McKnelly, Aerana Waltner, Lydia Decker, Jessica Nelson, Sierra Waltner, Riley Dupert, Sydney Neuhardt, Gavin Walz, Adam Elkins, Aiden Pearson, Jaci Welch, Holly Frankenstein, Caleb Pendergast, Reece Westhoff, Brailey Groeneveld, Estella Peterson, Eliza Wilgers, Hunter Hagedorn, Alexander Prebble, and Hunter Wilson.

The President’s Outstanding Academic Excellence Award was presented to students who maintained a GPA of 3.667 or higher, equivalent to an A average, and scored a composite score of 24 or better on their ACT. The recipients of this award were: Nathan Babb, Tate Holmlund, Alexander Prebble, Ella Bialas, Averi Johannsen, Jackson Smythe, Bryce Crawford, Kiarra Ljunggren, Wyatt Stuntebeck, Benjamin Daggett, Kendra McKinney, Sierra Waltner, Lydia Decker, Jessica Nelson, Gavin Walz, Brailey Groeneveld, Aiden Pearson, Eliza Wilgers, and Hunter Hagedorn.

A total of 33 students were recognized for their membership in the National Honors Society (NHS). These students had maintained a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher and demonstrated excellence in scholarship, leadership, service, and character. They were awarded a gold medal to wear around their necks at graduation. The following students were honored as NHS members: Jillian Arp, Hunter Hagedorn, Jessica Skoog, Nathan Babb, Jillian Huenink, Maddix Slykhuis, Conner Battleson, Averi Johannsen, Jackson Smythe, Ella Bialas, Reis Kirschenman, Ethan Stainbrook, Logan Boom, Kiarra Ljunggren, Wyatt Stuntebeck, Bryce Crawford, Kendra McKinney, Payton Svanda, Maggie Curry, Ethan McKnelly, Blake Thompson, Benjamin Daggett, Jessica Nelson, Sierra Waltner, Lydia Decker, Aiden Pearson, Jaci Welch, Holly Frankenstein, Stella Peterson, Eliza Wilgers, Brailey Groeneveld, Alyssa Sherman, and Hunter Wilson.

The presentation of cords followed, with various distinctions awarded to deserving students. The Tri-M cords, signifying honors in music, were placed on the graduates by Mrs. Gilbert. Those earning the cords were: Jillian Arp, Nathan Babb, Conner Battleson, Jaocb Bender, Ella Bialas, Ben Bien, Keira Bochenek, Logan Boom, Gabriella Brewer, Bryce Crawford, Payton Cuppy, Maggie Curry, Benjamin Daggett, Lydia Decker, Riley Dupert, Adam Elkins, Holly Frankenstein, Brailey Groeneveld, Hunter Hagedorn, Matthew Halbur, Cierra Hansen, Kai Holland, Tate Holmlund, Jillian Huenick, Averi Johannsen, Reis Kirschenman, Kara Knutson, Jonah Kocer, Kennedi Lien-Martins, Kiarra Ljunggren, Kendra McKinney, Ethan McKnelly, Emily Morales, Jessica Nelson, Aiden Pearson, Caleb Pendergast, Estella Peterson, Alexander Prebble, Alyssa Sherman, Jessica Skoog, Maddix Slykhuis, Jackson Smythe, Ethan Stainbrook, Wyatt Stuntebeck, Payton Schwanda, Blake Thompson, Chloe Unruh, Samantha VanTol, Aerana Waltner, Sierra Waltner, Gavin Walz, Jaci Welch, Reece Westhoff, Eliza Wilgers, and Hunter Wilson.

Additionally, honors cords were bestowed upon students who maintained a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher throughout their high school career.

The ceremony also acknowledged the commitment of students who had enlisted in the United States Military. These students were honored with green military cords, symbolizing their dedication to serving the nation. Although some of the recipients were unable to attend, their service was recognized and appreciated. Those students included Landen Hewitt, Nick Krumvieda, Cadin Larsen, Logan Currier, Reese Riemenschneider, Ciara Hansen, Noah Therkelsen, Matthew Waagmeester, and Breighdyn Turner.

Another moment of pride was the announcement of the class Valedictorian and Salutatorian. Ella Bialas was awarded the prestigious title of Valedictorian for achieving the highest cumulative grade point average in the class of 2023. Nathan Babb was recognized as the Salutatorian for his outstanding academic performance, having the second highest cumulative grade point average.

The ceremony also highlighted the tremendous achievements of the Class of 2023 in terms of scholarships. The students collectively received over $315,000 in scholarships for their freshman year in college, amounting to approximately $1.2 million over their four years of college. The recipients were commended for their hard work and dedication in securing these scholarships.

Special community awards were presented as well. The tLINK Community Youth Leader awards recognized outstanding students who demonstrated the values of Relationships, Education, and Service. Ethan McKnelly, Benjamin Daggett, and Bryce Crawford were awarded scholarships of $500 each, while Hunter Wilson received the tLINK $1,000 Community Youth Leader of the Year award.

Several other scholarships were also announced during the ceremony. Students were recognized for their achievements and community involvement.

Receiving the Tea Area Community Foundation Scholarships were Lydia Decker, Hunter Wilson, and Eliza Wilgers.

The Reliabank scholarship recognizes students for their academic achievements and community involvement. The recipient for the Reliabank Dakota Scholarship was Ethan McKnelly. The recipients of the Reliabank Legacy Scholarship were Holly Frankenstien and Jackson Smythe.

The Justin Lake College Scholarship award was given to Griffen Schnider. Justin, a loved Titan, was a caring community leader who left this scholarship to assist seniors in their academic journey.

The Chapman family of J&R Mechanical in Tea wanted to provide a scholarship beginning in 2019 in honor of their son, Ethan David Chapman. Hunter Wilson was awarded the 2023 Ethan David Chapman Scholarship.

The Grand Lodge of South Dakota recognizes seniors in South Dakota for their service work for others. This year the Grand Lodge of South Dakota awarded Jonah Kocer with the Independent Order of Odd Fellow Scholarship.

The Harvey Bossman Memorial Scholarship was established to honor the founder of the Tea Lions Club. The scholarship is awarded to Tea Area High School students pursuing higher education in South Dakota. This year’s recipients were Aiden Pearson, Eliza Wilgers, Jessica Skoog, Benjamin Daggett, Kendra McKinney, Ethan McKnelly, Lydia Decker, Hunter Wilson, and Bryce Crawford. Each recipient will receive $300.

Tea American Legion Scholarships were awarded to Lydia Decker and Ben Daggett.

Activities Director, Craig Clayberg presented the activities and athletic awards.

The Outstanding Senior Boy and Girl in Fine Arts was awarded to Jessica Nelson and Bryce Crawford and Outstanding Athletes were Kendra McKinney and Blake Thompson.

The criteria for these award includes Involvement in at least three activities for fine arts, three sports in athletics, GPA, Good Citizen, Community leader and Nominated and voted on by activity leaders and coaches.

Starting in 2022, the Tea Titans Youth Wrestling Club initiated a scholarship program to give back to student-athletes who exemplify what it means to be a Titan on and off the mat. These students were four-year members of the wrestling team, graduated with a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or better, and have given their time back to the youth club throughout their high school tenure.

Griffen Schnider, Maddix Slykhuis, Wyatt Stuntebeck, and Hunter Wilson received this year’s scholarships.

The Sports Boosters Scholarships were given to Nathan Babb, Bryce Crawford, Lydia Decker, Reis Kirschenman, Jonah Kocer, Kendra McKinney, Ethan McKnelly, Estella Peterson, Griffen Schnider, Jackson Smythe, and Hunter Wilson.

The recipients of the sports boosters scholarship are selected by a sports boosters panel. The students must have a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher and need to submit an essay on how their involvement in HS athletics impacted them as a member of the community.

Each year, the Tea Area Music Boosters select two senior recipients for scholarship awards. Applicants must have a cumulative GPA of 2.8 or higher with one recipient currently enrolled in Band and one in Choir. The $1,000 scholarships are awarded based on Titan high school music accomplishments, involvement in other community music and school activities, a personal statement, and future post-secondary music plans. Earning the 2023 Tea Area Music Boosters scholarships were Jessica Nelson and Lydia Decker.

The Tea Area High School Teachers Scholarship is awarded to one outstanding Titan graduate based on leadership, community service, need, and work ethic and is chosen by a panel of high school teachers. This year’s recipient of $1000 scholarship was Hunter Wilson.

The event concluded with the announcement of the Teacher of the Year.


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