This year’s Times-Republic Students of the Year are Megan Schippert and Kade Murray.
Each year the Times-Republic staff works with the teachers at Watseka Community High School to select a female and male student for the honor.
Schippert is the daughter of Toby and Dee Ann Schippert of Watseka.
“Megan Schippert is polite, respectful and kind to all individuals,” reads the information from the school. “She was the senior drum major for the marching band, she participates in the pep band and concert, but also adds the extra curricular jazz band to her schedule. She is a member of the National Honor Society and was a peer mentor the past two years for incoming freshmen. She was a leader in show choir and was a soloist for the show but also in the solo room. She participated in the SVC concert choir event at ONU. She was awarded the lead in the school play this year. She is pursuing a degree in music at Millikin University. She gets good grades and is in many activities inside and outside of school including fine arts productions and with her Church.”
Murray, of Woodland, is the son of Edward Murray and Amy Martin.
“Kade Murray is very active in the school community as well,” reads the information from the school. “He is highly intelligent and competed as a member of the WCHS Scholastic Bowl Team and was a member of the Mathletes as well. He is a talented trumpet player, and exercised those talents as a member of the Marching Warriors where he was a leader for the trumpet section. He was a member of the WCHS Jazz Band, Pep and Concert Bands. He is always willing to guide other students and was a peer mentor to incoming freshmen the past two years. He will be attending Illinois Wesleyan University in the fall.”
Schippert said she was surprised and happy when she heard she was selected for the award.
This year has been a different year for students because of novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Much of the last half of the year done through e-learning and not in-person. The academic awards ceremony normally conducted at the end of the school year was presented virtually this year.
“I was with my mom and dad in the car watching the whole awards night on my phone,” she said. “I was really shocked at first and I was really thrilled.”
Schippert was very involved in high school activities, and said they were an important part of her life. A member of National Honor Society her junior and senior year, she was president of the organization her senior year. She was a member of Key Club all four years of high school.
She was drum major her junior and senior years for the marching band, and in marching band and concert band all four years of school, and jazz band for three years. She participated in show choir for four years and in the school play for four years.
She said there were many fun things that happened during her years in high school.
While there is no specific event that stands out to her, she said, “I really enjoyed going to the marching band and show choir competitions. They were really fun to go to because you could see other groups perform. You could see what you could do as your own group to improve. What else was nice was that you could other people. I made a lot of different friends through all these competitions.”
The bands and show choirs were successful during her years at WCHS. One year, she said, the marching band won first place in their division at the University of Illinois competition. “That was really cool,” she said.
Her sophomore year, the show choir went to finals in Danville, which was something that had not happened for a few years. “That was a big accomplishment for us,” she said.
Schipper said she enjoyed all her teachers. One who stands out is band director Erik Parmenter.
“He really encouraged all the students to get involved in school, besides just band, but everything else in school. And also to practice. That’s so important.”
All the choir directors she had during her school years also made an impact on her. “Especially this past year when I had Mr. (Adam) Drake,” she said. “He helped me so much through my college audition and prepared me solo room at show choir, so he was definitely a big help.
“Really I enjoyed all the teachers at school. Miss (Julie) Dunn, she was always so sweet to me, especially when I had study hall with her. She would always ask me how my day was going. That was a big help.”
Schippert said her advice to incoming freshmen would be to make sure to get involved as much as possible.
“Even though it doesn’t seem like a big deal now, once you get involved you can make new friends that you never thought you’d be friends with,” she said. This includes students who are in a different grade level.
She also said studying is important. “Even though as a freshman, your grades won’t seem as important but at the end they really count. I’d also say, just have fun.”
Schippert said the community has been very supportive of her. “They have really shaped me the way I am. I have no idea where I’d be without the community,” she said. “I have loved my time in Watseka. I just encourage everyone to get involved as much as they can. What was nice about Key Club and National Honor Society was that I was able to get more involved.”
Schippert said she will be attending Millikin University in the fall, where she will major in music education with a vocal emphasis. She plans to get involved there as much as she can, too.
While 2020 has been a different year, she said the Class of ’20 has handled it well. “We tried to keep in touch as much as we can. If we ever had questions on homework assignments or projects we had to do online, we’d always call each other or Face Time each other. That was a big help to be able to communicate with each other and also talk about anything outside of school if we needed to.”
Murray also agreed that while this year was not a typical year the Class of ’20 has coped well. He said they class has dealt with other unconventional events that have occurred. More than once the class has had to deal with flood issues and being out of school because of that. Such times are learning experiences, he said.
“I can’t speak for everyone in my class, but for me a lot of it was how to figure out time management,” he said of being out of school this year. “I didn’t realize how heavily I relied on school to get me in the mood to do work. When I had to do everything at home, there were several nights I didn’t start doing work until about 9 p.m.”
He said teachers were good about providing video lessons and giving an option for virtual meetings. Some teachers would have “office hours”, where they were available at their computer at a certain time to answer questions.
Murray, too, was involved in many activities during his four years of high school.
“All four years I did pretty much every single band group that was available,” he said. “I didn’t do show choir freshman year, but sophomore year on I was part of the combo.
“I did track all four year, if you want to count senior year, because we had like one week,” he said. “Soccer I started sophomore year and I did that for three years. I was also a part of Math Team all four years. We didn’t get to do it my sophomore year because of the flood. We were flooded at the time so we couldn’t go to the competitions.” He also was involved with Scholastic Bowl.
Murray said one memorable moment from his high school career is when the Scholastic Bowl team went to Cissna Park to compete. “We stopped at a gas station there, just to get drinks and stuff because we were a few minutes early. I got a whole half gallon of chocolate milk and I jugged the entire thing before the match. My stomach didn’t really like me that much, but we totally killed that match, so I think it worked,” he smiled.
Murray said the teachers at WCHS have been very helpful. “I feel like every teacher could be mentioned, but if you asked me the teacher I thought did the best job overall, not just with me but with everyone, I think Mr. (Chad) Cluver does that. He’s always stood out to me because he really tries hard to make sure that everyone is learning. If somebody is struggling, and they are not speaking up, he’ll really get them to speak up.”
His advice to an incoming freshman is to get involved. “From my experience, a lot of the junior high kids are not as much worried about the school work,” he said. “The really thing is extra curricula’s and getting involved. A lot of the time people won’t do something because they are on the fence about it and they don’t decide before it’s time to do it. Just do anything. Just try. You can always quit later. It’s better to do something you don’t like and quit and be embarrassed for a day rather than go the rest of your life feeling guilty because you never decided to try that one thing.”
Murray is now getting ready for college. He goes to Illinois Wesleyan in the fall. But he has good thoughts about his hometown.
“This community has made me the person I am,” he said. “A lot of people complain about Illinois, but I honestly really like it here. There’s a lot of little things that people overlook about living here. And there’s a lot of nice people here, too.”