When the Daily Herald publishes the annual Academic Team, as we did on Wednesday, the limitations of space and expediency require that a lot of information about these exceptional high school graduates winds up on the cutting room floor.
Take, for example, four cases:
• Uriel Martinez, of Franklin Park, first in his class at East Leyden High School. He decided on a career after discovering that children buy prosthetic limbs more often than adults because they grow out of them. So, he and three friends formed Da Una Mano ("Give a Hand"), a club that makes 3-D printed hands through the organization e-NABLE for children who need them. "The first 3-D prosthetic hand I built was for a little girl, and it was customized to her taste -- three different shades of blue with a flower on it," he writes in his essay.
• Somewhere between a perfect 36 on her ACT and doing research projects at Argonne and Fermi labs, Yangyang Li of Naperville Central High School works in an oncology office. "I meet a lot of people who are contemplating the in-betweenness of life and death at my job," she writes. As she watches the leftover drugs -- made precious by their cost -- be thrown away, she wonders why smaller vials aren't available, and why people can't just be charged for what they use. Her goal in life is nothing less than "repairing contemporary health care."
• Katie Lund of Libertyville High School is headed for a career in computer science, but her sponsor wants us to know that Katie is so much more than a brain. As a freshman, she formed a string ensemble that plays at retirement communities, personally connecting with elderly people. And when the middle school daughter of her softball coach missed a week of school for a funeral, Katie contacted the girl's teachers, asking for time to get her back on track, and helping her turn things around. "I haven't grown out of being quiet, but I've grown out of being silent," she told her adviser. "I prefer leadership."
• At Larkin High School, Emily Renteria dreams of a doctoral degree in educational leadership. She knows something about leadership already: "(At home) I am the second mom, watching my four siblings, cooking, picking them up, tutoring them and working as their role model. At school I am the President, working as the bridge between the staff and the student body. On my soccer team I am the Captain, encouraging them on and off the field and recognizing that teamwork makes the dream true."
These are four random examples out of 150 Academic Team nominations, all with similar stories of fear and failure, hard work and achievement. Why call attention to additional details like these? Because they demonstrate a truth that is valid for all young people. They are more than the numbers that we sometimes use to distinguish them.
Test scores and grade-point averages reflect a certain type of learning, and they definitely serve a purpose. The members of our Academic Teams have excelled at this type of learning and deserve to be recognized for the effort -- just as the All-Area athletes we celebrated at an event Thursday night and on today's front page have excelled on various fields of play. But, for all these young people, as for older adults as well, standardized tests, GPAs, goals scored, tackles made, batting averages and other methods of keeping score tell only part of the story. The full strength of our character emerges in ways that cannot be easily measured and aren't always immediately visible.
But that also should never be overlooked.