High school seniors from Manhattan and the surrounding area are celebrating graduation after an unorthodox year of learning, while parents and families are celebrating a new chapter in their students’ lives.

With help from school counselors and administrators, The Mercury rounded up 15 of the highest-achieving seniors from area high schools. Their accomplishments are noteworthy, and are featured below.


Koen Patrick


Parents: Brian C. and Marne L. Arthaud-Day

GPA: 3.92 unweighted and 4.52 weighted

Future plans: Attend Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. to study geology and then go to graduate school for paleontology. Koen has signed to play soccer at Earlham.

Scholarships and academic honors: Earlham Trustee Scholarship, Earlham Cares Award, Visit Earlham Grant

(Declined scholarships from Fort Hays State University, Kansas State University, Missouri S&T University, Franklin & Marshall College, Beloit College, and Union College)

Extracurricular activities: Big Blue Marching Band, Tennis, Soccer, Robotics, Scholar’s Bowl

Cole Daniel Hayden

Parents: Ryan Mark Hayden and Lori Pape Hayden.

GPA: 4.0 unweighted and 4.54 weighted.

Future plans: Attend K-State to obtain a degree in biochemistry, with the plan of moving to medical school to specialize in internal medicine or a graduate school to get a master’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences.

Scholarships and academic honors: ACT score — 35 superscore and 33 composite score; Kansas ACT Scholar; University Scholar Award — K-State scholarship; Kansas’ Governor’s Scholar Award; Kansas Seal of Biliteracy — Silver for English and Spanish; Goldstein Excellence in Education award

Extracurricular activities: Worked for Konza Prairie Community Health Center in summer of 2020, assisting staff that ran the COVID-19 testing tent; dedicated weightlifter for five years; creative writing; poetry; musical composition.

Kayla Lei

Parents: Shuting Lei (father) and Shuangye Wu (mother)

GPA: 4.0 unweighted and 4.90 weighted

Future plans: Study Chemical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University

Honors: National Merit Finalist and National Merit Scholar ($2,500 scholarship), $35,000 academic scholarship from Carnegie Mellon

Extracurriculars: Involved in varsity tennis, debate and forensics, and volunteering at the Meadowlark retirement home.

Awards: finishing in the top 12 at Kansas 6A state grades 9-12th in tennis as well as being tennis team captain, placing 7th at Kansas 6A state for forensics (original oratory) and qualifying to forensics National Individual Events Tournament of Champions (NIETOC) (in original oratory) and being vice president of the debate and forensics team.

Chanae Ann Parker

Parents: Michelle and Daryl Parker

GPA: 4.0 unweighted and 4.63 weighted; expected end of semester weighted GPA: 4.78

Future plans: Attend Kansas State University or Cornell University to study Animal Sciences and Industry. Plans to attend graduate school for large animal genetics.

Academic Honors: Distinguished Graduate Service Program, National Honor Society inductee, Kansas Scholar, February 2021 Little Apple Optimist Club Student of the Month, Manhattan Kiwanis Club Honor Student.

Scholarships: Kansas State University- University Scholar Award, Manhattan Area Retired Educators Association Scholarship, J. Harold Johnson Scholarship, Harvey and Janet Kiser 4-H Leadership Scholarship, Manhattan Kiwanis 4-H Scholarship, and Beta Sigma Phi Scholarship.

Extracurricular Honors: 4-H County Level- I Dare You Award, Achievement Pins: Membership, Bronze, Clover, Emerald, Silver, Silver Guard, Leadership, Gold, Gold Guard

Brent Thein

Parents: Patrick Thein and Annita Thein

GPA: 3.97 unweighted; I don’t currently know my weighted GPA.

Future plans: To attend Kansas State University, studying Accounting and German

Honors: Kansas Honor Scholar, Royal Purple Scholarship

Extracurriculars: MHS Boys Soccer, German Club, National Honor Society, Club Soccer, and Forensics


Emily Rose Pachta

Parents: Jon and Renee Pachta

GPA: 4.2 weighted

Future plans: Attend Newman University to major in psychology and pre-med, then later attend medical school to become a psychiatrist.

Scholarships and academic honors: St. Newman Full Ride Scholarship, Mark Bettencourt Memorial Scholarship, Bluestem Scholarship, Veteran of Foreign Wars Essay Scholarship, Platinum Work keys Recipient, Kansas Honors Scholar, High Honor Roll

Extracurricular activities and honors: Student Council President, National Honor Society Secretary, Class of 2021 Media Coordinator, Theatre Member, Varsity Forensics Member, Future Business Leader of America Member, Peer Chamber Member, Varsity Scholars Bowl Member, Link Leader, Softball Member, Honor Flight Guardian, 3 time National Forensics Qualifier, State Forensics 2nd Place in Duet Acting 2019, Performed in 4 lead roles, State Forensics 1st Place in Duet Acting 2021, State Forensics 2nd Place in Serious Solo Acting 2021

Jared Michael Sramek

Parents: Raymond & Amy Sramek

GPA: 4.24 weighted

Future plans: University of Kansas majoring in Physics

Honors: Chancellor’s Scholarship, Hilliard Family Memorial, Johnsonville Sausage Scholarship

Extracurriculars: Cross Country, Golf, NHS, FBLA, Peer Chamber


Keith S. Hancock

Parents: David and Sarah Hancock

GPA: 4.082 weighted

Future plans: Kansas State University, major in Engineering and minor in Music

Scholarships and Academic Honors: Kansas Honor Scholar, Kansas Scholars Curriculum Completer, Kansas Governor’s Scholar, Kansas State University University Scholar Award, Kansas State University Music Minor Scholarship, Carl R. Ice College of Engineering First-Year Student Award, Elks National Foundation Legacy Scholarship, Chris Parker Memorial Scholarship, WTC Scholarship, and Pottawatomie County Recycling Committee Scholarship.

Extracurricular Activities and Awards: Participated in Band, Choir, Jazz Band, Mixed Choir, National Honor Society, Debate, Forensics, Robotics, Renaissance Club, the Fall Play, the Fall Musicals, and the Senior Graduation Committee during high school.

Connor J. Richards

Parents: Joseph Richards and Beth Fischer

GPA: 4.061 weighted

Future Plans: Connor plans to attend Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. Carleton is a D-3 Liberal Arts college. He will be playing football for the Knights. Connor plans to get a Bachelor degree then apply to medical school. He in interested in anesthesiology.

Scholarships and Academic Honors: 2021 Kansas High School Scholar 12; A Honor Roll 9,10,11,12; All Academic Honor Burlington Invitational Basketball Tournament 11,12; Bluestem Electric Cooperative Scholarship; Westmoreland Brill Scholarship; Carleton College Academic Scholarship

Extracurricular Activities and Honors: Future Farmers of America (FFA) 9; Travel Baseball:  The Barn, Dirt Devils, American Legion; Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) 11,12; Rock Creek Junior Varsity Player of the Year 9th (Nominated by coaching staff); Football 9,10,11,12  Lettered  9,10,11,12 ,**Team Captain 12; Baseball 9,10,12 (* No season 11 due to COVID) Lettered 10, 12; Basketball 9,10,11,12  Lettered 12; 1st Team 3A All District 5 Linebacker 11; 1st Team All Mid East League Defense 11, 12; All State Honorable Mention Defense 12; KMAN Student Athlete of the Week (Oct 2020) 12.

Caden A. Vinduska

Parents: Andy and Misty Vinduska

GPA: 4.061 weighted

Future plans: Attend South Dakota School of Mines and Technology to get a Mechanical Engineering degree and play football

Scholarships and academic honors: J.A. Lenherr Family Scholarship, South Dakota Mines Football Scholarship, South Dakota Mines Miner Scholar Scholarship; 2019 Wichita State University Honor Scholar; 2019-2021 Burlington Basketball Tournament All-Academic Team, 2021 Kansas All-State Academic Team

Extracurricular activities and honors: 2019 All-League Football Defensive Team, 2019 All-District Football Defensive Team, 2019 All-Flint Hills Football Defensive Team, 2020 All-League Football Offensive and Defensive Teams, 2021 KMAN Athlete of the Week, 2020 3A Honorable Mention All-State Defensive Team, 2020 All-Flint Hills Football Defensive and Offensive Teams, 2021 All-League Basketball Team, 2021 3A Honorable Mention All-State Basketball Team, 2021 All-Flint Hills 3rd Team Basketball


Jeremiah Duncan

Parents: Annette Duncan and Darrin Duncan

GPA: 4.0 unweighted

Future plans: Emporia State and major in Business along with Management and Sales

Scholarships and academic honors: Randolph Lions Club Scholarship and Manhattan Area Retired Educators Association Scholarship. The Blue Valley Senior Scholarship Banquet will take place on Wednesday May 12th.

Extracurricular activities and honors: Class Valedictorian; 2021 Kansas Curriculum Completer; 2021 University of Kansas Honor Scholar; Superintendent’s Gold Honor Cord — 4.0; H.S. Football (4 Years); H.S. Basketball (4 Years); H.S. Track (4 Years); Spanish Club (2 Years); Class Officer (4 Years); BVHS School Play (2 Years); FFA — 5 Years.

Shianne Shelton

Parents: Todd and the late Lora Shelton

GPA: 3.80 unweighted

Future plans: Shianne will continue to work as CNA and begin her apprenticeship to become tattoo artist along with becoming photographer.

Extracurricular activities and honors: Salutatorian; Blue Honor Cord; Cheerleading (4 Years); Volleyball (1 Year); Principal’s Honor Roll; NHS (3 Years); Class Officer (2 Years).


Ames Niele Burton

Parents: Amber Burton and Zac Burton

GPA: 3.58 weighted

Future plans: Attend University of Missouri

Scholarships and academic honors: Athletic Scholarship, track and field.

Extracurricular activities and honors: Basketball, Volleyball, Track and Field, Students Against Destructive Decisions, Culture Club, Science Club, Pep Club, Art Club, FCCLA, Fellowship of Chrsitian Athletes. Basketball- Mid-East League First Team 2020, 2021. Volleyball — Mid East League Honorable Mention

Ashtyn Kulp

Parents: Rob and Cindy Kulp

GPA: 4.0 weighted

Future plans: Attend Grand Canyon University to pursue a degree in Entrepreneurial Studies

Scholarships: Chancellor Scholarship from Grand Canyon University.

Honors: Mid East Academic All-League, Kansas Volleyball Association Academic Award, Member of National Honor Society

Extracurricular activities: Volleyball, Basketball, Softball, Student Council President, Kiwanis Key Club President, Art Club Vice President, Culture Club Vice President, National Honor Society, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, FCCLA, SADD, Youth Group

Ryan Nicholas Pierce

Parents: Richard & Melissa Pierce

GPA: 4.0 unweighted

Future plans: Attending K-State University and majoring in chemistry

Honors/Scholarships: Royal Purple Scholarship from K-State University, High A Honor Roll for every semester, (possibly valedictorian of RCHS’s Class of 2021?)

Extracurricular activities and honors: Golf, Scholar’s Bowl, Rhythm n’ Blue Choir, NHS, & Tri-M; Made it to KMEA All-State Choir my sophomore and senior years, VP of our NHS Chapter

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