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My Student, My Hero: Profiles in courage

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Two seniors inspire fellow students, teachers by overcoming obstacles

By Ramsey Scott

This weekend the Jefferson Foundation, Southwest Plaza and the Columbine Courier will recognize eight outstanding Jeffco high school seniors for their work in both the classroom and in the community.

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To help celebrate, the Courier is profiling two students from our coverage area who have impressed teachers and classmates with their drive to overcome the many obstacles life has thrown in their way.

The students will be honored at a ceremony at 11:30 a.m. Saturday on the community stage at Southwest Plaza. The presentation, also sponsored by Beau Jo’s, Elite Sound, FirstBank, Kaiser Permanente and DaVita, will feature a performance by the Deer Creek Middle School Choir.

Quinn Silco,
Columbine High School

Columbine high senior Quinn Silco has a lot to say.

Yet a desire to voice his opinions shouldn’t be confused with the desire to be proven right.  

“It’s important for people to share what they think with the world — and to respect what the other person thinks,” Silco said. “If people are too afraid to say what they think, nothing would get done.”

That ability to both hold strong beliefs while remaining open minded to those with different ideas is something that Silco’s teachers have taken note of and praised him for in their nomination letter.

“I know he’s just genuinely conscientious,” said Lee Paternoster, the counselor at Columbine High School who nominated Silco. “He’s just one of those kids.”

Paternoster said Silco’s respect for his classmates and teachers isn’t isolated to how he conducts himself during class discussions. It’s how he conducts himself in his own pursuit of his education.

Silco has a mild form of cerebral palsy, a group of disorders that affect the brain and nervous systems. Paternoster said Silco’s poor vision and trouble writing make every assignment longer.

While he is allowed more time to complete his assignments and other allowances by law, Silco refuses to take advantage of them, doing every step of every assignment in the same time and the same way as his fellow students.  

“I feel like if I did that, then I wouldn’t be experiencing what it is to have to turn things in on time and deal with criticism when I didn’t,” Silco said. “If I used the short cuts, then (cerebral palsy) would define my life.”

And there is so much that Silco would rather be defined by: his singing, his desire to be a journalist, his strong faith.

“We all go through the things we go through for a purpose. Struggling is important,” Silco said.

“There are a few kids who look at education as an opportunity. He’s just one of those kids,” Paternoster said. “I think he’s just the kind of student that remind teachers why they teach and why we’re here. And what we do does matter to students.”

Laura Tschudy, D’Evelyn Junior/Senior High School

Being alive is the best-case scenario. It’s a lesson Laura Tschudy knows well.

Tschudy recently marked the one-year anniversary of being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that affects the lymph nodes.

“It was very hard to figure out at a young age,” Tschudy said. “At 17, you don’t expect that.”

After five rounds of chemotherapy and three months of missed school, her cancer has gone into remission. She is now back to participating in numerous academic and service-oriented clubs as well as playing on the soccer field.

While it would be easy for Tschudy to be defined by her battle with cancer, that was the one thing she was determined not to let happen.

“I didn’t see a reason it should slow down my life,” Tschudy said. “You wish so much to be normal and not let it completely into your life.”

D’Evelyn principal Terry Elliott said Tschudy’s determination not only to beat caner but to not let that battle define her is the reason the school nominated her for the award.

“She never had a frown on her face or said, ‘Woe is me.’ She just kept on going forward with the situation, and she didn’t let it define her,” Elliott said. “She persevered through a very difficult situation. She got to have her normal senior year of high school because of her will and grit and her aggressive treatment.”

While out of school, Tschudy kept up with the rigorous assignments in her Advanced Placement chemistry, calculus and English classes by having friends take notes and by studying while recovering from the effects of chemo treatments.

“There were definitely some moments when you’re like, ‘Oh crap.’ But you’re attitude really determines how it’s going to end up,” Tschudy said. “At the end of the day, I learned so much. I grew up very quickly.”

Elliott said Tschudy’s determination to graduate on time and attend college has inspired teachers and fellow students.

“Her life is the life she wanted today, even though she got some horrifying news,” Elliott said. “To have such determination, and the will and strength to address the situation, its motivating for the rest of students.”

Tschudy has already been accepted into the Colorado School of Mines and is waiting to hear back from several more schools, including her top choice, Duke University, which her older brother attends.

“It was definitely one of my harder years,” Tschudy said. “Just being alive is the best-case scenario.”

Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22.