PERU — St. Bede Academy Principal Michelle Mershon has announced the Top Ten of the Class of 2019. These students have honorably represented St. Bede Academy in scholastic and non-scholastic events, service to St. Bede and the surrounding community, and in character with the Benedictine tradition.
Valedictorian Alex Dittmar is the son of Richard and Mida Dittmar of Oglesby. He is a member of St. Valentine Catholic Church, and he graduated from Peru Catholic School. Alex intends to obtain a degree in biology; he also plans to attend medical school after completing his undergraduate in biology study, with the intention of becoming a physician. Alex has been accepted at Loyola University, University of Illinois (Champaign), Lewis University and Washington University (St. Louis); he is waiting to hear from Northwestern University and the University of Norte Dame before making his final decision on where to attend. In addition to winning the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) Citizenship Award, Alex was also named as a National Merit Scholar finalist, an Illinois State Scholar, a Scholastic Bowl All-Sectional Team Member, the News Tribune All-Academic Team and the Oglesby Elks Teen of the Month in November. Alex placed second (regionals), first (sectionals) and third (state) his junior year and placed first his senior year for chemistry at the Worldwide Youth in Science & Engineering (WYSE) Competition; he also placed second (regionals) and third (sectionals) his junior year and senior year he placed second (regionals) for English at WYSE. He has received both the St. Bede English Award and the St. Bede Mathematics Award three years in a row, the St. Bede AP Chemistry Award, the St. Bede U.S. History Award, the St. Bede Spanish Award and the St. Bede Fr. Theodore Fuertges Scholarship Award. Alex has been active in tennis, band, Scholastic Bowl, WYSE, the InterAct Club, Lectio Divina, the Spanish Club, the Heritage Club and has been a member of the SBA Student Government, he is serving as the vice president his senior year. He also volunteered his time as an alter server for both St. Bede and St. Valentine’s, participated in the choir at St. Valentine’s and was a peer tutor at St. Bede for three years.
Valedictorian Gianna Elias is the daughter of Dan and Gina Elias of Spring Valley. She graduated from JFK in Spring Valley. Gianna will be attending the University of Illinois and plans to pursue a bachelor's degree in bioengineering, with a long-term goal of studying human genetics to find cures for common genetic mutation and diseases, such as cancer; she also plans to join the Peace Corps before attending graduate school. She received the Academic Excellence Award four years in a row, was an Illinois State Scholar, TRAC All-Conference Academic Team and the 2018 winner of the Wendy's Heisman Award. Gianna was a member of the golf team and the softball team for four years, serving as captain her senior year for both sports. Gianna was a section qualifier, MVP First Team All-Conference and received fourth place in conference for golf; she also made First Team All-Conference, Second Team All-Conference and super sectionals for softball. Gianna belonged to a variety of clubs, including the SBA Ambassadors, WYSE, Scholastic Bowl, the InterAct Club, the Heritage Club and Venturing, while volunteering for the InterAct Club and attending the service trip with Fr. Ronald Margherio.
Salutatorian Ryan Edwall is the son of Ryan and Angelyn Edwall of Utica. He is a member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Peru, and a graduate of Peru Catholic School. With plans to attend Rose-Hulman or the University of Iowa, Ryan intends to pursue a degree in computer engineering or electrical engineering. He plans on attending graduate school to obtain a Master’s of Science in one of the above fields, leading to several internships and a career with a large corporation that revolutionizes modern technology. Ryan was named an Illinois State Scholar and received the Three Rivers Academic All-Conference Award; he scored second place in math at the 2018 Regionals and first place in math at the 2019 Regionals for the World Youth Science & Engineering (WYSE) Competition, with a third place in physics for both regionals and sectionals for the 2019 WYSE Competition and was an honorable mention for the News Tribune All-Academic Team. He received the Chinese Excellence Award, was a TRAC Festival Participant (vocal), Most Improved in Cross Country (2015) and a Sectional Qualifier for Cross Country (2016, 2018). Ryan participated in cross country for four years, track for one year, tennis for one year, the spring musical for two years and the variety show for one year. He has been a member of the Scholastic Bowl, the InterAct Club, Lectio Divina, the Heritage Club, the Tea Club and Chorus. Volunteer activities for Ryan include singing at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, summer clean-up/renovations at Peru Catholic School and assisting the SBA cross country coach with 5K runs for charities.
Meygan Echols is the daughter of Bill and Carrie Echols of Ottawa. She is a member of the St. Columba Catholic Church in Ottawa and graduated from Waltham Grade School in Utica. She plans to do a double major in accounting and finance, and is currently deciding between Loyola, DePaul and Marquette University, along with the University of Denver, San Francisco and Miami; with the intention of having a financial career that incorporates travel. Meygan was named as an Illinois State Scholar and was the girl’s tennis team captain. She has been involved in basketball for three years, tennis for two years and volleyball for two years. Meygan belongs to the Heritage Club, the InterAct Club, the Tea Club, Venturing and the SBA Ambassadors. She enjoys volunteering at St. Bede summer camps for basketball and volleyball, the St. Bede Annual Auction and the Kentucky Mission Trip with Fr. Ronald Margherio.
Alicia Koogler is the daughter of Dr. Robert and Cynthia Koogler of LaSalle. She is a graduate of Peru Catholic School. Alicia is choosing between majoring in computer science or linguistics and pre med or psychology; she is currently deciding between the University of Illinois, Missouri State University, Truman State University and the University of Missouri-Columbia, with a career goal of being a professor, medical doctor or programmer. She received the Festival of the Written Word Award in Poetry, ILMEA participant in clarinet and a Spanish Award her junior year. Alicia played basketball for two years, volleyball for three years and Scholastic Bowl for her senior year. She belongs to the Heritage Club, the Tea Club and WYSE. Alicia has done community service at Illinois Valley Community Hospital in Peru, Peru Catholic School and a variety of events at St. Bede Academy.
Seth Ludford is the son of Dr. David and Ginger Ludford of LaSalle. He is a member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Utica and graduated from Waltham Grade School. Seth plans to attend St. Louis University to study biology or Marquette University to study bio medical science, with hopes of becoming a dentist to carry on the legacy of his uncle’s business in Peru. He has received high honor roll four years in a row, was named an Illinois State Scholar and made the 2019 Top Ten. Seth was involved in basketball for four years, golf for four years and tennis for three years. He was a member of the Last Supper Club, the InterAct Club, the Tea Club, the Heritage Club, the Spanish Club, the Technology Club, Lectio Divina, the Pep Club, SBA Student Government and the SBA Ambassadors. Seth volunteers as a Sunday school teacher and an altar server at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, organized blood drives for the American Red Cross, worked the gate at the LaSalle Festival of Lights and served at the annual St. Bede Auction three years in a row.
Maxwell Manning is the son of Jim and Jennifer Manning of Ladd. A graduate of Ladd CCSD Grade School, he belongs to the Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church in Spring Valley. Max plans to major in civil engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has received the Kevin Gorman Award, the Dedication Award for basketball, the Leadership Award for tennis. Max was also named in the BCR and News Tribune All-Area Football Team and the Second Team All-Conference for football. He has been active in both football and basketball for four years, tennis for three years and baseball for one year. Max is a member of Lectio Divina, the Heritage Club, the SBA Ambassadors, SBA Student Government and served as a Eucharistic Minister. He has completed over 100 services hours from participating in a variety of school projects and community activities.
Pamela Needs is the daughter of George and Barbara Needs of Peru. She graduated from the Needs Family Homeschool and is a member of Crossbridge Community Church in Peru. Pam plans to major in sports management with a minor in kinesiology or law, and is deciding between Belmont University, the University of Tampa and the University of Iowa. After attending a four-year university and receiving her master’s degree, Pam would like to be one of the first female general managers of an NBA team or commissioners of an NFL team. Pam has been on the honor roll all four years at St. Bede and was named an Illinois State Scholar, and received the Presidents Volunteer Service Award, the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Award (HOBY), the Daughters of the American Revolution Award (DAR) Citizenship Award , the St. Bede Citizenship Award and Top Ten. She was also named for the News Tribune All-Academic Team, TRAC All-Conference Academic Team, ALL-BCR Cross Country Team, and Cross Country MVP (twice), the St. Bede Dedication Award for basketball and named most improved in tennis. Pam has participated in cross country and basketball for four years, track for three years, tennis for two years, softball for one year and cheerleading for one year. She served as captain for cross country, basketball and track. Pam belonged to the Heritage Club, the InterAct Club, the Tea Club, the SBA Ambassadors, Lectio Divina, the Last Supper Club, the Venturing Club and the SBA Student Government, to which she served as president for one year. She has earned over 700 service hours during her four years at St. Bede through volunteering at Kids Klub Camps, P.A.D.S., Feed His Children, the Starved Rock Running Clinic, along with many other St. Bede camps and events.
John Potthoff is the son of Jack and Lucy Potthoff of Spring Valley. He is a member of the Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church in Spring Valley and a graduate of Dalzell Grade School. John plans to attend the University of Illinois and major in engineering. He was named an Illinois State Scholar, received the MVP in golf, the Excellence in Math Award, Most Improved in tennis and the Hustle Award in basketball. John was involved in both basketball and golf for four years and tennis for two years; he was also part of the Heritage Club. He volunteered at the St. Thomas More fish fries, the Ladd Moose pizza fundraisers and numerous events at St. Bede Academy.
Kirsten Sibbaluca is the daughter of Delinard and Moira Sibbaluca of Dalzel. She is a graduate of LaSalle-Peru Christian School and she is a member of Faith Church in Peru. Kirsten plans is attend the University of Iowa to study biomedical engineering with a goal of obtaining an engineering internship to upgrade her skills in the field of engineering and collaborate with other professionals. She was named an Illinois State Scholar and received the Three Rivers Academic All-Conference Award. Kirsten has participated in volleyball for four years and belonged to the Scholastic Bowl Team and the Heritage Club. She volunteers her time at the St. Bede Math and Coding Summer Camps, the Girl Scouts Summer Camps and the annual St. Bede Auction.
Olivia Smith is the daughter of Dave Smith and Audra Bima-Smith of Ladd. She is a member of St. Valentine Catholic Church in Peru and a graduate of Peru Catholic School. Olivia will attend the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign to earn a degree in biochemistry/pre-medicine, with a goal of becoming an orthopedic surgeon or plastic surgeon. She was named an Illinois State Scholar, received the Three Rivers Academic All-Conference Award, News Tribune All-Academic Team winner, first place team for the Three Rivers Conference Bowling Team, first place in biology and second place in math at regionals for the World Youth Science & Engineering (WYSE) Competition and first place in biology at sectionals for the WYSE Competition. Olivia was involved in basketball for one year, softball for one year, volleyball for two years, tennis for two years and bowling for three years, serving as captain her senior year for both sports. She was also part of the Venturing Club, InterAct Club, WYSE, Lectio Divina, Senior Ambassador in St. Bede’s Admission Program, Vice President of the Tea Club and the founder of the Heritage Club. Olivia volunteered at Illinois Valley Community Hospital in Peru, St. Margaret’s Hospital, Peru Catholic School and various St. Bede events.
Hannah Yerly is the daughter Tom Yerly and Cate Yerly, both of Peru. She is a graduate of Parkside Public School and a member of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Peru. Hannah was accepted into the Honor’s Program at the University of Iowa and plans to enter the pre-med program to study biomedical science, with the goal of becoming an anesthesiologist. She was named an Illinois State Scholar, received the Christian Service Hours Award and served as cheer captain. Hannah has participated in cheerleading for all four years and bass fishing for two years. She also belonged to the Heritage Club, the SBA Ambassadors, Lectio Divina and Theatre. She volunteers as a Sunday school teacher, at Illinois Valley Community Hospital in Peru, St. Bede Cheer Camps and the Mission Trips with Fr. Ronald Margherio.