[SPORTS] Kelsey Bone, return of the warrior

Only the uniform has changed

Kelsey Bone roars back into the SEC

 

by Mike Siroky

 

Kelsey Bone is used to coming out parties.

Maybe all children born on New Year’s Eve arrive with great expectations.

She is back in the SEC after once playing at South Carolina and earning Newcomer of the Year honors with nine double-doubles. She transferred to Texas A&M and sat out the required year, but stayed busy. Last season, as a sophomore, she was the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and a member of the conference all-tournament team.

But, just when you think you’re out they pull you back in.

Her team is back in the Southeastern Conference, ranked No. 20 nationally. She is once again a force in her original conference only she brought a new team with her.

A&M is the best addition to the SEC ever.

They proved that by holding No. 4 Kentucky’s feet to the fire. The Wildcats needed a 34-25 second half at home to eke out a three-point win and maintain the unbeaten pace in the conference.

“I thought this kid right here (Bone) played like an All-American the whole ball game just like Mathies did for you,” observed A&M coach Gary Blair. “That’s why the WNBA scouts were here. They were here to watch Mathies and now they are going to go away knowing who the hell Kelsey Bone is.”

“We have seven freshmen,” Blair said. “ I am pleased with the progress but they have to learn what life on the road in the SEC is all about. To learn the game, not just play the game. No doubt about it, seven teams (in the SEC) have been to the Final Four.”

“It’s all about the word ‘pressure,’ ” Blair said of Kentucky’s defense. “The amount of pressure they put on is similar to the ‘40 Minutes of Hell’ (Arkansas coach) Nolan Richardson used (when Blair coached the women there). When anyone puts extra pressure on Bone, our freshmen have to step up. If you’re gonna take something away, we have to have others step up.”

Bone is the leading scorer (18.1) and rebounder (10.2) in the league. She is the third best career rebounder (693) among active players and will be the leader in the clubhouse next season. She leads the league in most games with 20 or more points (seven times).

All of this comes back to familiarity. She used her off-season sitting out as a transfer to lift weights, and she blogged for the school, about women’s hoops while working on her future career as host of the Aggie Women’s Basketball Show produced monthly during the season by 12th Man Productions and broadcast at the women’s basketball luncheons.

 “So I went to each school and scouted things and saw the lay of the land,” she says of the SEC. Nothing can catch her off-guard.

Her genetics are beyond good. She is from Texas, Houston to be precise. Her dad, two uncles and an aunt all were college athletes.

But, “My grandfather won six state titles (in track) and the public school stadium is named after him,” she observes.

It did not pressure her. But it did help choose a sport.

“I am not for outdoor heat,” Bone said. “I prefer central air. I did try (her senior year) in high school to throw that little iron ball. It was not for me.”

What is for her is hoops. She has played on international teams, coached by Carole Owen, the associate head coach at Notre Dame and a legendary developer of the post players.

Bone helped Team USA to the 2009 U19 FIBA World Championship Gold medal with 12.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game in Bangkok, Thailand.

Every stop along the way has developed her, brought her to his moment.

For instance, “We weight-trained a little bit in high school a little preseason thing twice a week. We died,” she remembers.

She used the season of sitting out to devote herself to weights. “I practiced and hit the weights because I had to do something,” she says of that season. And she proved herself.

“I couldn’t barely life the bar in squats when I started; I maxed out at 355. Maxed out.”

And that serves her well in the rough-n-tumble underneath.

She has learned to use the strength to adjust to the game.

“My freshman year, I was not used to playing a complete game,” she said. “In high school, we’d be so far ahead, I’d sit out. A lot.”

Now that is no problem.

“I have confidence,” Bone said. “I know in the SEC you still have to go to those gyms, hear those boos and you have to believe in yourself.

“I cannot tune it out.”

Instead, she tunes into the legendary coach – who never brags on himself – and her teammates.

“We are just really excited to play basketball,” Bone said. “We have a fun coach, a young team and we are enjoying every game we are allowed to play.”

If this is how it ends, with two more years of top-level college hoops and then an WNBA career aiming towards the Games of 2016, that will be fine.

“I am so respectful of the game and the opportunities I have, we have,” she said. “When I was young, there was only UConn and Tennessee and I wrote both of them letters and said to make sure they’d be coaching when I came along.

“Then, as I got older and learned more, I realized there are a lot of good teams and, as Coach Blair has told us, “Anything can happen.’

“I so respect the game and what it offers.”

The end is fun even if the beginning was not.

“My mom said I had to have something to do in sports. I was in fourth grade, already 5-8 and uncoordinated. My mother was not going to let me not be this. She forced me to play. I hated the game, hated her.

“Now I am so grateful. I am in my home state we have a great team, a great coach and the best fans. My family can see me play all the time.”

 

Death of the Writer

It was a perfectly normal day for a funeral viewing.

The skies were as overcast as ever they were when the steel mills of northwest Indiana were spewing full employment and vibrant economies in the many towns assembled to supply their workers.

On the main line to the funeral home, I passed through six towns, borders unmarked and distinguishable, as I have taught my daughters, only by looking at the color of the signs announcing side streets, as each town has its own motif.

As I wheeled into the parking lot, the crowd was growing even as the viewing began.

This was for an old acquaintance, old, yet still two years younger than myself. We had first met at Indiana University in the wonderful whirl of the ’70s at the fabulous student newspaper. Then again, he was the Hammond paper when I arrived for a short stay and had proclaimed my coming with a solid reputation builder.

He had married another former coworker of mine. They have two children and had not stayed married.

Strangely, she was the only person at the viewing (besides the guy asleep at the front) that I knew. We exchanged hellos and some quick catching up and I signed the book. I was heading away with 15 minutes of arriving, having stayed half as long as it took to get there.

I never know what to think when a contemporary dies and I haven’t. The same about someone younger.

He was also a writer, eventually ascending, as we writers do, to the columnist of the hold newsstand. He was decent enough to hit a homer every once in awhile and did produce the expected number of columns each week to justify the paycheck.

The trick of writing has always been to not make it look so easy. If you have been gifted with the ability, the truth, of course, is that it is that easy. Long ago, in my first paying job watching a succession of mediocre writers try to own the best beat in sports, I realized it was all about access.

If you are granted access to the playing field, the locker room, the practices and can even just report what you see as a human tape recorder, you will have a readership guaranteed. Some will think you are all that. Unless you can write, you are not.

If you remember what you have seen and can bring back salient points at the right time, you are above average. If you last long enough, you are remembered for that. You get to be a part of the paper that is expected to be there, revered and dissed in equal parts.

When you die first while still active, you get to be remembered by your friends.

I am never comfortable with us in the business over-honoring our recently departed. The death of a writer is no more important than that of the retired steelworker who died the same day, or the child of the city who lost his last drug argument.

The writer gets headlines.

Viewings are for the survivors, for his two teenage sons in this case. We feel better, all of us, because we are not dead and we all wonder what our own viewings will be like. As long-serving writers do, he had touched thousands of lives and yet there were not thousands of attendees. Not even a lot of former associates.

And I guess I went to honor the body of work and the workers who made it happen.

And I wondered how he would have written this up.

[Life] Angels Among Us at Christmas

 Angels flying close to our hometowns

Salvation Armey Giving Tree in place at First Choice Barbers

 by Mike Siroky

There is proof that angels live among us.

Each holiday season, the Salvation Army places Angel Trees in businesses. The idea is children in need of presents have ornaments with their names on them hung on the trees and then anyone can come by, answer the request and deliver the goods back to the tree site.

The children get a renewed belief in Christmas.

The donors get much more.

So it is that a brand-new business, First Choice Barbers in Portage, 5973 McCasland Ave., has such a tree in place.

But that is only the first part of the holiday happiness story.

Carlos Chavez is the new proprietor of the business.

But he is not new to the idea of sharing Christmas joy. He started as a recipient.

“Times were tough and we accepted what we could when I was a kid,” said the Portage native. “When I was a kid, things were tough for us, too, so I know what it is like to hope for something you want for Christmas.

“So, while this is actually first one I’ve done, it is part of giving back to my community.”

He said his sister-in-law had the idea and told him about the Angel Tree and the Salvation Army.

“So I made some phone calls to find out about it,” Chavez said.

“I volunteered for 50 kids and they actually got quite emotional about it, said they had never had anyone start with 50. It apparently is a large number, but it is the number I picked.”

Vicki Burge is part of the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program.

“We are all over Porter County, through Chesterton and Valparaiso,” Burge said. “As many as we can get out.

“The key to this is to make sure even the neediest kids get at least something new for Christmas, nothing used, something to unwrap.”

Thought children are the centerpiece, the families and the family of the community also benefit.

“Everybody has needs,” Burge said.

And the Army answers. The rewards for the givers may be greater than the rewards to the recipients.

Burge has eight years’ worth of stories to tell.

“I rode on a firetruck with firemen who were answering the requests of a child who was dying of cancer,” she said. “They answered his every wish.”

Burge said the Angel trees are just part of the larger giving season.

“We have a Neediest Families program, where other families will pick a name and supply gifts for everyone. It is like they adopt that family.”

One of the nicer stories this season is of a family group not from the area who chose Porter County for a family reunion because that is where their family started, though none of them live here now. They are all from other states.

“They had researched us and knew what we were doing and they adopted a family, even though they are not in this area anymore,” Burge said.

“Overall, it is pretty cool. We encourage people to look at the requests as kind of a guidance but to make their own choices as to how much they can help.”

Burge said there is a real sense of “Do right thing.”

“A lot of people (among donors) say doing the right thing is of crucial importance,” Burge said.

Distribution is done on separate days, one for food, one for families and the last Friday before Christmas for the toys. Businessmen have volunteered space for the distribution. Volunteers help with the dispersals.

Another crucial aspect is all the donors want to be anonymous. This is a gift from the family of the community to families in the community.

And so the joy spreads.

“Every time a family comes to get the gifts, they also get a gift certificate for food,” Burge said. “We decided to not be so presumptuous to pick out their Christmas dinner so they go to local grocery stores and pick out their own.”

The stores thus join in the joy as they help feed the community.

Chavez believes in his hometown. In a sense, it is how he has become a new businessman in it.

“I have cut hair my whole life,” he said. “But I just graduated to get licensed.”

The 1992 graduate of Portage high school had a lot of jobs since then. He was most recently a mechanic before this. He wanted to become a certified electrician but was told there was a five-year waiting list just to start.

“But I made being a barber my first choice. I can’t complain about the way it is working out,” Chavez said. “Barbering was more than finding a means to an end.”

The immediate plan was to “give back” to the community, he said.

“Customers just don’t stop here with gifts; their generosity is amazing and they keep giving and giving.”

The site of the shop was established as a neighborhood barber shop, even if the most-recent former owner sort of just drifted out of business.

“It had been a barber shop since 1959,” Chavez said. “It was one barber shop, then another then another.”

Now it is all his.

“I don’t even think about it as work,” Chavez said. “Not many people can say they found what they wanted to do all their life and then did it.

“When I got my hands on it and reopened it, it was just right.

“I had always goy my hair cut here. My goal was to come to this barbershop because it had been established for 30-40-50 years. Everyone once liked the barbers here.”

The traditions of such barbering are not lost on the new guy.

“I figured we can do a little more, make it the way it is supposed to be,” Chavez said.

“We have a motto: ‘If they butcher it, we’ll fix it.’

“Come and get in the chair and we’ll make it look like you had a real barber.”

It’s a slight dig at the national chains of barbers. Chavez observed you never know what you are going to get there. And the person who cuts your hair this time might not even be around when next you need a haircut.

“It’s all about consistency,” Chavez said. “Everyone wants to be able to say, ‘That’s my barber’ and know what to expect every time.”

The neighborhood sometimes seems whole again with a business in a familiar place with a familiar face running it

“So many customers come in and are so happy to see the shop reopened,” Chavez said. “It is open six days a week and I am always here.”

[Sports] Suicide by Cash

Suicide by cash

 

We all wail and gnash our teeth at the deaths.

Why doesn’t someone do something?

The millionaire sports earners seem to be killing themselves, either by vehicle or with guns. There have been three self-inflicted gun deaths in the NFL this year and another by drunken driving. Can you name one of them (and, as this is written, two were within the past 10 days). One is/was famous and if I reminded you of him, you’d say, “Oh yeah, him.” But few of us can recall a name right now. If we can even recall the team with which they were associated after a month, that’s amazing.

None of us know what is the edge that has to be passed in order to commit suicide. So none of us understand it.

There are alleged pysch professionals (and even one TV show based on it) associated with most professional teams. If this is true, why do they not spot the ones who are weakest and heading towards and early fate?

A commonality in the NFL deaths is, of course, the violent game. Do you feel immortal when playing and come crashing down when not? Even in the days inbetween? There is the money thing which means you seldom have to wonder what it would be like to have anything. And that includes guns and fast cars.

You seldom allow people around you to say no to these whims. It would not pay for them to be a naysayer.

As a former drinker, I understand a little about the driving under influence thing. When I did it, there was not near the publicity about results of doing so. I remember quite clearly driving home (a good 20 miles) when too wobbly to walk. I made it home. I fortunately swore to never risk it again and did not.

But I also drank into blackouts, waking the next morning with no idea how I got where I work up and with whom I had been after a certain mental time stamp. So I may have driven more often that I know.

All I really know is I never drank to intoxication after January 1, 1983. Because New Year’s Eve was rough.

Like most of us, I grieve for others killed who had nothing to do with the person having a gun or driving a car on public roadways.

I feel sorry the young men never got help or noticed that they needed help.

I used to keep a yearly list on how many of these sports guys died each year. I gave that up because it became depressingly routine. Sometimes, the dead would be at first almost heroically mourned until it came to light they had been intoxicated at the moment of death.

Sometime, often times, they had “traces of (usually cocaine) in their system.”

I know whenever I go I will not.

That lowers the altar of adulation.

So we are back to what can we do about it. The percentage of dead athletes is minimal in the universe of all sports. What role does society (the rest of us) play in it.

I would guess, as the year closes, the best we can do is pledge to pay more attention, to put more pressure on team owners and operators to counsel the suddenly rich, to encourage a car service whenever someone goes out to drink.

It is s sad way to end a life. And there is already enough unpreventable sadness in this world.

 

 

[Life] Not living in, but learning from the past

You know how we always say we do not really realize we lived through history until after it was over?

 

The drama of certain events are so overwhelming that we just roll with it and only put it in perspective through the fullness time.

 

I have written before about the summer of 1969 and the universal, national and personal impact of that special summer.

 

It started with man’s first steps on the moon. My dad woke me up, my maternal grandfather happened to be visiting and so three generations sat there and watched this live show (TV was not often live then) on our little black-and-white living room television.

 

A couple of months later, my dad and I were at a Cubs game in their special season and saw Kenny Holtzman throw a no-hitter live. My dad was a lifelong baseball fan and mentioned at the time how rare a no-hitter was. I still have the scorecard, mostly in his handwriting.

 

A few more months later, my dad died at age 43, forever altering who I am and what I have become.

 

It took me almost two decades more to realize how all these events happened within months of each other. I had segmented my memory until then, placing the awesome perspectives in separate life chapters, rather than all in a rush of weeks.

 

And this kind of memory is what I am bringing to the death of newspapers, my first adult career, to which I devoted three decades.

You all know my analogy: That we in the  newspaper business kept perfecting the artform long after it was pass relevancy. It is like making the perfect buggy whip at last, the best darned buggy whip in the history of buggy whip evolutions.

 

Problem is, who needs a buggy whip nowadays outside of the Amish.

 

As newspaper fold into themselves, reduce actual size, therefore content and chances at new readers; as staffs dwindle, reducing and educated workforce; as the ’Net continues to flourish, all I see remaining are a lot of high salaries with scared hunkered-down mostly white male executives trying desperately to get to retirement.

 

I think of this as I think of the fine folks who have allowed me to use their names as references on my resume.

 

I am at an age where seven of the best I ever had listed in that endgame have passed away. All were great references for me and my career.

 

Now I list former coworkers, more as character references, but all younger than me which increases the chances I can keep the current list unrefreshed.

 

They knew what they were about. They knew and basically helped shaped the business as I know it. And, maybe, they will represent what newspapers meant when they were relevant.

 

Colleen “Koky” Dishon was a dynamic, impish woman who shared the survival of cancer with me and also came into my newspaper life late, sort retired then but still vital. She had helped define The Chicago Trib, my all-time favorite newspaper. She had broken many “this is the way we always do it”   rules along the way.

 

I think she would laugh now as some of the decades-old revamps she put in place at the smallish newspaper I was working then still use the changes. The point is to always change. Eventually changes become what they beheld,  a “this is the way we always do it” rule its ownself.

 

Doug Kneeland did it all, on all sizes of newspapers, proving talent is talent. He launched hundreds of careers and through them thousands. He also worked the Chi Trib at the end of his career life. On a whim, he got me an offer to move up into the chain at one of the outposts.

 

It was a life’s crossroads and I was not ready. He knew I was. I did not heed. I have never once complained about the choices I did make but this is one that would have been most interesting. A single guy would have jumped. I was not and did not.

 

Had I jumped, I maybe never would have met Cokie, but then I believe in fate and so probably would have.

 

In my real hometown, of Gary, I once witness the local newspaper actually getting better for an arc of a few years, four years in the ’80s. It has since dramatically declined and is back on a death watch as part of the Sun-Times debacle.

 

Beverly Kees was the editor who made the difference once called me when I was editing a small chain of weeklies in the area and just wanted to talk to whoever had attracted her attention with what she liked in newspapers.

 

It was me. I was having too much fun working with young folks and writing, writing, writing to want to make a move. She did. She took her impactful national life tour to Fresno and other places and was subsequently killed in a traffic accident.

 

Among my first great references was Jack Backer. He was in charge of establishing the Indiana Daily Student as the dominant college newspaper it remains.

 

He was a hands-on publisher, everybody’s pal, the first to meet and greet a newbie in the newsroom. We hit it off after I convinced Bib Greene to let us buy his column when Bob Greene was a big deal columnist that did not cut rates for anyone and certainly not for a school newspaper.

 

 Jack Back offered me a dream internship in Hawaii for simply achieving decent grades while writing, writing, writing and editing the paper.

 

I had just gotten married and could not see telling my bride I was off for a summer in Hawaii and she was to enjoy her summer in Bloomington.

 

Jack had redesigned more newspapers as a consultant than any man alive. Newspaper folks will know what modular layout means. If he didn’t invent it (and I suspect he did) he certainly elevated it and took it national.

 

He died of cancer while I was still an undergraduate. I volunteered to write his life story for the alumni association and got a lot of amazing responses for simply telling the truth, Maybe it was because I walked up to the unapproachable school president at a basketball game and asked for a comment. The guy was so shocked that a student would dare approach him, but he gave me a lead quote and I knew Jack would have just smiled at the attempt and success.

 

Lately, I had a lovely lady in Wyoming who defined that state’s newspapers. Carolyn B. Tyler had survived polio as a child and was forever wheelchair-active and CBT was a pistol. When I inherited her office long after her time there, there was this mail slot sorta thing connecting the office with the main newsroom, more like the drive-up at a bank than anything else.

 

 

I had to ask. It was her way of staying sane. You had something to say to her, you pushed it into her office that way. In other words, the door did not open unless it was really important. I sometimes sat in that office as a tribute to her, trying to absorb the magic she left behind. She asked if she could be a reference as she liked me. She passed this year.

 

Her body had finally given up. Her mind is still with us, though, because she visits me in the silent moments of the nights and gives me advice still.

 

These folks all lived the newspaper life and died while it still meant something. They enriched me. There is an old American Indian thought that believes a person never dies as long as someone remembers them.

 

I will not forget.

[LIFE] The Write Stuff: Neal Litherland Has An E-Book Online

 
The Write Stuff: Neal Litherland Has An E-Book Online
 
by Mike Siroky
 
 
The Write Stuff: Neal Litherland Has An E-Book Online
 
by Mike Siroky
 
Neal Litherland is one of those writers who considers every event in his life an opportunity for a story.
So it is not surprising his latest book is both online-only and came about in a roundabout way as he was on his way somewhere else.
He works for the publisher, Jupiter Gardens, as an editor. Even how he came to be there is interesting.
“I was hanging out in Chicago with some friends and was looking for work to pay the bills and one of them mentioned Jupiter Gardens. I asked if they had any openings and they did and I applied,” he said.
“When they sent me the contract, I asked if I would still be eligible to submit stories. I was. So I took the job.”
Spin ahead a little and he notices a writers’ call for a six-story anthology with young people as the target audience.
He submitted “Summer People” and was rejected. But the publisher liked it well enough that they want to issue it as a stand-alone “Paranormal Romance” novella. And so it is online, offered through Amazon.com, among others.
It has a virtual cyberspace cover like any traditional work of fiction.
The main character, Bethany, starts out to get a job and get away from home for the last summer before college. Her aunt’s café seems like the perfect place.
Of course that was before she met Sean, with his angel’s voice and devil’s eyes. And it was before Danny, who keeps paying mysterious calls, came into her life. It might be her last summer as a girl, but does she want to become a woman with a man that has secrets?
That is the synopsis.
“I did some self-publishing a while ago, so this is not my first published work,” Litherland said.
“Though this one is only available electronically. You just pay for download to wherever you’re at to whatever device you use.”
He marvels at the two-sided considerations of traditional publishing vs. e-books.
“The Porter County (library) system has e-books,” Litherland said. “So it will be in the library.
“The thing I’ve learned about a physical, traditional book is that is sort of the top of the mountain of publishing. You’re lucky to get there.”
He said he noticed three separate calls for writers for anthologies.
“There was ‘Boys of Summer’ and I didn’t make that collection,” he said.
“This one was submitted for ‘Summer Fling Romance.’
“I really do not consider myself a romance writer yet here I am as a romance writer.”
He also said he does not classify himself as a writer for “Young Adult,” yet here he is in that classification as well. Finally, writing from the voice of a young girl as another new perspective, which Litherland calls “amusing” when he thinks about all of it.
“Even though the main character is a young girl, there is nothing objectionable,” he said.  “:I would say it is an Interesting experience to try and see things from a teenager girl’s point of view, as a male writer.”
He did interject a hidden treat for local readers, using one setting that is an easily-recognized Valparaiso coffee shop.
Once he began in earnest, he did not pay particular attention to word or page counts, saying there is great leeway in such things in books.
“It is evidently a short long piece or a very long short story, but it was a ball as a writer,” Litherland said.
As an author, it is most difficult, he said, identifying if you have a base of readers and then building on one.
 “In a non-fiction background, real people don’t actually know you,” he observes.
He started his post-high school career at Valparaiso University and eventually transferred to and graduate form Indiana University Northwest.
His degree is in Criminal Justice, which means “I can work in law enforcement or corrections,” he said. But he long before knew he wanted to write when he attempted a first novel at age 13.
“I just now found my voice,” Litherland said. “One of the most important things a writer can do is find his unique voice.
“Once you got it you can just run with.”
He is already at work on his next anthology submission, with an “End of Days” theme, due out in December.
He calls that a “post-apocalyptic romance.”
“I had to write it 15 times before it would work,” he said. “Of all the short stories I have written, this one is definitely not for younger readers.”
And, next year, he will submit to a call for “Bad Romance.”
 
 
 

[Life] The Hope of High School Achievement

National Merit Winner From Valparaiso Is More Than A Cipher On A Grade Point List

By Mike Siroky

There is more to Hopey Fink than her stellar grade point average.

As a student who, she says, naturally “got it” in the classroom, she has taken some teasing for being on top of the academic honor rolls for most of her classroom years.

Not that it really bothered her; it was just something that comes with such success. She likes to think of herself as a “well-rounded, normal” student who is ready to embrace what comes next.

Her accomplishments were underlined in a national way when Elizabeth Hope Fink – she identifies herself as “Hopey” — of Valparaiso High School earned a National Merit Scholarship.

She has waded through fast-track acceptance letters from the most-prestigious, top academic colleges in the land and settled upon Georgetown, with a proposed double-major in Linguistics and Anthropology.

She credits her mom and dad, Sarah and Joe, with her life successes so far, which naturally includes what she had accomplished grade-wise.

“My parents are very encouraging, not demanding,” she said.

“I have always been exposed to learning environments, they always wants us to do our best, to keep learning.

“They have never been really strict about exactly what grades I get, just so long as I do my best learning.”

So, with what she termed “acceptable” PSATs, she entered the National Merit competition.

High School juniors take the test, after meeting qualifying standards through their PSATs.

Registration for the test is by high school rather than individual student.

The National Merit Scholarship Program, located in Evanston, Ill., receives all PSAT/NMSQT scores and information students provide on their answer sheet.

A Score Report gives each student a Selection Index score (critical reading plus mathematics plus writing skills scores) and whether the student meets NMSC program entry requirements.

The Selection Index scores of students who meet entry requirements are used to designate high scorers to receive recognition. NMSC identifies its semifinalists and sends scholarship application materials to them through their high schools.

 In both the National Merit® Scholarship Program and the National Achievement® Scholarship Program, students who qualify as Semifinalists and then meet academic and other standards advance to the Finalist level to compete for scholarships. 

So Fink progressed after earning Semifinalist status – no mean feat in itself – and was onto the finals.

“I was surprised when I actually got my score. I didn’t understand how the whole process worked,” she said.

“I didn’t realize how selective it was until I looked it up on the Internet.”

There were 16,000 students nationwide named semifinlaists.

NMSC’s goals have remained constant since its inception in 1955:

• To identify and honor academically talented U.S. high school students;

• To stimulate increased support for their education; and

• To provide efficient and effective scholarship program management for organizations that wish to sponsor college undergraduate scholarships.

The NMSC has recognized 2.8 million students and provided more than 350,000 scholarships worth more than $1.4 billion. The honors awarded by NMSC to exceptionally able students are viewed as definitive marks of excellence.

And, as Fink learned, certain schools provide additional scholarships if you are a National Merit winner.

When she received notification she had actually won, she forgot to send in the paperwork for publicity so the award was sort of a secret for awhile.

But it is no secret she has chosen Geirgetown. She plans to work summers on anthropology digs or with her professors to get addtional hands-on skills.

“Georgetown itself, as a history buff, is exciting eniugh,” she said. 

“I can’t imagine walking in those footsteps. The Smithsonian.”

Her reading selections and watching documentary TV shows has led her to anthropology. “It is something I just kind of went to over time,” she said.

”But I have never taken an actual anthropology course of course. I think I can end up in graduate school, with lots of time academic research.”

So her she is, on the precipice of a brave new world, expanding from Valparaiso to everywhere, the future studies mixed with defining the past.

Because she applied to her colleges of choice early, she knew in December which schools were personal finalists, including local favorite Notre Dame.

She knows the move to D.C. will be tough, as she is so very close to her family.

“I am gonna miss a lot of things, but my family most of all,” she said.

As the oldest of four children, she is a personal role model for her younger siblings as well as for anyone dedicated to the sheer joy of learning, of expanding personal world views. “They are all very smart,” she said of her family members. “I am sure they will all do fine.”

She has been part of St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Student Missions (associated with Valparaiso University) and wil complete one last trip, to the Minneapolis area, this summer.

“I will miss that,” she said of the mission trips. “I definitely love traveling.”

“And we do have some relatives in the (Georgetown) area, so I will have family close by,” she said of the coming transiton phase.

“I have always sort of seen this as an exciting new experience. I will mis my parents, my family, my friends, of just being in Valpo.

“It is exciting as the end of the school year comes, bittersweet,” she said. “I stil have prom, graduation and all that, but it is sneaking up on me.”