By Jim Misunas
BUSHTON — Katelyn Zink is accustomed to being called last.
“For a long time growing up, I didn’t like it,’ she said. “But now, I’ve actually gotten used to it.”
For once Zink could enjoy the luxury of being the last in line.
She’ll be the trivia answer to the question, “Who was the last graduate of Quivira Heights High School?”
Zink hadn’t really thought about what it meant to be the last Thunderbird to graduate. Quivira Heights, itself a consolidated school, will merge with Claflin next school year at Central Plains High School.
“But my friends kept reminding me I’d be the last one to graduate,” she said.
Perhaps it was symbolic that the football homecoming queen and straight “A” student with summa cum laude honors earned the distinction of being the final graduate. The Quivira Heights Thunderbirds defined small-school success in-and-out of the classroom the past 35 years.
The Thunderbirds earned state respect for their success in sports. The Thunderbirds captured seven state championships, including boys golf, volleyball, boys track and eight-man football.
Many of the graduates have gone from their small-town upbringing to big-time success in their lives.
“Some people might not appreciate the value of a small-school education,” Zink said. “We get to receive one-on-one help. We get to know everyone in our school and all our teachers. I’ve really enjoyed it all.”
She appreciated being a part of every aspect of high school life. She was a part of a state championship in volleyball her freshman year. Her volleyball team qualified for state again as a senior.
“I’ll remember my friends, all the sports and big events like homecoming and prom,” she said.
Now, she has bigger dreams that go well beyond central Kansas. Zink said she’s optimistic that she has a bright future ahead of her.
She enjoyed chemistry in school and thanks to a supportive teacher, Robert John, she will pursue a career in pharmacy at the University of Kansas.
Taylor Siemsen delivered the farewell address for the Quivira Heights Class of 2011.
“This year has been many firsts and lasts,” he said. “It’s the end of a great tradition and the start of a new one.”
He is thankful for the memories.
“I love this place,” he said. “What Quivira Heights stands for will never be matched. It’s one big happy family.”
Some of the Quivira Heights staff is riding off into the sunset with the Class of 2011. Principal Lenny Gales came back for one final year to cap off 43 years in education. Business teacher Ron Stump and longtime school secretary Betty Dohrman will also retire. There were a handful of graduates recognized from the first Quivira Heights class to graduate in 1977.
Gunner Phelan likes to think the 35th and final Quivira Heights class will always be remembered too.
“They saved the best class for last,” he said. “We’ll go on to do some awesome things.”
By Jim Misunas