Sunday, May 26, 2024

SHS salutatorian: ‘FFA has given me a place to just grow’

Wilk plans to study animal science, attend veterinary school in Illinois

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SPRINGTOWN — Springtown High School senior Gracie Wilk found out last year she was ranked second in her class, so she made it her mission this year to hold on to that spot.

“I'm going to do everything in my power not to lose that,” Wilk said about her thoughts at the time.

Wilk even tried not to talk about it with family for fear that she would jinx herself. Fortunately, her methods paid off, and she was named salutatorian for the Class of 2024.

“It’s always (been) like a little personal goal of my own,” Wilk said. “I've talked about it with my dad since I was little, but it wasn't something that I went into high school and said, ‘I'm going to do that.’ I went into it as if it happens, it happens; that would be amazing. But I want to have fun and do stuff and not focus on school so much because if I pour all of my energy into that, it's not going to happen.”

While at SHS, Wilk dedicated plenty of time to the school’s FFA chapter, where she served as treasurer, and participated in livestock competitions. She joined FFA as a sophomore after coming to Springtown in her freshman year. Wilk’s dad serves in the military, so her family has moved multiple times during her life. She previously lived in Midwest states where groups like 4-H and FFA weren’t as accessible to her.

Wilk dreams of becoming a veterinarian, so she got involved with Springtown FFA to move closer to that goal.

“FFA has given me a place to just grow,” she said. “I started showing (livestock) and then the younger kids get into it, and then they come to you with questions and watching them get better and learn and grow and just really find themselves … it was really fun, and I love it.”

Despite not living in Springtown her whole life, Wilk was able to fit in and found a group of friends at SHS who care about her and encourage her.

“There's a community for everybody,” she said. “Not everybody is interested in the same thing and is going to like the same people, but if you put yourself out there, you can find somewhere, and you can find yourself a little community that's going to help you grow and be yourself.”

Time management is a lesson multiple SHS students say they have had to learn as high schoolers, and Wilk is no different. She’s had to balance a job, school and spending time with her family all while staying at the barn to care for her animals until 9 p.m. every day.

“I'm very big on to-do lists,” Wilk said. “Every day, you'll find me with a piece of paper, and I'm like, ‘OK, this is what I'm doing today,’ and at the end of the day, if I don't get all that done, I have to be OK with that because you can only do so much and not over exhaust yourself. I am totally guilty of that, and my mother would say the same thing, that I do too much. But if I want to do it, I'm going to do it, even if it's going to take up all my time.”

After graduation, Wilk plans to move back to the Midwest and attend the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to study animal science before joining the veterinarian program.

“I'm just super passionate about agriculture and that entire industry and super passionate about animal health,” she said. “I always have been. I couldn't picture myself doing anything else.”

In the end, Wilk wants to be remembered at SHS for her character.

“I don't ever want somebody's only thought of me to be negative,” she said. “I think the biggest thing that you should be remembered for is just being a good person, even if it's only in one person's life.”