MADISON HIGH SCHOOL seniors Emerson Lindley (left) and Taylor Harms were recently named to the SDASSP/Daktronics Academic All-State Gold Team. Lindley and Harms are two of only ten students in the entire state to receive this honor.
It’s no secret that senior year is a busy, often stressful experience. Despite this, it’s still important to take the time to acknowledge students’ accomplishments, especially since the end of high school is such a key milestone in their young lives.
One of the ways seniors can earn extra recognition is through applying for South Dakota’s Academic All-State Team, which was created through a partnership between the South Dakota Association of Secondary School Principals (SDASSP) and Brookings-based company Daktronics to recognize displays of excellence from students.
Madison High School Principal Adam Shaw explained that students who apply submit their weighted GPA and ACT scores along with an essay to the SDASSP. If they pass the standards, they are then eligible to be nominated by their principal for one of three teams (gold, silver and bronze), with the number of allotted nominees being dependent on the overall student population.
“There are 10 kids on the Academic All-State Gold Team, and we have two of them,” Shaw said, “and that’s for all the districts in South Dakota.” These students are MHS seniors Emerson Lindley and Taylor Harms, with both being named to the most prestigious level the program has to offer.
“It’s satisfying to see that all the work I’ve been doing these last four years is actually noteworthy in a sense,” Harms said on his reaction to the nomination.
This perspective was backed up by Lindley, who added: “it’s definitely an honor because this is my first year in Madison, so I feel honored that Mr. Shaw even thought of me for this.”
Lindley relocated to Madison this year from her hometown in Nebraska. She noted that while joining a new school her senior year came with some challenges, the people of Madison were more than welcoming. This feeling is shared by Harms, who transferred to Madison from Aberdeen his sophomore year.
“I’ve been really impressed by the people here and how they’ve let me be a part of their community,” Lindley said.
As a part of their application, Lindley and Harms were tasked with composing an essay that showcased a person who had impacted their lives in one way or another.
“I chose my dad,” Harms said. “It’s a little cliché, but he’s shaped me more than any other individual has, and I thank him for that.”
Lindley bounced off this, saying: “I wrote about my grandpa who recently passed away from cancer. He had a really big impact in my life, and I don’t think I’d be the same person I am today without him.”
For both students, family is immensely important, as they were each home-schooled for a significant portion of their education. Lindley entered public school for middle school, while Harms joined for his freshman year.
Lindley and Harms stated that this upbringing instilled the tenet of always doing their best, especially when it came to the pursuit of learning. They added that once they entered public schools, they felt a new sense of pressure to maintain good grades, yet they remained steadfast in their belief that learning is more important than a simple letter.
“For me, it always comes back to when I was a third grader being home-schooled by my mom, and I just wanted to learn things,” Lindley explained.
Apart from academics, the two are also involved in several extracurricular programs. Lindley performs on the flute for the school’s concert and marching bands while also contributing to their theater department’s one-act play performance. Harms is a member of the school’s oral interpretation team, choir and theater department, with both students being National Honor Society members as well.
As for colleges, Lindley is set to attend the University of Minnesota for a degree in environmental science and retail merchandising. While Lindley heads north, Harms will be venturing the opposite direction to attend Texas Tech University for a degree in mechanical engineering.
Despite massive complications from the Covid-19 pandemic, the pair looks back fondly on their high school experience, with each saying that they’ve grown in a multitude of ways since they began their adventure as freshmen. High school may be nearly over, but with college on the horizon, Lindley’s and Harms’ educational journeys are far from over.