The University of Washington has announced the freshman, sophomore and junior medalists – the outstanding students in their respective classes – based on academic records for the 2011-12 academic year.
“The UW was the only in-state school I applied to, and in the end, I realized I wanted to live at home so I could see my family, save money by not paying for housing and prepare healthy food more easily,” he said. “Also, the large campus, full of diverse people and beliefs and well-staffed with expert researchers, seemed better suited to expanding my mind than small private schools.”
Jekel received a National Merit Scholarship as well as other need-based financial aid. Outside of class he enjoys writing poetry, stories and music. He attends church regularly and usually swing dances weekly. His volunteer activities have included a weeklong service/mission trip to Yakima with the Reformed University Fellowship and a summer trip to Japan working with relief teams dealing with the effects of the 2011 tsunami.
His career plans remain fluid, but they are likely to include graduate school and an eventual teaching career, either in high school or college.
Emily Nitz-Ritter, the sophomore medalist, is a graduate of Seattle’s Roosevelt high school. She is majoring in English and the comparative history of ideas. One of her favorite classes thus far was “21st Century American Poetry.”
“I remember being pleasantly surprised that poetry could be such a rigorous academic pursuit,” she said. This course and others helped her realize that “my most meaningful learning is done in a classroom that’s just a little bit uncomfortable and pushes me to examine my own convictions.”
Outside of class, Nitz-Ritter has volunteered as a tutor in Highland Park Elementary School. She has been involved with the Honors Student Advisory Panel, which stages an annual Honors Colloquium and other events.
Her plans after graduation are still uncertain. She is considering taking time off to travel, obtaining internships through the UW or applying to Teach for America. She is planning eventually to pursue graduate studies in education leadership and policy studies, with an eye toward a career in public school administration.
Eric Lei, junior medalist, is majoring in computer science, economics and mathematics. He entered the UW after 10th grade through the Robinson Center’s UW Academy. He is currently conducting research on algorithmic game theory – the intersection of game theory and computer science. Lei is involved with the student organization Husky Traders, an investment club with its own stock portfolio.
His plans include eventually going to graduate school to obtain a doctorate in computer science. Lei also was the freshman medalist in 2010-11.