ANDERSON — Elias Waymire, 18, admits learning never came easy for him.
But just as he entered elementary school, when the foundational skills such as reading are taught, he was diagnosed with cancer. That meant missing a great deal of school and cognitive changes as he underwent three years of chemotherapy.
“He’s faced a lot of challenges in his life, and he’s managed to take each one of them in stride and faced them head-on,” said his mother, Heather Waymire. “I think he learned to face all sorts of adverse situations. He had some excellent teachers that looked out for him.”
Waymire was so successful overcoming his challenges that he was one of 20 Anderson High School seniors honored at a special dinner hosted in May by the Anderson Education Foundation, which exclusively supports Anderson Community Schools.
Planning to attend Purdue Polytechnic Anderson in the fall to study computer science, Waymire said the more difficult things are, the more determined he is to master them.
“I’ve always liked the challenge of new things,” he said. “When I’m frustrated, I take the time to cool down, reflect, then continue with what I was doing.”
Waymire — who participated in National Honor Society, marching band, track and cross country during high school — said he also found encouragement in the form of competition with his older brothers.
“I always wanted to be the best, even though I was the youngest, the littlest.”
AEF Executive Director Aimee West said the dinner is an opportunity to show the Anderson community how successful public education looks.
“This event celebrates the best and the brightest, though that’s a relative term. We define it by the highest grade point average,” she said. “It’s important for our kids to know what to shoot for.”
Jordan Patterson, 18, who plans to study biology through the Honors College at Indiana State University, is another AHS senior who reached for the top. She credits her family with her success.
“I have a really good role model in my older sisters, and my parents are really engaging,” she said.
Her parents, Roderick Patterson and Tonya Davis, said they weren’t surprised at their daughter’s success. They describe Patterson, who participated in National Honor Society and technical theater and has won awards for her artistic abilities, as determined with a strong work ethic.
“Her drive is magnificent,” her father said.
The Top 20 dinner also was an opportunity for the students to honor the teachers who inspired them. One teacher who was selected by several students was marching band Director Richard Geisler.
“I have an activity that gives the kids an opportunity to work hard and reap the benefits of that hard work. Music is a subject that reaches the kids at all different levels.”
Follow Rebecca R. Bibbs on Twitter at @RebeccaB_THB, or call 765-640-4883.