Story by S.L. Hansen
NEBRASKA CITY (SNR) - Lourdes Central Catholic School has announced that seniors Taylor Bequette, Eric Box, Madeline DuBois, and Matthew Martin have all received the University of Nebraska Regents Scholarship for the 2014-15 school year.
While Lourdes has seen students earn this sort of academic recognition fairly regularly, having four Regents scholars in one graduating class of 16 is unprecedented for the K-12 school.
“On average we have one or two students a year who are awarded the Regents,” stated Lisa Whitten, guidance counselor. “In 2011, we had three students offered the Regents. We also have many students who receive Presidential scholarships from private colleges.”
She noted that there is a “strong tradition of academic excellence” at Lourdes Central, citing high college entrance test scores and the success of the school’s Academic Decathlon team.
“We are blessed with strong teachers who are committed to providing the best academic opportunities for our students and who work hard to bring out their greatest potential,” Mrs. Whitten said.
She also said the school’s rigorous curriculum and emphasis on academic achievement fosters the right atmosphere, with full support of parents.
This is evident in the academic record of each of the 2014 Regents scholars. Besides earning a 4.0 in regular classes, Matt and Madeline scored 34 on the ACT college entrance exam, while Taylor received a 33 and Eric a 31.
Each Lourdes Regent scholar applied for the scholarship while submitting an application to UN. When the letters arrived awarding the scholarships, there was excitement all around.
“We were proud of her,” said Taylor’s mother, Kelly Bequette. “She’s worked hard.”
The Bequettes moved to Nebraska City from Atlanta some years ago when Bryan was about to go on his last deployment with the U.S. military before retirement. They decided it was time to try Catholic education.
“The public schools we attended provided a wonderful academic education, and even great character development,” Mrs. Bequette said. “The difference is Lourdes purposely fosters our children’s relationship with God.”
Mrs. Bequette thoroughly investigated several Catholic schools in the Midwest, including Lourdes Central, where longtime family friend Father Michael McCabe is superintendent.
Their oldest son, Blake, earned a Lourdes Regents scholarship but declined it in favor of attending West Point, where he is a sophomore. The youngest, 10-year-old Michael, also attends Lourdes Central.
Like the Bequettes, the Box family settled in Nebraska City after living in different cities. Beth Box, who teaches fifth grade at Lourdes Central, stated, “There was no other option for my children (than Catholic education).”
She said senior Eric, freshman Laura, sixth-grader Renee, and second-grader Jenna are thriving at Lourdes.
“Nowhere else is ‘Catholicism as a way of life’ taught like it is here,” Mrs. Box said.
The Boxes had been told that Eric was a good candidate for a Regents scholarship. However, after the three other seniors received letters, they had their doubts that a fourth scholarship would go to Lourdes.
“My husband and I were very surprised,” Mrs. Box said. “We were so proud of him!”
Over at the DuBois household, they are celebrating their second Regents scholar. Older sister Erin, a 2010 Lourdes alumnus, was the first, and now it’s senior Madeline’s turn.
“We are very excited for her,” said mom Sally DuBois. “She pushes herself to do the best she can in every activity.”
Mr. and Mrs. DuBois chose to send their four daughters to Lourdes Central because neither of them had the benefit of Catholic schooling while growing up. Sally is a convert, and her husband Laurence grew up in an area of Alabama that had no Catholic schools. In addition to Erin and Madeline, Alexis graduated in 2009, and Chloe is in 7th grade.
Suzi and Jerry Martin were similarly proud that their youngest child, Matt, earned a Regents scholarship.
“He has worked so hard in school,” Mrs. Martin said.
The Martins are also transplants to the Nebraska City area. Their older children – Eric, 31, and Kristina, 27 – attended public school in Colorado.
“My main reason for choosing Lourdes was because I wanted Matt to have an excellent opportunity to learn about our Catholic faith, especially when it came to being prepared for the sacraments,” Mrs. Martin said.
She continued, “I am so thankful that Matt had the opportunity to attend Lourdes. He has had an amazing education and so many wonderful opportunities for learning and personal growth.”
Each of these Regents scholars is heading into different fields. Taylor plans to major in animal science and biology. Eric must decide between studying engineering on the Regents scholarship or accepting a Type 1 Commander’s Scholarship through the Air Force ROTC from Iowa State University. Madeline is interested in international relations and foreign language, while Matt has his eye on computer engineering.
Mrs. Dubois agreed that this is a testament to the well-rounded education these seniors have received at Lourdes.
“These students have all dabbled in the arts, sports, Academic Decathlon and taken a variety of classes that challenge them to think outside the box,” she said.
Mrs. Box added, “The senior class is such an amazing bunch of kids. They pray and play together, and push each other through healthy competition…I can’t wait to see all they accomplish as they set out on their own.”
Valued at $27,000, the Regents Scholarship covers up to 120 credit hours inclusive of all University of Nebraska credit; including approved study abroad and Extended Education credit.