The judges for The World-Herald's annual academic program always have a difficult task.
They're faced with hundreds of students with impressive test scores, high grades, amazing accomplishments and strong leadership.
The World-Herald invited 305 Nebraska high schools to participate in our annual tribute to outstanding students.
Of the 245 schools that participated, we received 642 nominations. Schools were asked to nominate their two top-ranked students (or top two students with the highest grade-point averages if the schools don't rank) for recognition. In addition, schools could nominate up to three other students with a test score of 32 or better on the ACT or a 1450 or better on the SAT.
Of those nominated, there were:
» 22 perfect ACT scores of 36
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But these students aren't just about grades and tests. Some excel at choir, band or dance, and others shine in robotics, Quiz Bowl or FBLA. Some even manage to blend a variety of seemingly disparate interests, such as sports, arts and sciences.
Many are leaders, as well. Some are elected officers in a school club, while some are founders of their own clubs. Others are leaders in statewide organizations.
To determine the best of the best, The World-Herald invited nine judges to narrow the field. This year's judges consisted of counselors and administrators.
They were divided into three groups, with three educators each, to select the members of the All Regional Teams: Metro, Eastern and West-Central.
Our judges were:
Metro: Dionne Kirksey, Omaha Central principal; Kristen Reeves, Omaha Skutt counselor; and Katy McQueen, Bennington counselor
Eastern: Alissa Hoffmann, Norfolk counselor; Holly Toft, Arlington counselor; and Renee Jones, English teacher at Lincoln High and 2023 Nebraska Teacher of the Year
West-Central: Jeffrey Horner, Minden counselor; Jake Willems, Aurora counselor; and Craig Dickes, McCook principal
The judges for the Metro team gathered at The World-Herald for their judging session in early April. The Eastern and West-Central judges met by Zoom. World-Herald staff members facilitated the meetings.
The judges selected 12 students for the first team in each region and 12 for a second team.
A week later, a representative of each Nebraska regional judging panel participated in a conference call to select the nine-member All State Team. Those three judges — Reeves, Jones and Willems — considered the 36 students who had been named to regional first teams in Nebraska.
The process allows each judging panel to determine what weight to give the various pieces of information on the nomination form. For example, judges might choose to prioritize rigorous schedules, varied activities, ACT and SAT scores, class rank, leadership roles or success in academic competitions.
The World-Herald does not interfere with the process. It asks that the judges focus on achievement and come up with a consensus on their picks.
At the end of the process, most judges, as well as the coordinators of this program, are amazed at how many bright young people we have in our state.
Congratulations to all the students nominated from the Class of 2023 and the parents and teachers who have supported the students on their educational journey.
The nine members of The World-Herald's 2023 All State Academic Team have their sights set on the future as they prepare to embark on their next academic adventure.