Reaching for Excellence: Katelyn Waldeier

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TONGANOXIE, Kan. -- Mark Twain advised us to keep away from people who try to belittle our ambitions.

Small people always do that, Twain wrote, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.

That certainly applies to this week's Fox 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achiever, a teenager whose greatness is in service and helping others achieve.

"It's so nice to be able to play an instrument," said Fox 4 Young Achiever, Katelyn Waldeier. "My singing isn't the best so it's nice to have an instrument that does the sound for me," she laughs.

Music is huge in Waldeier's life and she does make superb sounds with her instruments. She is a star in all the musical groups at Tonganoxie High School, large and small. In concert band she takes to the oboe, a very challenging instrument. Usually, though, you'll find her on the clarinet, on which she got the top rating in state competition.

"I love how accomplished I feel, to work together to make such beautiful pieces of work," said Waldeier. "The same that it feels, when you're helping others."

Through just a little more than three years of high school, Waldeier has compiled an almost unbelievable record of high level accomplishments, involvement and activities. And a whole lot of that centers on leadership and community service. It's what drives her to do projects like a week-long after-school hands-on science camp for Tonganoxie fifth graders.

"I want the kids to know that there are just so many things they can do with their future, and that goes for the science route, to show how much fun it can be and you can learn at the same time," said Waldeier, who is a terrific science and math student.

All as volunteers, Waldeier got two friends to help her create the camp and carry it on and got officials at both the high school and middle school to okay it. People have grown accustomed to this kind of thing from Waldeier.

"She's been amazing up until this year, but this year she's really stepping up her game," said Tonganoxie High School principal, Jamie Carlisle.

Like most everyone else at school and in the community, Carlisle marvels at Waldeier's energy, enthusiasm and ambition, especially for community service and helping others achieve.

"You get glimpses of kids that do a little bit but then they kind of wear out, the fire burns out a little bit or the fire gets a little tired," said Carlisle. "And with Katelyn, that never happens. She never gets discouraged. She just is on fire every time she does something. And how you do something like that, it's amazing to me."

According to Waldeier, however, it just comes naturally.

"I just love helping others," said Waldeier. "When I'm not in the middle of a project, not trying to get others involved in science, or giving blood or donating time, then I feel like I'm being selfish. It's just so nice to feel like I'm being involved and being part of something."

The springboard for many of Waldeier's big projects and accomplishments is her involvement in Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), a student leadership organization. She is a multiple national and state gold medal winner in FCCLA competitive events, and has been the organization's state peer education officer.

Fox 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism.

Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on Fox 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on Fox 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.

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