High-achieving and down-to-earth Maria Schlegel is one of two valedictorians at Carroll High School this year, but maybe more impressively, she’s one of two Carroll valedictorians at the family dinner table.
Thirty years ago, Dave Schlegel was valedictorian and scholar-athlete of the year for Carroll’s Class of 1988. He said there was some nostalgia seeing his daughter walk the same halls, and he was very proud when she earned a share of the valedictorian honor at Carroll with Quinn Retzlaff this spring.
“Maria just worked her butt off,” Schlegel said. “It’s just amazing to see what she’s done with the level of effort and commitment she had through the process.”
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Maria Schlegel is the picture of a go-getter, adding varsity athlete (volleyball), girl scout Gold Award winner, drama club and other activities to her resume. She joked recently that her life had hit “Senioritis Stage 4” while taking Advanced Placement exams and trying to imagine the “new concept” of free time looming in the summer.
She said her dad supported her and never pushed her to get certain grades or to be valedictorian.
“It’s not like he was pressuring me to do it because he got it, or that he was reliving that moment through me. My dad has never cared about grades like some other parents do … as long as I was putting in the effort and doing my very best,” Maria said. “That was really a blessing to grow up with my dad and his mentality about school. He always understood what I was going through. If I was really stressed, he’d understand. It’s awesome.”
The idea of being Carroll’s valedictorian was in the back of Maria’s mind even when she was at Ascension grade school in Kettering. Maria said she knew back then that her dad had won the honor, adding that she has always looked up to him. But she thought the chances were slim when she took a Carroll math class as an advanced eighth-grader, and got a “B” for second semester.
She continued pushing herself, talking about having a “standard of perfection” that is common among some of the highest achievers. She said she probably took that too far, putting a lot of stress on herself. She said she regrets not taking quite as much time to enjoy the high school experience.
She said along with “don’t forget your lanyard,” that would be a key piece of her advice for new Carroll students.
“When I was a freshman, I was looking down the road and saying OK, I’m going to work really hard so I can get a good college scholarship,” Maria said. “But I think it’s important to take it one day at a time and enjoy the stage of life that you’re in.”
Maria said she challenged herself with hard science classes and loved microbiology. She said there was camaraderie among her fellow students, even when things were hard in Advanced Placement classes.
“AP physics was a good time,” she said. “That’s probably the hardest class I’ve ever taken, just because my brain doesn’t really work like that. The way it changed all of us — all of us from AP physics have the same (post-traumatic stress disorder) going on.”
Dave Schlegel said support from Maria’s teachers and from the friends she studied with were key to her academic achievements. Schlegel, who worked as a mechanical engineer before his current job in the mortgage industry, said he thinks Carroll is more challenging academically today than when he was in school.
He said he and Maria didn’t do any friendly trash-talking about who would have family bragging rights, because he knew how hard Maria worked. Maria will take that work ethic to Miami University in the fall, planning to study microbiology or public health, with a minor in Spanish.
“Whenever someone asked what I wanted to be when I grow up, I would always say I wanted to be a kid, because that’s the dream, right?” Maria joked. “Now the dream is to work with Doctors without Borders, doing research.”
Dave Schlegel said his daughter is used to being goal-oriented, and he encouraged her to stay with a balanced version of that approach.
“Just set a goal and go after it with full effort,” he said. “If you fail, that’s OK, learn from the failures. And if you succeed, that’s fantastic, but enjoy the journey.”