Junior achievements

Yale Book Award given to Marquette 11th-graders

Yale alumnus Laura Farwell, left, presents Yale Book Awards to Marquette Senior High School juniors Willem Guter and Zita Jamison. The awards are given for outstanding personal character and intellectual promise. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — Two Marquette Senior High School juniors have received the Yale Book Award, given for “outstanding personal character and intellectual promise.”

The recipients, who were honored in a Friday ceremony at the high school, were Willem Guter and Zita Jameson.

Yale alumnus and local resident Laura Farwell noted it’s the first year the awards were given at the school and a first time they’ve been handed out in the Upper Peninsula.

Two students received the award because “it’s such an amazing junior class,” with one student per participating school typically receiving it, according to Farwell, who noted a Yale alumni schools committee works with the schools to discover worthy recipients.

“How are the alums going to know how great you guys are, right?” Farwell asked.

With the help of teachers, administrators, advisers, counselors and the like, Guter and Jamison were chosen.

Farwell acknowledged that “outstanding personal character and intellectual promise” can be interpreted in a holistic way.

“The personal character ties into service, and service can take a lot of different shapes and forms,” she said, with those types including traditional community service or an organization within the school that reaches out into the community.

“It could be the captain of a sports team who isn’t only interested in his or her athletic ability but is nurturing the younger or less experienced athletes on the team,” Farwell said.

Regarding intellect, it’s not about getting an A in class.

“It’s truly having that intellectual curiosity and really loving to learn, not just ‘I need to take these courses so I can put them on my transcript,'” Farwell said.

The students’ list of accomplishments seem to fit those descriptions.

For example, Guter is an advisory member on the Marquette Area Public Schools Education Foundation.

“I help look over new ideas that teachers and groups within our public schools are thinking of trying out, and see which one of those we can fund and which we can’t,” Guter said. “That has helped me learn a lot about all those things that are being tried.”

For example, last year he was interested in MAPS Makerspace, an area at the high school where 3-D printing and other activities are taught.

“I was like, ‘Whoa, this is really cool. How are they managing to do all this with their very limited resources?’ And now as part of that, I’m kind of learning more about how that actually works and how groups can do stuff like that,” Guter said.

He also helped start the Edge of Reality Arcade, a virtual reality arcade in downtown Marquette, and teaches sailing over the summer.

Jamison is vice president of the Youth Advisory Committee through the Community Foundation of Marquette County.

“You realize how much support there is in the community through grants, and then through that, I kind of get a voice in the community to say, ‘As a youth member, this is what I think the youth needs in terms of educational resources and also just basic needs,'” Jamison said.

She also is involved in MAPS Makerspace as well as robotics.

True to its name, the actual book given to the winners is a book from Yale University Press.

“The Origins of Everything,” written by Yale professor David Bercovici, is what Farwell called a “student-inspired” book.

“He tells it with a wit, and I don’t like to give something out if I haven’t read it myself,” Farwell said. “What I really enjoy about this is that I always put things like cosmology in a separate compartment from geology, and this really spoke to me a lot about how those things are so integrally related.”

The book also focuses on what is understood about the earth, the earth’s history and human history pertaining to not just the universe but the origin of the solar system, she said.

“You want to turn the page,” Farwell said. “At least I did.”

The awards have another meaning, one that could affect the students’ futures.

“Yale would very much like students like yourself to apply,” Farwell said.

She stressed that financing for would-be Yale students, particularly those in rural areas, can be beneficial in that it’s “need-blind” in which assets from students and families are looked at, and the gap is met.

In fact, Farwell said that Michigan is one of the states where it’s more affordable for a student from a “median family” to attend Yale than a state school.

“They want any student who’s admitted to be able to come and not have financial resources or lack thereof to get in the way,” Farwell said.

Farwell also called Yale an “and” school instead of an “or” school.

“As a science or engineering major, you get good exposure to the humanities and liberal arts, and vice versa,” Farwell said. “In today’s world with all the complexities, it’s really hard just to be in a vacuum.

“So if you just study computer science and you know nothing about politics, economics and history, you might be at a loss in a career, but if you have that and you learn the critical thinking that goes with the discipline, that can really do well for you in your future. I believe that you can have a richer life because you’ll appreciate more around you, and also have a whole lot of opportunities.”

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.