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Ana Zdechlik and Austin Dorenkamp will give inspirational speeches at their graduation ceremony Sunday, June 12.

New Life Academy's top two students may tie for valedictorian title

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It's neck and neck between two New Life Academy students for the title of valedictorian.

It will come down to whether one of the two students gets an A- versus an A at the end of the semester, said guidance counselor Lindy Wiersum.

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The top two students this year are Ana Zdechlik with a GPA of 4.14 and Austin Dorenkamp, with a 4.13 GPA.

In the end, the two students may tie and become the school's 2011 co-valedictorians; otherwise one will come on top while the other follows as salutatorian. As of the press deadline, the distinction had yet to be made.

Both students have been part of New Life Academy for years and said ending on top was never really a goal they were trying to achieve.

"Work as hard as I can and see what happens," Dorenkamp said of his initial goal.

Earning straight A's was not an easy task, though. The active duo had to juggle sports, family, friends and academics every day.

"And balance it all without going crazy," said Zdechlik, who plays soccer and participated in cheerleading.

Each year in high school got busier for the students with more opportunities for advanced placement classes. Then senior year hit and they got even busier.

"You're faced with senior slide," Dorenkamp said with a smile, but he added that he pushed himself to finish the way he started while managing his time and still playing football and running track.

Ending up on top was rewarding, Zdechlik said, and she'll continue to work just as hard as she moves on to the University of Minnesota-Duluth's honors program to major in biology and prepare for dentistry school.

However, she understands it's OK to get an A- or B+ in college.

"I'm just hoping to survive freshman year," agreed Dorenkamp, who will also be an honors student at Iowa State University next year.

Although Dorenkamp has volunteered with the Salvation Army in the past and will work as a day camp counselor -- as well as help the Woodbury Police Department during major events this summer -- he's more interested in computer engineering and said law enforcement is something he may consider in the future.

"The law enforcement field is really rewarding," he said, but he added that it would be easier to switch from computer engineering after finishing rigorous courses.

Dorenkamp and Zdechlik will both speak at their graduation ceremony to be held at 7 p.m. Sunday, June 12 at New Life Academy's gymnasium.

"I don't want to make it all about me," Dorenkamp said of his speech, adding that he will try to re-live some of the memories he endured at the school.

Zdechlik said she wants to inspire her classmates in some way before they start the next chapter in their lives.

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Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.
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