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Student moved by dad's advice

January 13, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

It was Kelly Cordes' father who walked her to elementary school, helped her with math homework and encouraged her to succeed.

An illness two years ago claimed her father's life and changed her life forever.

Cordes, 17, now a senior at North Hagerstown High School, was named a recipient of a $10,000 scholarship from the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Scholars, one of more than 100 scholarships awarded annually to high school seniors across the country.

The post-Civil War author Horatio Alger Jr. wrote popular rags-to-riches books that taught readers that success can be achieved by the use of good judgment and perseverance.

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Cordes said her father, Eugene N. Cordes, always taught her she had to study her school books and Bible diligently.

"He always made sure my grades were up," she said. "He would always tell me that nothing in life is easy. You have to work for whatever you get."

Cordes has a 3.5 grade point average and has enjoyed being part of numerous school plays and the North High Show Choir. She is also a member of the National Honor Society, The Honor Club, various area church youth groups and The Academy of Medical Careers.

"I've always been really serious about getting good grades," she said.

She will be one of six North High students who will intern at Washington County Hospital this spring.

Being in extracurricular activities can be expensive, she said. When her father died two years ago, Cordes and her mother lost about half of their income.

Cordes began spending even more time with her studies and took on a job at Marshalls department store, working 25 to 30 hours a week to save money for college.

"It helped me from thinking about it too much," she said.

She was just accepted into and will attend Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va. She hopes to be roommates there with her longtime best friend, Ashley Chupp, who also applied there.

Tina Cordes, Kelly's mother, said Eugene Cordes "was a born-again Christian and always wanted her to go to a Christian college."

Kelly plans to study to become a psychiatric nurse.

Her father, a former naval officer, was sick for about four years before congestive heart failure claimed his life in January 2001. He suffered from emphysema, bipolar disorder, dementia and diabetes.

"I have a really strong spiritual belief, and I feel that his memory has helped me strive to get into college," she said.

Cordes wrote about her father in her essay for the scholarship, but she also wrote that she has always taken the most strenuous classes and has never allowed his loss to affect her studies.

She said North High teachers Joseph Scheer, a Latin teacher whom she said she can always talk to about problems, and Curt Shetler, show choir leader who helps her be more aware of her spirituality, wrote excellent scholarship recommendations.

"I wouldn't be the person I am today without Mr. Scheer or Mr. Shetler," she said.

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