Homer Alaska - Schools

Story last updated at 6:17 PM on Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Emily, Katie, Marie Schmidt: Scholars times three

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


Photographer: McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News

The Schmidt sisters — Emily, Katie and Marie — are three of 10 Homer High School students to be named University of Alaska scholars.

Ten Homer High School students — the top 10 percent of the graduating class — were recently named by the University of Alaska as UA scholars. In a class of 101, that's what would be expected.

What is unusual, however, is that three of the school's UA scholars come from one family. Emily, Katie and Marie Schmidt are the triplet daughters of Tom and Tara Schmidt.

Born in Anchorage and raised in Homer, the sisters attended Paul Banks and West Homer Elementary schools, Homer Middle School and are now in their last of four years at Homer High School.

Next year, if things go as planned, the three will be experiencing their first year at different schools. And that — distance from each other, as well as attending a larger school — is something each of them looks forward to.

"I'm excited to be in a school where I don't know everyone," said Katie.

Emily, who isn't ruling out enrolling in an East Coast college, agreed. Marie said she's eager for an opportunity to be in a big, "but not too big" school, one she defined as having less than 20,000 students.

When the girls and their parents did a tour of college campuses, anonymity was one of the sticking points. School representatives assured them they would soon be walking around campus and hear "people calling your name out and everybody knowing each other."

"My kids were like, 'Forget about this. We want to be anonymous,'" said Tom Schmidt.

As similar as the three Schmidts may appear, HHS guidance counselor Lin Hampson sees the differences.

"It's not easy in a small town to distinguish yourself, but they keep their identify pretty separate," said Hampson.

Tara also sees the difference in how her daughters approach life.

"Katie is a little more introspective and gets caught up in the big picture, whereas Marie is almost the opposite. She's detail-oriented, which is sometimes mistaken as being more driven. Emily utilizes her resources really well, who to partner with, how to figure things out using outside resources," said Tara.

What the sisters share is a dedication to their studies and to sports and the outdoors — be it swimming, skiing, hiking or camping — and how to find time for everything.

"My girls are just very smart, but more than that, they're good about setting goals and managing their time," said Tom. "They're up in the morning for morning practice, do afternoon and evening practices, don't get home until 6 or 7 at night, eat dinner, study for a couple of hours and then go to bed."

As much as they may look forward to leaving the nest, Emily, Katie and Marie also recognize Homer for what it has to offer.

"It's really beautiful and there's lots of outdoor stuff to do," said Emily.

"The mountains, the ocean," said Marie, filling in details of the area's beauty.

"It's small, but there's lots of opportunities you might not get in a bigger city," said Katie.

Finding those opportunities is something their parents have stressed.

"That's one thing we've tried to impress on our kids, to recognize opportunities and take them," said Tara. "If they're always polite, willing to work hard and recognize the opportunities, great things will happen. I think they bought into that and we're actually quite proud of them."

One such opportunity was opening their home to a foreign exchange student. This school year the Schmidts have 15-year-old Akane Fujimura of Tokyo, Japan, living with them. Akane is here through AFS, an intercultural exchange program.

"This was their idea, they wanted to host somebody," said Tara. "It goes back to recognizing your opportunities, a chance for them to have a cultural exchange without having to leave their hometown."

As UA scholars, Emily, Katie and Marie — as well as Madeleine Bowen, Lauren Cashman, Colin Latimer, Kathleen McNary, Alaine Miller, Kyle Wentz and Robin Wettach-Glosser — each have qualified for an $11,000 scholarship to cover eligible expenses associated with attending the University of Alaska. The award is disbursed in the amount of $1,375 each semester for a total of eight semesters over a five-year period, with the requirements that full-time enrollment and a minimum grade point average of 2.5 are maintained.

"(Emily, Katie and Marie) are smart, hardworking, talented and athletic. They're just great girls. So are all the other kids who are UA scholars," said Hampson.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben. jackinsky@homernews.com.