Valedictorian Von Thun sets Coronado GPA mark; Feuerbach is salutatorian

       In many school years, Alec Feuerbach's 4.7273 grade-point average (GPA) would have been good enough to nail down the honor of class valedictorian at Coronado High.
       Not this year. Setting a new school GPA record, Scott Von Thun's 4.857 earned him the valedictorian slot and relegated his scholarly classmate to salutatorian.
       With both earning all A's throughout their four-year high school careers, the difference was in the number of honors and advanced placement (AP) classes they took. In such classes, a “weighted” extra point is added to students' grades. So a non-honors class gives 4 points for an A, while honors and AP classes each give 5.
       En route to setting his record, Von Thun did what most students find logistically impossible - focus on both engineering and music. The problem is the high number of classes required in each discipline. He managed this feat, he explained, by taking several general, required classes in an online format in the summer - including health, gym and foreign language - clearing his schedule for engineering and music during the regular school year.
       This extra effort also aided Von Thun's GPA. If taken in the regular school year, the summer classes, because they are non-weighted, would have lowered his GPA. But as it happens, when classes are taken in the summer, they are marked as pass or fail and do not affect the GPA. As a result, Von Thun had fewer 4's on his report card than he would have had otherwise, which allowed his GPA to reach record heights.
       He hadn't planned it that way. “I hated the summer school classes,” he said. “But I liked being able to take both engineering and music.”
       Based on school information, comparing Von Thun's GPA to those of previous top scholars is a little like apples and oranges because his is through just the first semester of the senior year. The school's list of previous GPA highs appear to include the second semester. Von Thun's will surely be even higher when the current semester ends. But no matter. The previous best was still “just” 4.79.
       Both the valedictorian and salutatorian have selected colleges and will get significant scholarship aid. Von Thun will be going to the Colo-rado School of Mines and Feuer-bach to Denver University.
       Both also had scholarship offers from multiple schools - six in all for Von Thun and two for Feuerbach.
       In addition, Von Thun has been honored as a Boettcher Scholar and a National Merit Finalist; other scholarship help has been offered by the Elks National Foundation and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
       In extracurricular activity, Von Thun was a leader in the school robotics program, which he helped start through the school's Engineering department; and he made All-State Jazz Band as a trumpet-player and ran cross-country.
       Feuerbach's main extra-curricular interest was baseball. He played on the varsity squad from his sophomore year on and was named honorable mention in the Metro League this year.
       In separate interviews, both students were also asked these questions:
  • What are your college plans?
  • Who do you credit for helping you attain your high level of achievement?
  • What was your most valuable high school experience?
  • What's the secret(s) for getting good grades?
           Their responses follow.

    Scott Von Thun
    Westside Pioneer photo

           Von Thun
           College: At School of Mines, he plans to have a double major in mechanical engineering and electrical engineering. “That will leave options open for all sorts of fields,” he said.
           Credit: “Definitely my parents (Matt and Debbie Von Thun). They always pushed me to do well in all my different pursuits.”
           Valuable experience: “Absolutely robotics. That changed me in so many different ways.” Asked if he meant the way the extracurricular robot-building endeavor furthered his engineering knowledge, Von Thun replied, “That and being able to talk to people.” He explained that he was referring to the aspect of robotics that requires students to get out in the community and to work with each other.
           Good-grade secrets: “Turning in all your work. With the points you earn that way, you don't necessarily have to do well on tests… although it then follows that you will know the subject better.”

    Alec Feuerbach
    Westside Pioneer photo

           College: He wants to be a physician, so at Denver University “I'll probably major in biology and take classes in pre-med.”
           Credit: “Both my parents (Jon and Julie Feuerbach). They helped me a lot and supported me in areas I couldn't understand.” He added that because both his parents are physical therapists, that helped influence his career choice.
           Valuable experience: “Baseball, especially this last year, because we had a better team, made the playoffs and beat Cheyenne Mountain.”
           Good-grade secrets: “Do your work - that's pretty apparent. There are great teachers here. If you don't understand something, they'll help you.”

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