Constitutionally speaking

DeWayne Bartels
Bill Christ, chairman of the Woodford County Republican Central Committee, smiles as he presents Julia Markun of Metamora with a $500 check as the winner of the Heritage Scholarship.

When Daniel Bolsen was asked by Christy Cole Casey to judge for the Woodford County Heritage Scholarship he had no idea how tough a job it would be.

The judges had four high school candidates — Abram Frank of Eureka, Greg Wolf of Minonk, Belle Moushon of Eureka and Julia Markun of Metamora — before them.

In the end, Markun walked away with the $500 scholarship provided by the Woodford County Republican Party.

But, it was a win for her that almost did not come off.

‘Amazed’

Casey said she could not have been more pleased with the scholarship.

“It was started as a way to bring civics out of the classroom and into the real world for high school students,” she said.

“I was totally amazed by our candidates. Each of these students was exceptional. For our first time I was impressed and pleased.”

Last minute decision

Markun said she found about the scholarship at the Metamora Township High School guidance office.

“I’m going to college so I decided to apply. I felt pretty good about my chances,” she said.

“However, applying was a last-minute decision. We have family up north. We went up there to visit over the holidays. We drove back last minute to get my entry in.”

Markun said she enjoyed the entire process.

“The interview was really fun. I thought they might ask us about politics. I was nervous about that,” she said. “But, it turned out to be about personal information and leadership.”

Markun said the only partially uncomfortable aspect of winning was reading her essay before a packed house at the Lincoln Reagan Dinner.

“It was a little nerve-wracking,” she said.

Markun said she had little trouble deciding what to write in her essay.

“I’ve been through civics classes. I know how important the Constitution is. I know how I feel about it,” she said.

Markun said one of the high points of the evening was having dinner with State Rep. David Leitch, R-Peoria.

“He was really nice. He gave me his business card and told me to contact him if I ever needed anything,” Markun said.

Judging

Bolsen, 21, is a junior at Eureka College where he is a Reagan Fellow with a double major in sports management and communications.

“I was getting my hair cut at Christy’s salon when she approached me about the need for some assistance with a scholarship the county Republican group was starting. At the time, I was searching for a service project,” he said.

Reagan Fellows, as part of the Reagan Leadership Program, give back to the community while earning service hours. Each Fellow completes one project per year.

“I felt assisting with the scholarship committee was a perfect fit,” Bolsen said.

As a judge he read over all the essays, letters of recommendation, and resumes that were submitted.

The judges arrived early the night of the Lincoln-Reagan Dinner to hold approximately a 20-minute interview with each of the four finalists. The interview allowed, Bolsen said, to delve further into information each candidate had supplied to us through their letters and essays, and we had some set questions each candidate answered.

After the interview, the judges deliberated as a group, and then individually scored the candidates on a pre-set scoring system. The compilation of the scores determined the winner.

“All of the candidates were absolutely remarkable. Four fantastic individuals who made the judging process extremely strenuous. It was not an easy decision by any means,” Bolsen said. “For me personally, Markun stood out due to a remarkable essay that thoroughly answered our essay question of ‘Is the U.S. Constitution A Relevant Document In Today’s Society?’ But, once you get a chance to sit through an interview with this young lady, it is hard to fully grasp all of her accomplishments. She has excelled in every facet of her high school career, ranging from being Student Council President to having an ACT that ranks in the top 10 percent of the entire state. Based on her personality and strong leadership abilities, I have no doubt she is going to do great things no matter what college she chooses to attend.”

Bolsen’s praise did not end with Markun.

“These four finalists have set the bar for this scholarship at an extremely high level for future applicants. I was blown away by their aspirations for future careers and their forward-thinking” Bolsen said. “These four are the kind of leaders that are needed in our society today. I wish each of them the best of luck as they further their education, and I am really looking forward to working with the scholarship committee again next year.”