Savannah Kenyon has gone from premature birth and abandonment to being adopted into a loving family.
She has gone from bullied to brilliant, despite suffering with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and makes an extra effort every day to rise above the disorder.
That’s why Westby High School selected her as its La Crosse Tribune Extra Effort Award winner.
Westby Area High School educator Jennie Marx said Savannah has overcome more in the past 18 years then most of us will ever endure.
Her past made it difficult for her to form friendships, keep relationships and close connections to people in general. But as the years have passed, Savannah has matured and developed a sense of who she is and who she wants to become.
“Savannah may not be the varsity starter on the team, but she is definitely a team participant. She is extremely resilient and has participated in multiple events and organizations at Westby. She advocates for herself and those around her and has learned to trust people and evaluate if relationships are worth it or not,” Marx said.
In first grade, Savannah was moved into special education classes for help with reading and math. Diagnosed with ADHD, she was placed on medications to help her focus, but the disease was quickly taking a toll on her emotionally and socially.
ADHD disorder lends itself to low self-esteem, often results in troubled relationships and makes learning for students suffering with the disorder difficult. The disorder is a lifelong battle and when not treated properly, can cause problems at inopportune times.
“I have been taking medication to help with my ADHD. When I don’t take the medication, I feel very slow and tired. I can’t focus and have a hard time paying attention,” Savannah said.
With her ADHD in balance, Savannah was thrilled when she was taken out of special education classes at the end of third grade. For her parents, the move meant their daughter was physically and mentally showing improvement, but for Savannah, moving to the general classroom meant less bullying from her peers, who found her an easy target to belittle when she was labeled as a special education student.
“For me, it was a relief, because now I was able to work on my own, and I wasn’t bullied on as much. I didn’t feel out of place anymore,” Kenyon said.
Savannah’s math and reading skills showed great improvement in fourth grade, but as she entered middle school and the workload increased, she struggled with time management, which adversely affected her grades. It took two years for her to work through the change of pace from elementary school to middle school, but the tide began to turn by the time she entered seventh grade. She went from below-average grades to being an honor roll student.
She knew she would never be a straight A student, but just making the honor roll for Kenyon was a feat she was never sure she could attain. It became a driving force to be the best she could be during the rest of her school years.
Her high school years would be filled with highs and lows as she tried to find a balance between what was expected of her as a student, what she felt she needed to do to fit in, and what actually made her happy as a person.
Savannah made the honor roll her freshman year and was content to have carried on what she achieved in middle school.
By her sophomore year, Savannah began searching for the right niche.
She tried to expand socially as a contestant for Syttende Mai royalty, but was left without a crown. She tried to expand physically as a three-sport athlete, but felt defeated after not earning a letter in anything. Her academics took a backseat as she tried to find herself and she paid the price when grades were posted.
After reflecting, Savannah took charge of her life her junior year. She turned her focus back to academics, learned how to manage her time and get her life back on track. She culled the number of co-curricular activities she was involved with, focusing instead on the ones she enjoyed most. She even lettered in cross country and gymnastics her junior year, a feat she is extremely proud of.
This bright-eyed young woman, who always has a smile on her face, can hardly believe she is a senior and how fast her final year in high school is going. Savannah plans to attend Western Technical College and pursue a degree in nursing.
“I’ve went from special education to applying for scholarships.My parents (Keith and Kristine Kenyon) are extremely happy for me and personally I can’t believe how much my life has changed for the better. It was worth all the extra effort,” Savannah said.