Even with a learning disability, Ariel Depler, 18, a 2011 graduate of Marion High School, refused to let it control her life, overcoming obstacles in pursuit of her dream to become a nurse.
Her efforts did not go unnoticed either.
Her teachers, counselor and principal saw that she was devoting more time to academics; to reward her hard work, she was recommended for a ?Yes I Can!? award.
Nominating her for the award was MHS?counselor Phoebe Janzen. Biology, chemistry and science teacher Bruce Rhodes submitted one of her recommendations.
Twenty-seven students were recognized nationwide and three were from Kansas, said Brenda Odgers, MHS principal.
Depler?s award was in the academics category and was based on her dedication and commitment accomplishing that aim.
Marilyn Friend, president of the Council for Exceptional Children, praised Depler for her hard work during the ceremony April 27 in Washington, D.C.
?The Yes I Can! awards were developed to honor students with disabilities who have achieved remarkable things,? Friend said. ?Ariel exemplifies the spirit of these awards with her hard work and perseverance.?
A daunting task
?Ariel struggled with her academics until her sophomore year,? Odgers said, ?even though she received part-time special education services for her learning disability.
?To mask her insecurities, she often blamed others for her inability to understand concepts and she would become easily distracted and frustrated with her teachers.?
Faced with her future goal, though, Ariel said she knew she needed to make some changes.
The first step was to talk with her special education services team and request to be included in all general education classes.
She also stopped participating in afterschool sport activities to devote more time to her academics, Odgers said.
Rhodes also talked about Depler and how she evolved from her earlier high school years. He said he was Depler?s teacher when she was a sophomore in biology and as a senior in chemistry.
?During the time that I have known and instructed Ariel,? he said, ?I have seen a great improvement in how she has achieved academically in the area of science and also in the manner in which she has developed a positive attitude toward her education.?
When he originally taught Depler, he said she had a difficult time studying science and focusing on her work.
?She did not always achieve at a high level,? he said. ?She was frequently distracted from her work and became frustrated when asked to do her best, often showing this openly.?
In her senior year, she studied chemistry, he said, and she made ?great strides? in her approach to learning.
Rhodes said she became more focused on learning the material and worked diligently on make sure she internalized the concepts she needed to understand.
?She is now very self-motivated in making sure that she is responsible for learning the material herself and very appreciative of help given her,? he said. ?She seems genuinely happy about learning. She is doing her best at being responsible for her education.?
?Yes I Can? awards
Friend said that because of Depler?s achievements based on information provided by school staff and council members, she was one of the 27 students receiving a 2011 award.
?Each year,? Friend said, ?CEC honors these students with disabilities who have excelled.
?Awards are given in nine categories to include academics, arts, athletics, community service, employment, extracurricular activities, independent living skills, self-advocacy, and technology.
In addition to honoring Depler for her accomplishments, Odgers said the staff at MHS was also ?extremely proud? of her strong work ethic.
Depler and her mother, Dana, along with Odgers flew to Washington, D.C., and stayed at the Gaylord National Hotel.
Ariel said it was her first plane trip and her first train ride in the Metro. A reception was also held for her and the other winners in the Cherry Blossom Ballroom at the hotel.
The three also bought souvenirs, saw the White House and toured the Capitol.
Depler was also grateful to the organizations that helped pay for her trip.
Donations were received from CEC, Tampa State Bank, PEO, the Marion Ministerial Alliance, 20th Century Club and Kiwanis.
?Ariel is definitely a success story,? Odgers said. ?She has refused to let her learning disability get in her way and has proven to herself and everyone around her that she has what it takes to be successful.?
Depler resides in Marion and is considering her college options.