Since Elisabeth Huls took her first steps as toddler, she has been on the go.
Huls, now a high school senior, is a multi-sport and award-winning athlete, a student leader, a community volunteer and now the 2017 Lilly Endowment Community Scholar.
The Lilly Scholar receives full tuition to the Indiana college or university of his or her choice and a $900 yearly stipend for books and equipment.
Her friend, fellow BCHS senior Michael Hess, was first announced as this year’s Lilly Scholar in December. Huls was the first runner-up.
However, Hess had also been awarded another full-ride scholarship, to a college in California. In December, Hess told his longtime friend that he was going to accept the other scholarship, thus giving the Lilly to her.
“It’s just really, really great, because this means that I get to go to school without having to worry about student loans, especially since I plan on being in school a long time,” said Huls, who wants to work in pediatric gastroenterology.
“To have the first four years paid for is so incredibly fantastic and gives me opportunities to not have to worry about where I want to go to school.”
Huls intends to study biology at either Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis or the University of Southern Indiana.
She is also considering a double major in Spanish since she was able to earn dual credits in high school. “So, I might as well get a major,” she said with a laugh.
Huls decided she wanted to work in pediatric gastroenterology after experiencing intestinal problems her sophomore year.
“I bounced around from a couple of specialists who didn’t really try to connect with me, or they didn’t seem to exactly try and figure out what was specific to me and special just for me as a patient,” Huls said.
Then she met Dr. Susan Maisel at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St. Vincent Indianapolis.
“She just talked to me as a human and said, ‘OK, there are a bunch of different avenues we can pursue and we’re going to pursue all of them until we don’t have any more options, and when we get to that point we’ll have to then discuss how we help with your lifestyle,’” Huls said.
“She’s been amazing and it just gave me that feeling, ‘This is what I want to do. I want to give patients hope.’”
Huls credits her mother, Sprunica Elementary math teacher Johanna Weinzapfel, with helping to inspire a “love of going to school.”
“When we were younger, we would sit down to study and she would read with me. Just for her to put such an emphasis on school, and when I did well in school to commemorate that it really, I think, just started that,” Huls said.
Huls also mentioned multiple teachers who serve as both mentors and friends. Matt Noriega, Paige Burton, Thom Miller, Julie Owens and Roger Fleetwood are just a few Huls said she owes “everything” to because of their influence on her life and education.
The advice Huls said she lives by came from Fleetwood: “Do your best. No more, no less.”
“She has definitely been molded by so many adults. We’re so thankful that we’ve had such a great community of teachers, community of friends, community of her friends, her classmates, (they) have just really given her this opportunity,” Weinzapfel said.
She describes her daughter as dedicated, loyal, a perfectionist and a “go-getter.”
“If she sets her mind to something, she’s going to do it, and she expects nothing less than the best from herself. She puts a lot of pressure on herself to be the best, to do the best. She is definitely a unique person,” Weinzapfel said.
When Huls began walking, there was no stopping her, her mother said.
“We started calling her Busy Bee when she started walking. … It was like she was into everything, wanted to do everything.
“Even I’ve noticed that some of her friends are calling her ‘Bee’ now. I would say she is busy, definitely,” Weinzapfel said.
Huls is an award-winning volleyball and tennis player. She qualified for the National History Day competition twice. She is a member of multiple honor societies, participates in science fairs, and was the outstanding student in science, math and Spanish. She is a Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor. She was the first-runner up in the Brown County Fair queen pageant.
She has also served as the student council president, co-president of prom committee and her junior class, and helped create the Brown County Dance marathon.
In addition, she coaches a seventh- and eighth-grade volleyball team and works part-time at a shop in Nashville on Sundays.
Still, she said she is finding more time in her schedule, especially during the weekend, for fun — including doing yoga and spending time with her friends and cat.
She considers her experience with National History Day, her work with Big Brothers Big Sisters and her time as volleyball team captain as some of her biggest accomplishments in life.
She’s ranked fourth in her class with a 4.30 cumulative weighted grade-point average.
“I’m really glad that I’ve had the chance to grow up with them and be friends with them for basically our whole lives,” Huls said of the Top 10 students in the class of 2017 — a list that will be officially announced this spring.
“To grow up in that competitive environment is definitely a little grueling at times, but at times, you have to take a step back and say, ‘You know what, I did my absolute best on this, and that’s OK if it’s not the best out of everyone.’
“It’s all about your personal best.”