Audrey Kolacia, a student at St. Edmond Catholic Schools, was one of 490 students nationwide honored Oct. 7 at the Belin Blank Research Center at the University of Iowa. Kolacia was recognized as part of the academic talent for exceptional students.
"It's the part of the university that focuses on talented and gifted education," Ann Knobbe, a St. Edmond teacher, said. "What they do is, they provide extra testing and educational opportunities for kids who need to excel."
Kolacia, 13, took a test of advanced skills at St. Edmond last year and scored in the upper 1 percent of all students taking the class, Knobbe said. This qualified her to take the eighth-grade ACT Explore test. Excelling on that test as well, Kolacia qualified for the recognition ceremony.
"It's hard work, and it shows that there's a lot of critical thinking skills there," Knobbe said. "And then this year (Audrey) will qualify to take, if she does as well, the ACT early."
Kolacia had taken the skills test, for fourth- through sixth-graders, before. Last school year, she was notified by letter that she qualified.
"I actually took it a couple of years, and last year I scored high enough on it to qualify," she said.
Studying hard for all of her subjects was key to performing well on the tests, Kolacia said.
"I've always kind of been like that," she said.
Kolacia described attending the recognition ceremony as "really fun."
"When we got there, there were different groups of students being honored for different things, it wasn't just the Explore test, so we went into a room with all the other students being honored for the Explore test, and we went into the room where the ceremony was being held," she said.
Kolacia listened to several guest speakers and a special video message by Gov. Terry Branstad, then joined in a procession. She was called on stage, where she received a medal and an informational packet.
Kolacia was allowed to bring with her a teacher who had a profound influence on her life. She was joined on stage that evening by Knobbe, her second-grade teacher.
Knobbe said she was proud to join Kolacia.
"I thought, all those years ago, she still remembers all the work we did in second grade," she said. "Even though you teach smaller children, you still want to accelerate them at the grade level they're at. I remember giving her harder work to do, and having her come in sometimes maybe before school to do some extra work so she could learn higher level skills."
Kolacia said it was nice to be honored.
"It's good, I guess, to know that all my hard work was recognized," she said.