A Publication of WTVP

Be like Lincoln

by Amy Edgar |
Lincoln's Peoria

Sixteen Peoria County high schoolers have been honored as Lincoln Seniors

Each year, some of the top students from across Peoria County are recognized for exhibiting the traits of character, conduct and scholarship that were associated with America’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln.

The Lincoln Senior Award is given to one outstanding senior from each high school in Peoria County. The 20th annual Lincoln Senior Awards were announced Feb. 16.

2023 Lincoln Senior winners

The awards were established after a group of Lincoln scholars banded together in 1999 to raise funds for a life-sized statue of Lincoln in commemoration of his historic 1854 speech near the site of what is now the Peoria County Courthouse. After the statue was erected in 2001, several thousand dollars in funds remained. The group forwarded the money to the Peoria Federation of Teachers to encourage young people to model Lincoln’s finest characteristics, and the first Lincoln Senior Award ceremony was held in 2003.

According to the award criteria, Lincoln Seniors must:

  • Be a good student who demonstrates diligence and preparation in school work;
  •  Be passionate and deliberate in the desire to learn;
  • Show an appreciation for self-learning, initiated independently;
  • Be selective and disciplined in reading;
  • Exhibit leadership and good organization;
  • Have ambition to succeed;
  • Demonstrate an ability to speak clearly and deliberately;
  • Be knowledgeable about history and politics;
  • Believe in the equality of individuals and traditional values;
  • Be courageous and exhibit persistent effort in the face of adversity;
  • Be honest and humble while displaying loyalty to family, friends, school and relationships;
  • Demonstrate good humor.

“These students are the best and the brightest,” said David Poehls, director of special projects at the Peoria County Regional Office of Education.

For example, Mariah Cade has participated in track and volleyball at Richwoods High School for the past four years, as well as chorus and the Madrigal Program. She also has served as senior class president. She plans to study history and social sciences in college. Anthropology teacher Jason Clark nominated her for the award.

“Mariah is one of the most articulate and intelligent students I have ever had,” he said. “She really considers what others have to say before expressing her own thoughts on something.  She has the ability to disagree respectfully … This is an incredibly important skill, and Mariah’s mastery of it is beyond her years.”

Ava Schramm of Illinois Valley Central High School in Chillicothe is involved in soccer, cross country, German Honor Society, and National Honor Society. She plans to attend Wartburg College and study economics or finance.

“I would say ‘surprised’ isn’t a strong enough word,” Schramm said of her nomination by the school’s history department. She described it as “one of the greatest compliments I’ve received academically and personally.”

Breyon Grayson has stayed plenty busy at Quest Charter Academy High School, where he has been involved in track, robotics, band, choir, Student Senate, Art Club and Junior Elite. He plans to pursue voice performance and art-related studies after graduation.

“I have had Breyon in class for two years,” said Christian Lloyd, music and band director at Quest. “He was one of the hardest working students both in and out of the classroom.

“If he keeps the same attitude, he will continue to shine and progress in the world.”

In addition to the student awards, the Jim Cummings Lincoln Leader Award is given each year to a community member who reflects the attributes of the former president. This year’s award went to retired Peoria County Sheriff Brian Asbell, who served in that capacity from 2017 until 2022 and in multiple positions at the department since starting there in 1995.

Brian Asbell, left, recipient of the Jim Cummings Lincoln Leader Award

A complete list of the 2023 winners is as follows:

  • Ryder Becker, Limestone Community High School
  • Kamela Breedlove, Manual Academy
  • Alivia (Livi) Bryant, Brimfield High School
  • Mariah Cade, Richwoods High School
  • Kyleigh Carpenter, Farmington Central High School
  • Kathleen (Kati) Elliott, Peoria Regional Learning Center
  • Kellen Francis, Princeville High School
  • Breanna German, Elmwood High School
  • Breyon Grayson, Quest Charter Academy High School
  • Eli Joseph Huene, Illini Bluffs High School
  • Mariel Kottoor, Peoria Notre Dame High School
  • Abrar Monyem, Dunlap High School
  • Brady Rodgers, Peoria Heights High School
  • Ava Schramm, Illinois Valley Central High School
  • Malachi Washington, Peoria High School
  • Lydia Yacoub, Peoria Christian High School
Amy Geier Edgar

Amy Geier Edgar

is the Youth Services librarian at the Dunlap Public Library District, following a career in journalism that included working for the Associated Press in Ohio, Connecticut and South Carolina.