Chanute High School senior Grace Uhner took the road less traveled en route to Sunday’s commencement ceremony.
Uhner received her first taste of public education last fall, having previously been homeschooled by her mother since 2nd grade. While her parents encouraged her to attend CHS for her senior year, Uhner was initially reluctant.
“They wanted me to get that public school experience and meet new people,” she said.
Uhner attended Chanute Christian Academy through 1st grade and continued to participate in extracurricular activities like basketball through her junior year with CCA. While Uhner was familiar with some of her CHS peers prior to attending, she was still faced with an adjustment period.
“It was a culture shock,” she said.
Uhner ultimately adapted nicely to her new surroundings, notching a 4.0 GPA during her lone year at CHS. She was also a member of the Blue Comet varsity basketball and track and field teams.
“I ended up thriving,” she said, adding that her homeschool academic background helped to soften the overall transition.
Uhner noted there’s a false perception that homeschool is easy and fosters an environment of slacking.
“School’s whatever you make it,” she said. “You can go to (CHS), and if you don’t want to learn or work, then you won’t. You can work hard and do really well at homeschool, or you can slack off, just like at high school.”
Uhner was also a member of the CHS state championship journalism team. Along with peers Abby Fisher and Xander Weilert, the trio joined forces for a third-place state finish in Multimedia Storytelling, also netting a first-place finish at the regional competition.
“I’ve never been a part of a journalism group before,” she said. “Even just winning regionals, I thought it was so cool and something I’ll always remember.”
Uhner was also pictured in classmate Megan Kueser’s first-place state champion photo.
Her favorite class was journalism-student newspaper, instructed by Dustin Fox.
“Dustin is awesome,” Uhner said. “He’s so encouraging and helpful. I don’t know if I would have been able to transition so
well into high school if I didn’t have him to talk to and ask questions.”
Fox was complementary of Uhner’s ability to excel in a new environment.
“Her growth from the beginning to the end of the year was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen as an educator,” he said. “She came in very unsure, and left with a lot of confidence. She really embraced the idea of getting outside of her comfort zone, and the improvement and growth I saw out of her as a result was something that I’m really proud of. I thought that she did a really amazing job of adjusting and coming into her own.”
Uhner believes that attending CHS was the correct decision.
“I’ve made so many new friends by being a part of high school,” she said. “All of the seniors really accepted me, and even the younger kids, too. I’m really glad I attended, because I think I always would have wondered what it would have been like if I hadn’t.”
There are still aspects of homeschool that she prefers over public education. She particularly valued the flexibility of learning at her own pace, as well as the ability to prioritize her favorite subjects, such as English, reading and history.
“(At public schools) you kind of have to wait for everyone in the class to catch up on things,” she said. “Or you focus on one thing and maybe you’re interested in that, but not as interested in something else the class is focused on.
“(At homeschool) I could focus and center my program around my interests,” she said. “High school is a little different, because they have to be more broad with interests and everything.”
Uhner said her homeschool curriculum was no walk in the park, noting that her mother handed her the only “B” of her academic career, preventing her from achieving a 4.0 GPA.
“But I was able to learn at my own pace and kind of get ahead and learn things that the public schools don’t provide.”
Uhner added that homeschool enabled her to spend more quality time with her family.
“I was able to connect with my siblings and my mom more than I would have had I gone to public school,” she said.
As far as walking the CHS stage Sunday afternoon, Uhner wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s been a really crazy ride,” she said, “but I’ve enjoyed it.”
Uhner also competes in track for the Blue Comets, and is the president of the Savonburg-based Jolly Go Getters 4-H Club. She plans to continue her academic career next fall at Neosho County Community College, with additional plans to attend Labette Community College for its Radiography program.