Time to spare was never an option for Chanute High School’s Jillian Vogel in her quest of reaching her childhood dream of attending Harvard University.
When times were normal and well before states of emergency because of the unrelenting COVID-19 pandemic, it wasn’t anything new to find Vogel toiling away doing homework in her Chanute home after school around 7 pm, after music practice at 9 or 10 pm, or on the weekends. A lot of her time, at least during basketball season, was spent plugging away at homework on her laptop before or after games as one of the three seniors on the team this past 2019-20 year. Vogel was a fourth-year player.
The rigorous studying, even with all the activities in which she participated, led to a 4.0 GPA all four years, earning Salutatorian, and her dream of a full-tuition scholarship that covers $60,000 a year at Harvard University, the No. 2-ranked institution of higher learning in the country. The future Ivy Leaguer also earned an Academic All-State nod by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association for the first time and several other scholarships that will cover almost the full cost of Harvard’s room and board.
Vogel prepared all her life to become a Harvard student, but was caught off guard when she found out a few days ago that CHS head basketball coach Dustin Fox had nominated her for the All-State academic award, which includes a criteria of ranking in the upper one-fourth of the graduate class, scoring a 25 or higher on the ACT, and exhibiting good moral character.
“I didn’t even know that it was really a thing,” Vogel said. “I didn’t know anything about it, but one of my parents’ friends tagged them in the post on Facebook, and that’s how I found out.”
Vogel, 17, has known for a while the steps needed to attend an Ivy League school, some of which included activities outside of the classroom. She helped start and was involved in HOSA Future Health Professionals at CHS that centered on her interest in the medical field. The club has around 20 members. Vogel said she created this club because CHS already had several clubs focused on careers, just not for medicine.
The young Chanute native also wrote a few stories for The Comet, the school newspaper. Honors English her sophomore year helped her with the stories, and one of the standout projects in that class was her essay of “Why I want to go to Harvard.”
Fox, who teaches English and the newspaper class as well as coaching girls basketball, vividly remembers these special projects, which incorporated her singing and acting talents in her writing.
“I am proud of Jillian for working hard and realizing a dream,” Fox said. “She is certainly a talented young lady, but she has combined that talent with a fierce drive and work ethic to realize her potential. In everything she has done, she has been a tremendous representative of our basketball program, Chanute High School, and the Chanute community as a whole. I have wno doubt that will continue to be the case moving forward.”
Moving along in her journey to Harvard, the honors student also used her singing talents in choir, musicals and for music festivals and contests, and enrolled in some of the more difficult courses in high school, including AP English, AP Language, AP Calculus and AP European history.
Vogel said she attributes striving to be the very best version of herself academically from a very young age to a combination of factors.
“My parents are definitely some of the most supportive people, but I think I kind of made that decision for myself that academics was most important,” Vogel said. “Obviously, (my parents) did want me to succeed because, who doesn’t want their child to succeed? But I like to think I am a competitive person and I like to think I am a self-motivated person. But I also couldn’t get through my academics without my parents. So I think it was a personal decision, but it couldn’t have been carried out without their support.”
In Vogel’s elementary school days, parents of some friends had the temerity to shoot down the idea of attending Harvard University. But it was her parents, Nate and Ragan Vogel, who would challenge her to beat the odds.
Vogel took that and ran with it. As a student at Chanute Elementary, she earned 100 percent on both the English and math state tests. A few years later at Royster Middle, Vogel was typically a part of Scholars Bowl teams, placing in several tournaments.
A couple of years into CHS, she earned Honors Geometry Student of the Year, Honors Biology Student of the Year, and other honors and community service awards.
Now, Vogel focuses all her energy on Harvard, as she will double major in regenerative biology and either music or theater.
“Giving that we are living in this time of uncertainty, I really don’t know if I’ll be able to attend in person in the fall as of now, so I’m kind of just waiting for that call,” Vogel added. “It’s either going to be, I’m studying from my house, which would be kind of depressing, or I’m going to be in Boston in the fall. It’s kind of scary not knowing, but I’m just trying to prepare myself the best I can. I’ve been watching different webinars just to try to get into the college mindset.”