It's natural for humans to crumble when struck with unforeseen tragedies; when faced with life-changing circumstances, many respond by altering the way they approach life.
Ellsworth senior Ryan McGregor didn't react the way most would have anticipated when his father unexpectedly died in the summer of 2016. In a previous interview with the Herald, McGregor said he just wanted to be treated normally by his peers after his father's death. That went for on the field and in the classroom.
Nearly a year and a half after the passing of his dad, McGregor has exceeded all "normal" standards in school. The Ellsworth senior has maintained a strong academic performance (ranked in the top-10 of his class and has a grade point average of 4.1) even with a loaded schedule. McGregor has taken multiple Advanced Placement, level four and Project Lead the Way Engineering courses, and because of this, Ellsworth High School Principal Mark Stoesz thought it was only right to nominate McGregor for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program.
The national, profound program was established in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson and has since aimed to encourage academic success by awarding high school seniors who have shown outstanding results in school.
Initially, the program focused on solely recognizing students who achieved high ACT and SAT scores, but as of 2013, the scholars program has expanded its nominating pool by including a category that honors students who have made significant strides in overcoming challenges in their educational journeys.
After Stoesz nominated McGregor, the senior responded to three writing prompts included in the program's application process, and was shortly informed that he was one of the top-20 finalists in Wisconsin.
McGregor was happily surprised when he received the news of his top-20 selection.
"I was in Calculus, and Stoesz came into the room, he pulled me out of the room, and I was like, 'Oh God, I'm in trouble," McGregor said. "Then he just showed me [the results] and I was really happy."
In his first writing prompt, McGregor was asked to describe his academic achievement and how it has influenced his decisions about his future. The senior focused mostly on his superior successes with math and statistics.
"Through my success in math and statistics I have been influenced by my teachers to pursue a career in the business world," McGregor wrote. "After identifying that I wanted to pursue a career in business I decided to apply for the school store. The school store thus far has taught me how a business is ran and how to deal with customers."
Next, McGregor wrote about the hurdles he's overcome throughout his high school career. McGregor began the prompt by detailing the hardship he and his family went through when his mother was arrested for embezzlement his freshman year of high school.
"During this transition my father played a huge role in caring for my emotional and personal needs," McGregor wrote. "Watching my father provide for two kids taught me how to persevere through tough situations to achieve what you want."
McGregor was forced to put that perseverance to use after his father's passing, which came shortly after his mother was released from jail. At first, McGregor was unsure of how to go on without his role model, but he knew that he had to continue on with his life just as his father had.
McGregor has used the leadership skills he learned from his father in athletics and as a tutor.
In his third and final prompt, McGregor wrote about being selected as a captain for both the Ellsworth varsity football and baseball teams: "Although this is just a title, I was taught by my coaches how to lead a group while constantly being faced with adversity."
McGregor said that he was convinced by his coaches to become a tutor after he displayed strong leadership qualities on the baseball and football fields, and he soon began to mentor a 13-year-old student with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
McGregor said that his successes are largely due to the support he receives from his friends, coaches and the high school's faculty, but due to his admirable character and resume, the senior deserves the majority of credit for the bright future he's built for himself.
When asked how his dad would respond to his selection for the presidential program, McGregor said, "He'd be proud of me."
The acclaimed senior has already completed his college application for UW-Whitewater, and will also be applying to UW-Madison and Carleton College. McGregor plans on studying investment banking, and hopes to continue either his football or baseball career after high school.