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Determination drives Humphrey to success

Evelyn Humphrey is a student leader at Kenyon-Wanamingo High School. The class of 2018 will graduate June 3. Submitted photo1 / 2
Evelyn Humphrey from Kenyon-Wanamingo High School won the Class A Serious Interpretation of Prose category on April 21, 2018, at Apple Valley High School. Submitted photo2 / 2

Editor's note: This story is part of a series highlighting outstanding graduating seniors. Find more profiles here

KENYON—There are times when words stick in Evelyn Humphrey's mouth, but that didn't stop the senior at Kenyon-Wanamingo High School from winning a state speech title.

"I was always outgoing, talkative," Humphrey, 17, said, "but sometimes I couldn't spit the words out."

Her stutter developed at age 6 and followed her through the elementary grades. She tried a couple rounds of speech therapy but was told each time that nothing was wrong. Finally, as a freshman in high school, she decided she wanted to "fix it, solve it, so I signed myself up to work with a speech therapist at school."

Her determination to overcome the stutter led her to join the speech team. She soon realized that it had been 10 years since a student from Kenyon-Wanamingo had reached the finals at the state speech meet. She set that as her goal. Her junior year, she reached finals and placed sixth.

She told herself, "That's good, but next year, let's win it."

Her senior year, she entered the prose category which requires competitors to make a 10-minute presentation based on a full book. Humphrey chose "Once Upon A Secret: My Hidden Affair with JFK" by Mimi Alford. The choice worked, and she won the Class A state title.

"Evelyn is one of those kids with a lot of determination," speech coach Ben Heath said. "I wish I could take credit for her success, but it is her grit, her resiliency. She loves to push back."

In addition to being selected for National Honor Society and taking several AP classes, Humphrey attended Girls State at Bethel University in St. Paul. Four hundred girls attended and were encouraged to run for offices at the town, county and state level. Humphrey decided to go for the top: She ran for governor and won.

"I get to go back and talk to the girls in this year's program," she said.

She has worked as a volunteer on two political campaigns and attended a page program with the House of Representatives in St. Paul. She met numerous state politicians and was introduced to the amount of paperwork it takes to run the House.

"I adore politics," Humphrey said. "I love understanding the data behind the polls."

Her love of politics has helped Humphrey focus her future. She wants to major in political science and has applied to Hamline University in St. Paul and George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She has been accepted by both.

"The dreamer in me wants to go to D.C., but the realist doesn't want to be in debt for the rest of my life."

"When I was thinking about the things I wanted to do," she said, "I thought, 'Someone has to win state speech. Someone has to go to D.C. Why not me?'"

Humphrey has given herself some large challenges, but others, like the stuttering, were given to her. Last December, she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

"That really opened my eyes to the importance of things like health care," she said. "We need people in Washington who want to help people."

Humphrey wanted to join the school band. "I have always been a little different," she said. "All the other girls wanted to play the flute. I wanted to be the only one who played my instrument, so I chose the tuba."

Her best friends are the people she "met through speech. They are the future CEOs, the future leaders. They are bright people, and I wanted to surround myself with them."

"Evelyn has a lot of confidence," said Whitney Ryan, school counselor. "She truly knows who she is and owns it. It takes guts to stand out in high school, but Evelyn has worked so hard and been involved in so many things."

Principal Matt Ryan called Humphrey a student leader. "The fact that she won state speech is outstanding. She has overcome some difficult obstacles and is a student that K-W can be proud of."

Steve Gardiner

Steve Gardiner taught high school English and journalism for 38 years in Montana and Wyoming.  He started working at the Republican Eagle in May 2018.  He focuses on features and outdoor stories.  

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