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In a twist on the traditional Signing Day ceremony, students at Columbus High School signed academic scholarships at a special ceremony Tuesday in the school gymnasium.

The celebration was the brainchild of school counselor Kim Loeffelholz, who works with the seniors on a daily basis. She wanted to reward students for their academic achievements compiled during their four years at CHS.

“I felt it was important to honor students for their achievements if they earned a scholarship based on academic proficiency,” Loeffelholz said. “I believe all students have different gifts and this was a chance to honor the gift of doing well academically.”

This was an event solely for academic scholarships - CHS previously held signing days in the fall and spring for athletic scholarship recipients. Those who received memorial scholarships were also not included in Tuesday's event.

Twenty-eight CHS seniors participated and many had their families with them as they signed their scholarships, marking the beginning of their collegiate experience.

Caitlin Hottovy's family was one of the many in attendance while she signed papers for four scholarships she received to study at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Like so many other parents, Carla and Tim Hottovy were overjoyed when they found out that Caitlin received scholarships to offset some of her college expenses.

“We were very proud of her,” Tim Hottovy said. “She’s worked very hard over the years. She’s a very good student and she takes a lot of pride in her work.”

In addition to receiving Regents scholarships to each university in the Nebraska system (UNL, UNO, UNK), Caitlin also received an Honors Program scholarship to UNK and two scholarships from the Columbus Public Schools Foundation. She said she's pleased that all of her hard work - from academics to extracurriculars - is paying off.

“I was just happy because I really worked hard in high school to maintain good grades, keep my GPA up and to work hard to get a good ACT score so that I would have a chance to be offered these scholarships,” Caitlin said.

Caitlin is an incredibly versatile student. In addition to having a 4.1 GPA and a 32 ACT, she runs cross country, swims and sings in two A cappella groups. When she attends UNK she plans on studying nursing. Her parents believe she is perfect for that field because of her caring, compassionate nature.

“She is very interested in the medical field,” Carla Hottovy said. “She loves taking care of people and is just very intelligent and very capable of going into the nursing field.”

Caitlin loves watching medical movies and shows and also shadowed nurses at Columbus Community Hospital during winter break this year. She credits this experience with confirming that nursing is the right career move for her.

“I really enjoyed it and had a lot of fun,” Caitlin said. “(I wanted) to make sure nursing was the right career choice.”

At the end of four long years, Caitlin is excited to move on to the next stage of her life. However, she will miss all of the memories she made at CHS.

“I’ve had a lot of fun this year, but there’s also a lot of times where it’s just been sad,” Caitlin said. “You realize ‘Oh my gosh, this is my last time doing something and I’ll never get to do it again.’ You’re kind of ending an era of your life. I’m happy to be done, but I’m also just sad because I know I’m going to miss it and I know once it’s over, I’m going to miss a lot of things that I’ve done in high school.”

Zach Roth is a reporter for the Columbus Telegram. Reach him at zach.roth@lee.net

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