Six siblings earn high school valedictorian

LESTERVILLE, MO (KFVS) - It's exciting when your child comes home from school with a good grade, or a good report card for the whole year, but a family in Lesterville takes academic achievement to a whole new level.

"I graduated Lesterville in 2011 and I was valedictorian of my class," said Evan Stewart.

"I graduated in 2009 and I was valedictorian of Lesterville High School," said Erika Stewart.

"I graduated in 2005 and I was valedictorian of Lesterville High School," said Caleb Stewart.

"I graduated in 2002 from Lesterville High School and I was valedictorian of my high school class," said Josie Stewart.

"I graduated in 97 and I was valedictorian for Lesterville High School for that year," said Micah Stewart.

It's exciting once, but the Stewart family has celebrated a valedictorian at Lesterville High School six times.

Micah in 1997, Callie in 2000, Josie in 2002, Caleb in 2005, Erika in 2009, and Evan in 2011.

"I knew they would do well in school, but the thought never really crossed my mind that all six of them would be valedictorians," said Ed Stewart, the kids' father.

"By the time we got to me, there were three valedictorians before me, so the pressure was mounting," said Caleb. "I can't imagine what the little guy felt like."

"As the last one or two, it kind of began to be kidding, are you going to make it, and especially the last one, Evan, what happens if you don't make it. Are you going to be disowned? What will happen? And he always had the attitude of oh I'll make it, I'll make it," said Lesterville Superintendent Earlene Fox.

"I remember in Kindergarten I had a hard time tying my shoes, so I was really worried if I was going to be smart or not," said Evan.

"There's no way I'm going to be the first kid that doesn't get it," said Caleb.

"People just made jokes a lot, you know are you going to be the first one not to get it, but it wasn't too bad, I knew I'd still be loved," said Erika.

Ed Stewart, the kids' dad says he encouraged the kids to do well, but never pressured them into achieving the award.

"It wasn't something I really thought about that much, if they do they do, if they don't they don't," said Ed.

"It was a game to me to play the game with each teacher to get the grade in each class, I like to win," said Micah.

"It was something that honestly came easy to me, it wasn't something that I even had to say this is my goal that I'm working towards," said Josie. "I mean I always wanted it, but it kind of just fell into place."

"I was able to not study a whole lot, so that was nice," said Erika.

"I hardly had to study, I remember studying for my senior year Spanish class a couple times for maybe you know 15, 20 minutes, but that was about all my studying ever did," said Evan.

"I had to remind myself to be happy for those As, because they all had so many As," said the kids' mother Debby Stewart.

While the kids made it look easy, Fox says they each had some stiff competition.

"It wasn't like they were just way above, or stand out, they had to work to get what they earned," said Fox.

"It seems like each year there was one smart person that would kind of give you a run for your money," said Micah.

And it doesn't mean the kids weren't jealous.

"They hated me for it, made my life miserable," said Micah.

"Kids wanted me to help them with their homework, but they were also very you know a little bit mean, high school kids can be mean," said Josie. "It wasn't a competition between each other, it was more a competition between classmates."

"They knew I'd stop helping them if they were mean to me, so," said Evan.

"I think they were kind of mad sometimes they were like how do you do that," said Erika. "[One classmate] had told one of her friends that she was going to make it her goal to beat me out, so I was a little nervous, but I worked hard, and it kept me on my toes."

It was because of the ridicule Ed thought it was important each of his children earn a black belt in karate.

"Not only competitive in their academics, but competitive in their ability to defend themselves," said Ed.

They also played volleyball, basketball, and were involved in student council.

"I read early on, when I was younger I read quite a bit at some point at school I figured out it wasn't cool to have your nose in a book all the time," said Caleb.

"They're always learning, do you see their nose in a book, are they reading all the time, no," said Fox.

Ed says the secret to it all is their faith.

"The lord blessed us all with good brains, and our parents taught us how to use them," said Erika.

Fox says as the Superintendent, she is proud of the family's accomplishments.

"If the other kids in Lesterville school, or throughout the United States were like these kids, we wouldn't have any of the problems we have today," said Fox. "You don't find that range...somebody usually messes up."

But no one did. And now a chapter of history in Lesterville and the Stewart family is closing.

"You know that was a good feeling to have all my family there watching me and to be the last one in the family to be valedictorian," said Evan.

"If it wouldn't of happened I wouldn't have really thought anything about it, it's not really one of those things you think about, I'm going to make all six of them valedictorians, set that as a goal, because that would have seemed impossible at the beginning," said Ed.

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