For Lake City senior Eleanor Tenbrink, becoming the dynamic and well-rounded student she is now began when she started saying “yes” to things.
Entering high school, Tenbrink made a simple goal: If it seemed interesting, she would say “yes” and pursue it to the best of her ability. Her parents, having seen what she was capable of for years, naturally supported it.
“What we discuss with all of our kids as they are going through school is that it’s only four years in high school, and you might as well get everything you can get out of it because you’re doing it for four years either way,” said her mother, Heather. “You know, there are some great things about being in high school. There are some things that are not so great too, but you might as well take advantage of the great and really seize the opportunity while it’s here. And I think she’s done a great job with that.”
Four years later, Eleanor says she couldn’t have asked for more from her high school experience. As a crucial member of the band, a standout track and cross country runner and a valedictorian, there’s plenty to show for it. Not that it was ever about appearances.
“I mean, sometimes her schedule makes me tired just thinking about it,” said Heather Harmon, her coach and former teacher. “I don’t know how she has managed to do everything, but with her ‘say yes’ sort of attitude, it comes from a place of truly being interested and caring.
“Sometimes you’ll have people that are chasing the grades or they’re just doing it because it looks good on a college application, that sort of thing. And that was something that I never ever have felt from Ellie.”
As one of the first things she chose to take on entering high school, Tenbrink says running was instrumental in widening her comfort zone.
“I saw a lot of growth in her self-confidence and her leadership skills, and her ability to step up into that role,” Harmon said. “She’s always been an excellent person, always been somebody that I could rely on, and her leadership style is more of a quiet sort of leadership … she does it in a quiet sort of way in which people want to follow her.”
That’s become the case for Eleanor in nearly every group she’s become a part of in the course of the past four years, and her parents and teachers point to a supportiveness that has pervaded all of her interactions within them – regardless of the different faces around her.
Harmon remembers the cookies she’d bring to races for the team – individually-packaged to be as COVID-19-safe as possible – and “a willingness to show up to life and be part of it.” A toe injury held her out of the rest of the season this spring, but she’s attended every practice regardless, even if the individual benefit isn’t the same.
She also balanced the time commitment of both sports and a variety of AP classes with band, playing clarinet. Her mother says she gets “a little bit of teasing from both of those groups,” but it’s never bothered her. She simply values the experiences.
“I’ve really enjoyed being able to be so involved at the school and do well academically and to explore my interest in the environment, but also be an athlete and be in band,” she said. “I’m really grateful for that.”
Tenbrink said she’d always known she wanted her career to be involved with science, but credits an outdoor studies program she took her junior year at Lake City that included related content in history and English with helping steer her toward environmental studies and natural resources.
“It’s a lot of really hands-on stuff with natural resource management,” she said. “I had a suspicion that ecology was something I was curious about doing and interested in before I took that program. And then that program made me realize this is really something I’d like to do for the rest of my life.”
Now, she’s planning on heading to Utah State University in the fall to study at Quinney College of Natural Resources, a program she says has the resources and outdoor opportunities she seeks.
“It’s a little scary just because it’s a new place, but I’m really excited to get to meet lots of new people and be somewhere new,” she said. “I’m excited for the opportunity to just experience new things and make new friends.”
She’s still uncertain what extracurriculars she’ll join in Utah with her schedule still in flux, but she says those possibilities are exciting, too, with an even wider array of options than she was presented in high school.
It’s not always possible to do everything at once, nor is it always practical – but those who know Tenbrink know she’ll never be scared of saying “yes.”
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