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Incoming UMW freshman earns honors.

June 2, 2016

Award-winning essayist among Butte High grads

Even a neglected flower can bloom and flourish, if given enough love and support.

Graduating Butte High senior Angelika McEneny is one such blossom.

On May 1, she was the sole guest of honor at the District Exchange Club in Idaho Falls, where she won $1,500 for capturing first place in the district Accepting the Challenge essay contest.

“I was surprised I won,” said Angelika, who traveled to Idaho Falls with her family at the last minute after receiving word that she had won districts. “I didn’t get to meet any other kids because I was the only kid there.”

She and grandparents, guardians Debbie and Bill Bajovich, anxiously await word to see if her personal essay qualifies her for National Exchange Club Foundation in Houston, Texas, later this summer.

If so, she could potentially win the national $10,000 scholarship prize.

“She’s up against 30 other kids from around the nation, so we won’t know how she’ll do,” said Debbie Bajovich, her grandmother.

“She’s got a great chance,” said John McBride, Butte Exchange Club past president. “But at this level, all of them have a strong story to tell, as well. But she is eminently qualified and will be a very strong candidate.”

Angelika, 18, read her essay about conquering childhood trauma at the annual Butte Exchange Club Awards banquet March 29 at the Butte Country Club.

Audience members were in tears as she read, her voice quivering, how her parents abandoned her at a young age and exposed her to drug addictions that hindered her personal growth and education.

Yet she overcame her struggles in a big way, garnering over $4,000 in scholarships, including the prestigious ACE Award, the Rosemary Rawls Memorial, the Susan Welsch Memorial and the James Dorr Johnson Memorial at the Butte banquet.

She read the same essay at Districts — and hopes to do the same at Nationals. Her words touch upon the great odds she overcame to transform into a National Honor Society member who will attend University of Montana Western in Dillon next fall.

“We couldn’t be more proud of her if she hadn’t won any awards,” said Bajovich.

Science teacher Colleen Fogerty and counselor Jeff Arntson sing her praises — and her grandparents’ guidance:

“She is an amazing student and young woman with a great work ethic,” said Fogerty.

“She has an inner strength about her that allows her to succeed when most others will fail or give up,” said Arntson.

Becky Fisk, Butte High graduation coach and Angelika’s homebound teacher, said her path to graduation was “untraditional, rocky and full of difficult situations.”

“Angelika’s education and personal health reflect several serious stumbles — not just by the teen but by the adults who were supposed to help salvage her future,” added Fisk. “At a number of key junctures, she lacked critical support when she needed it most.”

Nevertheless, Angelika and her grandparents never gave up.

“Even with her extended absences and health battles, Angelika has risen to the top of her class,” said Fisk. “As a creative, mature and self-directed learner, she will thrive in a college or university setting. I have no doubt she will continue to handle anything that comes her way with strength, grace and a positive outlook.”

During her senior year, Angelika worked full time at Big Sky Senior Living, working with patients in the memory care unit.

“It love it. It’s rewarding,” she said.

Big Sky Senior Living Administrator Laurie Yelenich said she is willing to do the work few other teens are willing to do.

“She’s very dedicated to the residents, very compassionate, caring and responsible,” Yelenich added. “How wonderful she’s done so well.”

As a youngster, she changed schools often and to this day copes with anxiety issues.

“It’s hard to believe she’s been with us since kindergarten,” said Bajovich, obviously enamored of her now-of-age grown child she has steered down a healthy, productive path. “She’s doing much better.”

She and her husband helped Angelika deal with parental issues no child should have to face.

“Parents just don’t realize what they do to their kids,” Bajovich added. “I get tired of hearing about their drug and alcohol addiction; you’ve got to treat their kids, too.”

With such steady support, McEneny has thrived. She graduates with a stellar 3.6 grade point average. Her resiliency and willingness to share her tender story publicly sets her apart from peers.

But she’s anxious to blend right in at Montana Western — like the center of a beautiful bouquet.

Reprinted with permission from the The Montana Standard