Wenz, Turner Represent Excelsior Springs at Missouri Scholars Academy

Levi Turner and Caroline Wenz participated in the Missouri Scholars Academy, recognizing Missouri’s best and brightest students (photo S Jason Cole).

Excelsior Springs High School Juniors, Caroline Wenz and Levi Turner were among an exclusive group of just 300 students selected state-wide to participate in the Missouri Scholars Academy (MSA). MSA began in 1985 and each summer provides rising high school juniors the opportunity to expand their educational and social skills. According to MSA, “The program provides enrichment opportunities to support learning and personal development for gifted Missouri students and offers a variety of daily extracurricular activities to enhance critical thinking and communication.”

Wenz and Turner participated in the three-week program that took place in June on the campus of the University of Missouri. While there, they were given the opportunity to select a major area of study and additional classes that fit with their interests. Caroline selected Race, Place, and Identity and Crime and Punishment in Medieval Europe. Levi was placed in Shakespeare Today and James Bond and Literature. Both Wenz and Turner said they enjoyed the laid-back environment of being able to learn without the pressure of having to maintain a GPA. “I think that’s kind of what the point is, is that you’re supposed to explore things that you wouldn’t normally do in school because there are drawbacks. It was really, really awesome,” said Turner. “We also had afternoon activities every day, and there were usually seven or eight things that you could choose from, and they were all really fun,” said Wenz.

Caroline Wenz definitely paused her game to visit with the Excelsior Citizen about her experiences at MSA (photo S Jason Cole).

Turner said one of the biggest rules was that students were not allowed to have their cell phones when out of their dormitories. “At first, I thought it was gonna be awful. But it was just such a great way to force us to make friends because nobody had their phones, and nobody knew each other. So the only thing that we could do was talk to each other, and make friends which I thought was really, really amazing.” Both students said they made friendships they would definitely continue outside of the Academy. “It was kind of surprising how easy it was to make friends. You’d expect a bunch of nerds to be introverts and antisocial. It didn’t turn out that way, we all got along pretty well,” laughed Wenz.

Levi Turner said his experience at MSA was “amazing!” (photo S Jason Cole).

Caroline said her biggest takeaway from the Academy was being able to interact with students from various socio-economic backgrounds and learning how they have to deal with problems we don’t always recognize here in Excelsior Springs. “I didn’t realize how bad some of the social problems are, but it was interesting to hear the perspectives of people from other communities who have different experiences and actually deal with racial injustice, all the time,” she said. Levi said his biggest lesson was remembering to enjoy learning again. “(Competing for grades) kind of brings people down. It’s super, super stressful… but being able to do things and not really care so much about the grades was really comforting and made it fun,” Levi reflected.

Levi’s dad, Mike attended MSA in 1991 and said he was happy Levi and Caroline were able to experience the confidence building that MSA offered. He said he thinks there’s more of a respect for nerd culture today than there was 30 or 40 years ago. “The Bill Gates and Elon Musks of the world have demonstrated that people who are smart can end up later in life with big advantages that maybe they didn’t start with,” said Mike.

Caroline, the daughter of Russell and Angela Wenz, participates in Robotics and Science Olympiad at ESHS, an avid computer gamer she hopes to go on to study computer science and programming. Levi, the son of Abby and Mike Turner, participates in Mock Trial at ESHS and hopes to become a lawyer.

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