PORTAGE | The top students of the Portage High School class of 2013 honored those who helped them get to the top Wednesday night.
The 30 seniors, representing the top 5 percent of their class, also were honored during the 18th annual PHS Academic Champions Excelling in School (ACES) annual banquet.
There were a few firsts for the program, which awards the mentors a crystal apple and the students a medal.
Conner Haupt chose his father, Willowcreek Middle School health teacher Tim Haupt, as his greatest influence during his academic career.
"I had a my dad for health in seventh grade. He has been just such a role model for me," said Conner Haupt, who will attend Indiana University to study informatics.
Tim Haupt said he was "flabbergasted" when his son and former student told him he'd been chosen.
"I'm so proud. He's such a good kid," Tim Haupt said of his son, adding he still holds the trivia record for the class.
Lorrie Cohen was a first too. For the first time, a student chose a support staff member to be their guest at the banquet. Cohen was one of three support staff people honored.
"She's so fun to be around. We can talk and talk about anything," said Rachael Gonzalez, who is a teaching assistant in the Portage High media center where Cohen works as the clerk. She will be studying pre-med, likely at Indiana State University.
"I was stunned. I was honored beyond words," Cohen said, adding she actually called the school's office to double check that it wasn't a mistake she was chosen.
For Portage High history teacher Robert Parker, it wasn't the first time he was chosen, but he said, every time is an honor.
Cody Spoolstra, co-valedictorian of the class, chose Parker, who had been honored 13 previous times.
"I loved his class. He taught us a lot about life and how to look at life," Spoolstra said about Parker. Spoolstra will attend Purdue University to study biological and agricultural engineering.
"I have been extremely lucky with all these fine young men and women I've been able to teach," said Parker, adding Spoolstra is a standout because of his ability to ask questions.