Kai John Bannister from Sonora, California

I was born in Sonora, California and grew up on Andersen’s Christmas Tree Farm a few miles away in Columbia. My father has always worked hard with his hands by day and plays music as a hobby. My mother is a teacher in alternative education and loves learning. They were in charge of running our tree farm after it was passed down from her parents. At an early age, I was enrolled in the Sierra Waldorf School, a school committed to fostering children’s creativity. I spent Kindergarten through Eighth Grade drawing and exploring the outdoors while I received my elementary education. While this type of education cost my family a significant amount of money, they thought it was worth it in order to establish a strong foundation in the elementary grades.

Coming into high school at Connections Academy was a huge difference for me compared to the Waldorf school. For one, I was actually receiving letter grades and homework for the first time. Also, Summerville High School is a much larger school than Sierra Waldorf. I feel that the transition went smoothly for me into the life of a high schooler because of the foundation I had received from SWS and from then on, I worked as hard as I could to achieve academically and athletically. I strove to be kind and to create solid relationships with my fellow students and the teachers and staff.

I played baseball and soccer all four years of high school, both of which I had started playing when I was younger. The relationships I built with my teammates and coaches who taught me the value of teamwork, leadership, diligence, focus and perseverance were crucial to forming who I am today.

Now as I prepare to go off to college, I acknowledge the hard work that it took during the past four years to have this privilege of receiving a higher education. Yet the opportunity to attend college was not completely contingent on my work ethic and some luck; the fees to attend a college or university always seemed formidable and usually put going to the school on a high pedestal seemingly out of to reach. I am immensely grateful for the Major Lucas Gruenther Legacy Foundation and all that it does to honor Luc’s memory and carry on his legacy by providing scholarships to students of the local area. I feel deeply humbled that I was chosen for this award and I hope that I can inspire others to “Live Like Luc” throughout my life.