LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - For two high school seniors, school is a top priority, but a recent academic scholarship is teaching them there is more to learning than just math and science.
Lea Gillies and Konnor Reikowski are seniors at Logan High School. They are dedicated, hard-working and will both graduate at the top of their class.
Although they seem a lot alike, it's their differences that bring them closer together, as one of them writes a letter of hope for a friend who deserves it the most.
"My name is Konnor Reikowski and I am a student at Logan High School," said Reikowski.
Reikowski is a 4.0 student and is at the top of his class.
"I am writing today to nominate my classmate and close friend Lea Gillies," said Reikowski.
He was chosen to get an academic scholarship worth more than $2,000, but something didn't add up, because his good friend Lea is also a 4.0 student.
"It made me feel bad that by some method they had picked me over Lea, when I thought Lea was more deserving," said Reikowski. "I know I do a lot and I am busy but Lea is in the same boat and she also has to deal with her mom's cancer at home."
Lea's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer about a decade ago.
"She has gone into remission a couple times, but it always comes back," said Gillies.
Now she is fighting a different fight.
"She has like bone cancer and she had brain cancer a little bit ago," said Gillies.
"She has entered hospice care, and her only wish is to see her youngest daughter Lea graduate," said Reikowski.
Lea will not only graduate but she will be at the top of her class.
"It's mostly to make her proud and my dad and my family proud," said Gillies.
Knowing what Lea has gone through, Reikowski knew he had to help. He nominated her for a different scholarship through the Hope Lives Foundation.
"A foundation that raises money for teens and young adults who deal with cancer in their lives," said Johnny Brevik, co-founder of Hope Lives Foundation.
Reikowski wrote a letter to the board explaining why Gillies deserved the scholarship.
"Every time she walks through Logan's front doors, she comes well put-together and with a zeal for learning," said Reikowski.
Gillies' story not only inspired Reikowski but others as well.
"On behalf of the Hope Lives Foundation, we want to present you with $1,000," said Garrett Jerue, the foundation's co-founder.
"I can't even put into words what it's like to have someone that would take the time and effort and actually think about how much I mean to him," said Gillies.
They may just be words on paper, but to Lea's mother it's a sign of hope for her future.
"On May 24th, graduation day for Logan students, as Lea walks across the stage to receive her diploma, I plan on joining a standing ovation in her honor--one that her mother will have begun," said Reikowski.
After graduation, Gillies will head to Boston for college while Reikowski will go to Minnesota. Even though they will be in separate states, they both said their bond is something that can't be broken even if they are thousands of miles away from each other.
The Hope Lives Foundation was started in 2011 by two cancer-survivors. It aims to help those between the ages of 15 and 30 who have been affected by cancer in some way.
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