May 25, 2018

Rachael Steelman, valedictorian, Arsenal Technical High School

Rachael Steelman, valedictorian, Arsenal Technical High School.

Rachael Steelman is a typical teenager in many ways.

Reading and shopping are her main hobbies. She likes to nap whenever she can. She used to play volleyball and softball, but quit, and has a job at a local coffee shop — which she juggles on top of her demanding school work.

She’s also atypical. The 18-year-old loves math and will pursue it at the next level while a student at the University of Indianapolis, where she’ll major in computer science.

“My career is not set into stone yet, but I know for a fact that I want to be successful. I want to challenge myself and to make myself grow.”

On June 7, Rachael will graduate as valedictorian of Arsenal Technical High School’s Class of 2018. It’s a goal fulfilled — one she set during her sophomore year in high school.

“I’ve always tried to make my parents proud, and citing my speech would do just that,” said Rachael about the speech the valedictorian gives to the graduating class.

Unfortunately, her dad won’t physically be in the audience to see his daughter graduate or hear her speech. He died in August 2016.

“He was my best friend and my biggest supporter, so him not being here just makes me want to complete it more,” said Rachael, adding that his death was a huge blow for her and the rest of the family.

Immediately after his death, Rachael said depression hit hard. She didn’t want to get out of bed and fell behind fast in school. She credits her teachers at Tech with working with her, and not letting her fail.

“I had to work double the hours to make ends meet, and it was a lot of stress,” said Rachael. “(Then in January 2017), my mother got extremely sick and almost didn’t make it. That just added onto it all. It honestly broke me. However, I managed to make it through the storm and finish strong.”

One of the teachers that helped during some of her most difficult times is Rachael’s favorite, Deborah Lee, a foreign language teacher.

“She’s an amazing teacher to begin with,” said Rachael. “She goes far and beyond for us students. There was not a day that I went into class and did not smile. Ms. Lee always knew when there was something wrong and offered her helping hand without a hesitation. She worked with me when I needed it the most.”

Rachael is grateful for the time IPS staff poured into her.

“IPS has good staff; everyone is willing to help and push you,” she said. “No two teachers are the same, and that helped me a lot. I got something out of each teacher I had in the past 13 years.”

Rachael’s advice for IPS students is to take school seriously, to participate in extracurricular activities and to consider setting their sights on becoming valedictorian or salutatorian — if for no other reason than to gain an advantage when applying for colleges and scholarships.