Finalists for this year’s R.K. Thompson Self-Reliance Awards pose with their plaques at an awards ceremony Tuesday evening. Lincolnview High School students Dalton West and Jordan Ludwig were named winners of this year’s awards. (Times Bulletin/Ed Gebert)
Finalists for this year’s R.K. Thompson Self-Reliance Awards pose with their plaques at an awards ceremony Tuesday evening. Lincolnview High School students Dalton West and Jordan Ludwig were named winners of this year’s awards. (Times Bulletin/Ed Gebert)
VAN WERT —For the 44th time, Van Wert County students were celebrated and honored for their self-reliance. The R.K. Thompson Self-Reliance Awards were presented Tuesday evening. One boy and one girl are selected each year from a group of finalists.

This year’s winners are both seniors at Lincolnview High School. Dalton West, son of Thomas and Joy West, was the boys winner while the girls winner was Jordan Olivia Ludwig, daughter of Kim Ludwig and Jeff Ludwig.

“I am very shocked that I won it,” Ludwig admitted. “It was very tough competition, but I’m honored to have this opportunity to receive this award.”

“I feel as though I don’t deserve this,” West stated. “Hearing everybody’s stories inspired me tonight. I was just thinking about everyone’s life and hearing more about them and learning more about me, and being acknowledged for some of the first times in my life for what I’ve done and who I am as an individual.”



The award banquet always brings some inspiring stories to the public eye, and this year was no exception. Keynote speaker Robin Elston highlighted parts of the finalists’ stories in her presentation. She lauded the students for their approaches to life. Elston, a Van Wert County native, is president of Elston Consulting, LLC which she formed after working with Proctor and Gamble for 15 years. Since the firm’s origins, Elston has worked with hundreds of organizations to resolve issues and improve productivity and results across the US, and in Europe and South America.

But the night belonged to the ten finalists. Along with the two top winners, other finalists named were Rachel Kaye Gordon, daughter of Scott Gordon and the late Betsey Gordon; Holly Anne Hammond, daughter of Joel and Julie Hammond; ; Chelsi J. Siefker, daughter of Rodney and Paula Stout; Rebecca Lynn Welker, daughter of Jeff and Roberta Welker; Randall C. Burnett, son of Rick and Kim Burnett; Lucas L. Gibson, son of Berry and Angie Gibson; Adam J. Jurczyk, son of Tim and Michelle Jurczyk; and Adam J. Long, son of Stephen and Donna Long.

Those in the audience were treated to inspiring biographies of the finalists, peppered with quotes bout the students from teachers, personal references, and even the students themselves. The presentation was truly appreciated by the top winners.

“It was breathtaking. It almost brought tears to my eyes,” West shared. “I felt as if I was sharing everybody else’s [stories]. It hit me deep emotionally. It’s hard to explain in words. It is nerve-wracking. I was anxious because I wanted to hear everybody’s story and find out who everybody else was.”

At Lincolnview, West is involved in track and field, BETA club, scholastic bowl, art club and marching band. After graduation he plans to attend Rhoades State to achieve acceptance to the University of Toledo Medical School to earn a Doctorate in Pediatric Medicine. He has been employed at the Van Wert YMCA, serving in various roles.

Ludwig pointed out that the entire process of interviewing, and obtaining reference letters has been nearly overwhelming.

“It’s been stressful and nerve-wracking, but it’s thrilling and exciting to receive this, ’ she stated.

At Lincolnview, Ludwig is president of the senior class, vice president of National Honor Society, secretary of BETA Club, a member of the varsity soccer team and cheer squad. After graduation she plans on attending Wright State University for nursing. Currently she is employed at Sycamore Ice Cream in Van Wert and teaches dance at Kim Hohman Dance Works.

The R.K. Thompson Self-Reliance Award Program was initiated 44 years ago by R.K. Thompson, Jr. in honor of his father, the late R.K. Thompson, Sr. Both men had worked closely with young people and encouraged them to set high, but attainable goals and then apply themselves to obtain those goals.

The program provides cash awards for high school seniors in Van Wert County who best exhibit that character trait. Each finalist received a plaque and $500 award. The two top winners received another $500 award.

The Self-Reliance Award is designed to seek out and honor a senior who “does the best with what he or she has,” whether a scholar, an athlete, a student leader or someone who must seek employment to help their family meet expenses. The R.K. Thompson Self-Reliance Award is sponsored by the Thompson Family Trust, through the Van Wert County Foundation, and administered by the Van Wert Service Club.