Student of year's goal to become travel nurse

Rachel Klimas, who was named Rantoul Exchange Club student of the year is shown with her father, Dave Klimas, left, and club President Justin Little. The 2019 graduate of Rantoul Township High School received a $1,500 check from the club.

Rachel Klimas was named Rantoul Exchange Club student of the year for the 2018-19 school year. She received a $1,500 check from the club.

Klimas plans to attend Purdue University to work toward a degree in nursing. Her goal is to become a travel nurse.

A daughter of Dave and Jan Klimas of rural Rantoul, she is the Rantoul Township High School class of 2019 valedictorian.

Klimas said beginning in sixth grade, she has been on the honor roll.


“In junior high, I would receive a little green ribbon for it,” she said. “Ever since then, it has been my goal to get the best grades I possibly can in all my classes. Although some classes are more difficult than others, I tried to get A’s for every homework assignment and every test.”

She said that mindset led to what is her proudest achievement — top of her class for seven consecutive semesters.

“Each year I had classes that challenged me. I think all proudest accomplishments stem from where we focus most of our time and energy, and school work has been my number one priority,” Klimas said.

Following is Klimas’ essay titled, “A Catalyst Through Leadership.”

“One piece of advice students always hear as they begin high school is to get involved. Whether it be sports, club or other organizations, being active in the school and community is often associated with success, not only for the individual, but the community in which one is involved.

“Being a catalyst in the community which one resides is achieved through leadership. As a result, positive leadership can take many forms. During high school, I exhibited leadership while volunteering at Carle Hospital, being involved in FFA and teaching Sunday school at my church.

“I have always been intrigued by the medical field, so as soon as I was able to volunteer, I took the opportunity. By restocking cabinets, wiping down rooms, cleaning beds, answering the phone and transporting patients, I was able to help the Critical Care Unit, Digestive Health Center and One-Day Surgery Recovery area. I was the only volunteer on my shift; therefore, I was expected to make my presence known to the nurses when they needed assistance and clean beds immediately after a patient left, critical in maintaining efficiency.

“Many tasks I was given as a volunteer required initiative and great responsibility, aiding in my leadership skills. In addition to the many benefits, gaining experience in the hospital will significantly help my future as a nurse.


“Since my freshman year of high school, I have loved participating in FFA. My involvement in chapter events and career development events allowed me to learn about agriculture as well as many leadership skills. This past summer, I attended Washington Leadership Conference in Washington D.C. There, I was forced to step out of my comfort zone socially, being without friends for all activities and even rooming with three strangers for a week.

“This undoubtedly aided in my leadership skills, as we spent time discussing and analyzing needs in our community with the inspiration of the nation’s capital. I was elected chapter secretary my junior year, and this year I am chapter president at RTHS.

“As with any organization, president is a role that comes with great responsibility. At times, you are the face of the club, looked up to by many and expected to lead the chapter in having the best year possible. Being in this position has immensely improved my public-speaking skills as well as overall leadership skills. I credit FFA as a key influence in my leadership development, which will aid me in communicating with patients and families as a nurse.

“Being a Sunday school teacher to first-, second- and third-graders has been a learning environment for more than just the students. I have learned to teach younger children in a way that makes weekend classes enjoyable and encourage them to be curious about their faith.

“In the Catholic Church, second- and third-graders prepare to make their first reconciliation and first communion. Both are incredibly special sacraments, which require a lot of instruction in addition to typical religion lessons. This position has challenged my leadership as I set an example and been a guide in their faith journey.

“Through my influence, I hope to spark a curiosity for the mystery of the church which will inspire the students as they grow up.

“I intend to utilize the leadership skills I have learned throughout my career as a nurse. As a nurse, I will strive to have a positive impact on the lives of my patients and their families. After nursing school, I plan to work in the Critical Care Unit. I will work diligently to meet the demands of my patients as well as do even more to ensure they receive the best care.

“After gaining experience, I plan to become a travel nurse. New places definitely bring new challenges and experiences. I hope to use what I learn working around the country to better myself as a nurse, as well as the hospitals I work in.

“By combining my love for service and interest in medicine, I will strive to make a positive impact in the world of health care through my work as a nurse, thus continuing to be a catalyst for improvement in the communities in which I will work.”