MILLER CITY— Brandi Gerschutz always loved the night sky. As a child, she memorized all the planets and their moons. It was the beginning of a dream the Middle City-New Cleveland senior is set on pursuing.
“I have always wanted to be an astronaut. Some people really call me crazy, but that is the dream I am pursuing,” she said. “It is kind of a stage I never grew out of.”
Gerschutz will study mechanical engineering with a concentration on aerospace at the University of Dayton in the fall.
“Some people think I am crazy, but my parents have always taught me that if you work hard enough and put the effort in then you can achieve your dreams,” she said.
With a 4.0 grade point average, Gerschutz is at the top of her class. She will be co-valedictorian with classmate Olivia Burgie. Landing the top spot has been a goal since middle school.
“That has always been a goal of mine to stand up there and say the speech at the end,” she said. “I am proud I have achieved it, but it was a lot of hard work.”
Gerschutz has played soccer and basketball most of her life, including four years of high school. She used to play softball. Although she believes she is a better soccer player, Gerschutz most likes basketball.
“Because of the challenge,” she said. “It’s a longer season, and you get closer to your teammates.”
Gerschutz also has been dancing most of her life. Fifteen years ago, her mom decided on dance instead of baton twirling for her daughter. Brandi has stuck with it ever since.
“It is something I really turn to just to express my emotions,” Gerschutz said. “My mom did not want me to be shy, so she put me in something so I would meet friends and not be shy. I definitely am not shy.”
Gerschutz, who most likes jazz and modern dance, has been with The Dance Center in Ottawa since she started. She’s added the Performing Arts Center in Glandorf the past two years.
Gerschutz is student council president, vice president of the National Honor Society, a Students Against Destructive Decisions officer and a member of the Quiz Bowl team. She has done school plays in the past.
In 2010, Gerschutz traveled through Europe as a People to People Student Ambassador. The 19-day trip covered France, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and the Vatican.
“The whole experience opened my eyes to diversity and the different cultures and traditions of European peoples,” she said, adding that the most memorable was touring the Mauthousen Concentration Camp. “To imagine the atrocities of that time period filled me with sickness and a resolve that we must never let such events occur again.”
Gerschutz was selected to take part in the Putnam County Leadership Day. After meeting with students from around the county, the group from Miller City-New Cleveland decided to clean and paint a shelter house and fix up tennis courts at the local park.
Also involved with the youth group at St. Nicholas Catholic Church, Gerschutz points to a 30-hour famine the group has done for the past three years as having a profound impact on her. The group begins on the Thursday before Easter and continues until midnight Friday.
The youth get sponsors before starting and then go door-to-door collecting donations while they are fasting. They raised nearly $7,000 this year for World Vision, an organization that provides food for children in Africa. The group focuses mostly on Kenya.
“The whole experience is so much fun. You feel like you are a part of something bigger,” she said. “You feel like you are making a difference to help these kids in Africa. You don’t even know them but you learn about their conditions and their problems.”