Burrell Seniors Excel During a Challenging Year

This year has been difficult for the Burrell High School class of 2020, but Principal Dr. John C. Boylan believes the seniors handled the challenging situation with ease.

“Life throws you curveballs, and the class of 2020 exhibited patience and gratitude,” said Dr. Boylan. “The class always modeled positive leadership for our underclassmen [and they] got a head start on the challenges of everyday life.”

In particular, three seniors – Emma Kobelenske, Jacob Strenkowski, and Tanner Spohn – all achieved great things.


Emma KEmma Kobelenske

Kobelenske had a transformative journey during her years at Burrell, changing from a self-described “shy kid” to an outspoken advocate to end bullying. She started a nonprofit, Xo, E, to help provide emotional support to others in her shoes. Through the Facebook group, she was able to raise $500 for care packages for kids who need help.

“She is a believer, a worker, and a student who has the grit to overcome obstacles,” said Dr. Boylan.

“I wasn’t quite motivated at the beginning of high school, but I got myself together and put myself back on track because I knew how important my education was,” said Kobelenske.

Part of that motivation came from being on the school’s swim team, which she has been a part of for six years. After graduation, Kobelenske plans to attend WCCC for an associate’s degree in liberal arts, then transfer to Pitt to pursue a career in occupational therapy.



Jacob SJacob Strenkowski

While at Burrell, Strenkowski was involved in over a dozen clubs – including Hack Club, an organization he founded. One of his most significant accomplishments was placing in the top 10 at a national-level Future Business Leaders of America competition junior year.

This year, he is most proud of helping to implement the school’s social-emotional learning program. 

“This program will help reshape how we view education and knowing that I did everything I could to help the program matters more to me than any award or recognition,” said Strenkowski.

Strenkowski was able to balance all of this while taking 4 AP classes.

“He is wise beyond his years and a model reflective thinker,” said Dr. Boylan.

Strenkowski aspires to become a college professor of chemistry so he can work in a research lab, make new scientific discoveries, and share them with the world. He also wants to become a public speaker to spread his positive ideas.

Tanner STanner Spohn

As the leader of the BHS Ship, Spohn has a lot of school spirit. He showed that spirit on the baseball team, where he was a four-year varsity starter before the season was cut short.

“Tanner is a leader in his actions and not just his words,” said Dr. Boylan. “He is an excellent student who has also dealt with setbacks, and he has overcome these obstacles with class and pride.”

While at Burrell, he was a member of the National Honor Society, Student Government, Student Advisory, Interact Club, and Math Team. In his senior year, he was also part of the Student Leadership Team that helped to adopt the social-emotional learning program.

“Throughout the years, all my teachers and administration have been phenomenal for preparing me for the next step in my education,” said Spohn.

Spohn will attend Potomac State College of West Virginia University to play baseball and major in nursing to become a nurse anesthetist.

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