Southward, Choate selected as September Student Leader of the Year nominees

Michael D. Smith

Editor's note: The Patriot Ardmore Student Leader program recognizes high school seniors that demonstrate integrity and leadership in school and extracurricular organizations, in addition to upholding high standards at the academic level. Students are nominated by their high school administrative staff and two leaders are named each month of the school year. At the end of the school year the monthly student leaders will vie for the Student Leader of the Year title and a new car provided by Patriot Ardmore.

Aden Choate
Sydney Southward

Student Leader of the Year nominees are always individuals with unique talents, passions and motivations. For Ringling High School senior Sydney Southward, cheerleading and English have been two of her favorite school activities. For Turner High School senior Aden Choate, golf and mathematics have been his go-to activities.

But aside from academic and athletic success, the September nominees for Student Leader of the Year also have medicine as a common thread. While Southward is considering a future in health care, Choate is completing his high school career with an experience few of his peers have.

“I haven’t been able to do a whole bunch this year. I had open heart surgery,” Choate said. Even after the surgery this summer, Choate sounded as upbeat and healthy as any high school senior when he spoke by phone on Tuesday.

The Turner High School senior knew that his medical condition would limit his participation in some sports, but Choate has still managed to find his own path toward athletic success. He was a proud member of the 2019 2A golf championship team and said he has also won awards for shooting sports.

“Aden continues to excel in school while battling heart related illness and recovering from heart surgery,” read his nomination.

Choate has also been tapped as a youth leader at Marietta’s First Baptist Church. He has participated in a Beta Club canned food drive for the past three years and has also helped set up the University of Oklahoma alumni banquet in Love County.

After high school, he hopes to attend OU.

His academic accomplishments stretch back before high school and have continued into his senior year. As a member of the Oklahoma High School Honor Society, Beta Club, FCA, and academic team, Choate has maintained a 4.0 GPA and has been on the superintendent’s honor roll every year of high school.

He has technically completed all of his high school requirements and said this year will be filled with concurrent enrollment classes to get a head start on college credits. With an affinity for math, Choate said he is leaning towards furthering his education in business.

“It’s kind of like a game when you get into it and learn how to do it,” Choate said of recent math classes that included precalculus and trigonometry.

In Ringling, Southward has spent her high school career as a member of the basketball, softball and track teams. She has also focused on cheer, band and flag corps. While she said English has been one of her favorite classes, medicine is likely in her future thanks to a mother that is also a doctor.

“I really look up to her. She’s good at her job and she works really hard,” Southward said by phone on Tuesday.

The ups and downs of a career in medicine are tough for many, but Southward has shown a resilience few teenagers have. For example, just hours after the Lady Blue Devils fell in a regional softball game, Southward knew she still had other classmates to support.

“Sydney, heartbroken about the ending to her final game of high school softball, was at the football game that night … cheering for the football team,” read her nomination. “No one even expected the cheerleader/softball players, especially the seniors, to be at the football game. She put her own feelings aside in order to focus on others.”

Along with athletic accomplishments, Southward has met an academic standard few can achieve. As a Blue Ribbon Scholar and a member of the National Honor Society, she has maintained a 4.0 GPA and regularly appears on the superintendent’s honor roll.

She has volunteered for numerous events in the area, including Ringling Western Days and the Ardmore Soup Kitchen. Her experience with the track team has also helped her as a Girls on the Run running buddy and a volunteer for the annual Run Ringling 5K.

Southward said that she has enjoyed growing up in a small, tightly knit community thanks to the personal relationships she has been able to build. Along with a handful of peers, Southward also learned from growing up in rural Oklahoma that keeping teams and organizations alive means more than giving idle support.

“We do everything. If we don’t do everything, there is not going to be anyone to do it,” she said.