By Jason Arndt
Staff Writer

Kevin Brenner learned at a young age to place academics above anything else.

Kevin Brenner

Brenner, son of Brent and Diane Brenner, used his experiences inside the classroom as a point of motivation to excel in other areas of student life.

“I have known since growing up that academics always come first and sports always motivated me to do better academically,” said Brenner, a recent graduate of Wilmot Union High School. “I felt if I tried my hardest in one, I might as well try my hardest in the other.”

At Wilmot, Brenner earned recognition on the school’s honor roll all four years, receiving induction into National Honor Society en route to ranking ninth in the Class of 2019.

In addition, he stayed involved in multiple extra-curricular activities, ranging from DECA, Concert Band and Honors Wind Ensemble. With DECA, he served as vice president of membership and development and competitive events.

He played the alto saxophone, an instrument he has used since attending Riverview School, while a member of Concert Band and Honors Wind Ensemble.

Brenner, meanwhile, remained focused on responding to community needs, such as helping the Silver Lake area in the Village of Salem Lakes clean up following the historic flooding in July 2017.

If his academic achievements and community commitments were not enough, he also had a well-decorated athletic career, playing four total sports in four years.

He saw most of his success on the football field, where he collected multiple accolades as a senior, including Southern Lakes Conference Defensive Player of the Year along with first team All-Region and honorable mention All-State by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association.

For his efforts, Brenner was selected as The Report’s Outstanding Senior for Wilmot Union High School by editorial staff. He was chosen from a field of four seniors nominated by the school.

All-season standout
Brenner, a two-time team Most Valuable Player, also served as captain of the Panthers football program for two seasons.

In addition, he was among 11 players who earned a spot on the Wisconsin Football Foundation’s Student Athlete team.

Brenner, who led the SLC with 9 1/2 sacks and 15 tackles for loss, also finished fifth in total tackles with 85.

His banner senior season, is what he needed to become a recruited member of the South Dakota State University football team.

Brenner, who plans to study business at the school in Brookings, knew he had to push ahead to play for the Football College Subdivision team, which is part of NCAA Division 1.

“Through junior season, I was always told, if you don’t have a Division 1 offer by your junior year, you are not going to get one. I just kind of stayed to myself and worked all through that season,” he recalled.

Entering his final Panthers season, he acknowledged he needed to have a breakout year.

“I knew that my play senior season was going to be a big thing to get me where I am,” he said. “I am just glad everything worked out like it did.”

While he capped off a stellar four-year football career, he also played four years on the basketball team, receiving call-up to the varsity ranks from junior varsity as a freshman.

In the spring, he played one year of varsity baseball before switching to track and field, where he contributed varsity points for three years.

Among his achievements and athletic highlights, Brenner said earning Holy Rosary’s Male Athlete of Year award was most memorable.

The Holy Rosary Athlete of the Year award considers all schools in Kenosha County, including those in the Kenosha Unified School District.

Sydney Strelow, of Kenosha Bradford, earned the Holy Rosary Female Athlete of the Year.

“The Holy Rosary award was my favorite athletic achievement so far,” Brenner said.

The last Holy Rosary Athlete of the Year to come from Wilmot was in 2013, when Brenner’s cousin, Sarah Vozel, received the honor.

His achievements would not have been possible without the help of countless coaches at Wilmot, he said, crediting them for offering continuous motivation.

“I’d credit the coaches at the school for always pushing me to do my best,” he said.

Community commitment
Outside of Wilmot, Brenner served as youth group games leader at Chain of Lakes Community Bible Church in Illinois, overseeing anywhere from 40 to 50 children.

Locally, in July 2017, when the area experienced historic flooding, which damaged multiple homes, Brenner was among several Silver Lake area residents who stepped into help.

“I have lived in the same house in Silver Lake for 18 years now and just knowing that everybody in this community is close, they would help my family in a situation like this, so it made it easy to go out and help them,” he said.

He also pitched in at Feed My Starving Children, a nonprofit organization in Libertyville, Ill., where Brenner and other volunteers packaged meals for malnourished children.

Along with his parents, he credits his older siblings and other relatives, including Vozel, for being positive influences as he grew up.

“I have been surrounded by great influences all my life growing up; Sarah was like an older sister to me, and my older sister, Jorie, always pushed me, and then my older brother,” he said.

His older brother, Bobby, 21, also produced a stellar athletic career at Wilmot, scoring more than 1,000 points for the basketball team.

Kevin Brenner, however, said he worked diligently to find his own niche within the Wilmot athletic program.

“I just had to be my own athlete and my own person,” he said.

A look at the other nominees

Here are capsules on the other three nominees for Report Outstanding Senior from Wilmot Union High School:

Samantha Christiansen
Christiansen, daughter of Jerry and Kimberly Christiansen, served as president of student government and garnered several scholarships and academic achievements.

A Southern Lakes Conference Academic Top 10 honoree and WIAA Wilmot Scholar Athlete, she earned scholarships from the Pagelow Family, Wisconsin Athletic Directors Association and Twin Lakes Area Chamber and Business Association.

Christiansen, an honor roll student all four years, earned induction to the National Honor Society and was involved in multiple school activities. Activities include Link Crew, where she had the role of commissioner, Geography Bowl, Academic Bowl and was a member of the Be the Change team for two years each.

A softball player, she earned varsity letters in three of four years and was a senior captain. She was on the 2017 state runner-up team. Christiansen was also a senior captain for the volleyball team and earned a varsity letter. She played one year of basketball.

Christiansen stayed engaged in the community, including as a member of a church youth group at St. Alphonsus Parish in New Munster and St. Charles Parish in Burlington.

Christiansen, who works at Gooseberries Fresh Market in Burlington, plans to major in Communication Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in the fall.

Noah Coleman
Coleman, son of Mike and Diane, was an eight-semester honor roll student and graduated among the top five in the Class of 2019.

Coleman, a WIAA Scholar Athlete nominee, was a member of DECA, NHS, the school’s Geography Bowl and played a leading role in the 2018 fall play.

Athletically, Coleman earned three varsity letters in four years for the football team, earning second team All-Conference as a senior. He also played basketball four years, bringing home two varsity letters, and was a member of the tennis and track teams.

Within the community, he volunteered at Feed My Starving Children in Libertyville and worked back-to-back summers at his father’s business.

Coleman, who will play football at UW-La Crosse, won the school’s Charles and Lillian Gay Scholarship.

Katie Strother
Strother, an aspiring educator, is the daughter of Tracy and Kristen Strother.

A Badger Girls State representative as a junior, she also was involved in DECA for two academic years, serving as president as a senior and vice president of community service her junior year.

Strother was president of the Future Educators Association and on the school’s Be the Change team for four years. She stayed involved in drama productions for four years, served on Link Crew for three years and was on the school’s Junior Prom Court.

Within the community, she volunteered in child care at Wheatland Center School, the Racine COP House and served as lay assistant at her church.

She was also a three-year track and field athlete as well as a two-year member of the cross country team.

Strother, who has worked at Twin Lakes Country Club since 2016, also was employed at Wilmot Stage Stop.

She plans to attend UW-La Crosse and study education.


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