UNION GROVE — Nearly two weeks before admissions decisions were official at Ivy League schools on March 28, Eva Marie Ballew received a phone call she had been hoping for, but was not expecting.
The call was from a Harvard University representative telling the Union Grove High School student that she was likely going to be chosen to attend the school.
“I cried mid-call, actually,” said Ballew, 18. “I actually was not going to answer the phone, so when she told me she was from Harvard, I froze in my seat in my car. I was so incredibly happy.”
And sure enough, Ballew got the official word — she has been accepted to attend the Ivy League school in Cambridge, Mass.
“I don’t think 10 years ago it’s something I would have dreamed I’d ever have been able to do, attending a higher-education establishment like Harvard,” Ballew said.
Ballew also applied to nine other prestigious schools, including the University of Notre Dame, Boston College, Georgetown, Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, Dartmouth, Columbia and Princeton.
Most impressively, she was accepted into each school.
“Harvard is getting a top kid,” Union Grove High School Principal Tom Hermann said. “Eva embodies the traits of an accomplished scholar. She is extremely conscientious and consistently goes above and beyond on her studies. She is living proof that if you work hard, your dreams can come true.”
Eva’s mother, Monica Brazaeu, could not be prouder of her daughter.
“If Harvard was a sporting event, Eva just won the Super Bowl,” Brazaeu said.
Committed and focused
Ballew was born and raised in Raymond. Before attending Union Grove High, she went to Raymond Elementary, where she showed academic promise right away.
“Eva has been hardworking and committed to her education from an early age,” Brazeau said. “Education should be highlighted and recognized more often, as an example and motivation to others.”
That passion has only accelerated has Ballew has grown. She currently carries a 4.3 grade-point average, is taking Advanced Placement courses and is third in her class at UGHS.
“Staff members tell me that she loves to learn,” said Union Grove High School District Administrator Al Mollerskov.
In addition to being a top-notch student, Ballew has participated in a variety of clubs and extracurricular activities.
She’s been involved throughout her high-school years in AHANA, an organization for students of African, Hispanic, Asian and Native American descent. Ballew’s heritage is in the Pokagon band of the Potawatomi tribe of Michigan.
Ballew is credited with helping create a safe space for minority students at her high school and was honored with a UW-Parkside Martin Luther King Jr. Peace award.
She’s also participated in the student council, softball, National Honor Society, and received a scholarship to study at Carnegie Mellon last summer, where she took a course on the philosophy of religion and sustainable social change; the latter class examined case studies of people who wished to bring about change.
The class prompted Ballew to consider the idea of launching a website to connect indigenous youth from across the U.S. with resources to better equip them and help them enroll in post-secondary education.
“That’s something I hopefully will get to do one day,” Ballew said. “That I will be able to launch and bring into fruition — it’s a goal of mine.”
Ballew has also plays classical piano and is an avid runner, having completed in half-marathons in Madison and Milwaukee.
At Harvard, Ballew plans to major in social studies: “It’s a flexible major, but I think it would make me a well-rounded candidate for my career aspirations,” she said.
Teachers, sister are influences
Zada Ballew, Eva’s sister, is proud of what her sister has accomplished.
“My sister is my best friend and she is absolutely brilliant,” said Zada, who attends Northwestern University. “I have had the great fortune of watching her grow up and become the intelligent, committed, sassy and strong young woman she is today.”
Brazeau, Eva’s mother, gets choked up when talking about her daughters, stating that she’s proud that Eva and Zada have been able to be successful academically and to attend college. “Eva is first generation (in the family) to attend college,” Brazaeu said. “Eva is passionate about defending against injustices and advocates for change.”
Eva said she also is grateful to her teachers for helping her accomplish her goals, particularly English teacher Emily Van Dyne and AP chemistry teacher Andrew Del Ponte, both of whom are advisers to the school’s National Honor Society chapter.
“She (Eva) stands out well above the rest,” Van Dyne said. “She is an atypical student. Her personality sets her above. She just loves to learn and is up-to-date on everything going on the world.”
Del Ponte cites Eva’s maturity as something that immediately sets her apart from other students. He said that Eva’s ability to juggle her responsibilities and her drive to excel at such a young age is “very impressive.”
“All the Union Grove High School staff, her family and her friends are very happy to celebrate with Eva on her academic success,” Hermann said.
“I don’t think 10 years ago it’s something I would have dreamed I’d ever have been able to do — attending a higher-education establishment like Harvard.” Eva Marie Ballew, Union Grove High School senior