Julia Roemer, 18

From: Florence, Montana

Graduated: Hellgate High School

College: Montana State University–Bozeman

Julia Roemer remembered seeing the joy of the senior citizens as some of her classmates sang "Mr. Sandman" during the Senior Cabaret she helped organize at the Missoula Senior Center.

"This one old lady was singing along to it and recalling her childhood and memories of her love life," Roemer said. "She just seemed really nostalgic. All the senior citizens were singing and swaying to the music."

Roemer, 18, graduated this year from Hellgate High School. She was named a U.S. Presidential Scholar, an award the U.S. Department of Education considers one of the nation's highest honors for high school students. Of 3 million applicants, just 161 claim the four-year tuition waiver.

However, one of Roemer's teachers said there's more to her than her academic prowess. In a nomination letter compiled by Hellgate Assistant Principal Susan Bageant, English teacher Ashley Gaumer talked about Roemer.

"Her dedication can be clearly seen in her 4.0 GPA, rigorous course load, and her top 1% score on her SATs, but I would also like to highlight her heart.

"Julia has a sweetness and joy about her that goes beyond pleasantries. … She won't be the one seeking the spotlight, but she will be the one to step up when necessary."

At the Senior Cabaret, Roemer said maybe 40 or 50 participants attended, and the event turned out to be possibly the most fun one she helped plan.

"It was really nice to see how happy you can make someone just doing something so small," said Roemer.

Last summer, she worked for MontPIRG, the Montana Public Interest Research Group, and she knocked on doors to talk with people about the renewal of the 6-mill levy in support of public higher education.

"It was really nice seeing a broad range of perspectives, which I didn't think I would find in Missoula," Roemer said.

The important thing is to listen, she said. "When you shut them out, you can't have a productive conversation."

This coming school year, Roemer will head to Montana State University–Bozeman to study cell biology and neuroscience, and she's interested in a career related to health.

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