Senioritis certainly isn't setting in for Kyle Ortmeier.
Ortmeier, 18, is keeping his senior year schedule full by doing an internship at Faulkton Area Medical Center, fulfilling his duties as FCCLA state president, practicing for oral interpretation, rehearsing for plays, helping put the yearbook together and occasionally working as a dietary aide. If that isn't enough, he recently gave a speech at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark., to an audience that included Bill and Chelsea Clinton.
"It's not difficult to juggle everything, but it does get a little time-consuming," he said. "I don't get much sleep, but all the activities have been helping me out because it's all about time management."
Nikki Melius, a family and consumer sciences teacher who also serves as the internship coordinator at Faulkton High School, encouraged Ortmeier to apply for the opportunity to be on youth advisory board of Alliance for a Healthier Generation. The Alliance was founded by the American Heart Association and William J. Clinton Foundation to address the issue of childhood obesity.
In June 2011, the Faulkton teen became one of about 20 board members.
Ortmeier applied because he knew he would like to do something along the lines of health or public service. He said he takes personal health very seriously because he was diagnosed at age 4 with Burkitt's lymphoma, a cancer that affects the lymphatic system.
"There was a grapefruit-sized tumor on my small intestine," he said.
He underwent chemotherapy treatment in Rochester, Minn., for eight months.
"I'm health conscious about everything because I want to take control of who I am and make sure I'm healthy and that it doesn't happen again," he said.
After being in remission for five years, he has cancer free since.
"I knew from a young age that I'm on this earth for a reason and I've got to give back the same way people have given to me," Ortmeier said.
His involvement with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation has brought him to Los Angeles and Boston to meet with other students from across the country. In September, he was asked to represent the Alliance at an event and give a speech on childhood obesity in November.
No stranger to public speaking because of his involvement with oral interpretation and drama productions, he accepted. Then, Ortmeier was told he would be speaking in front of representatives from every arm of the Clinton Foundation.
"I got really nervous when I was writing the speech, since I'm a small-town kid who was going to talk to all these important people," he said. "I was excited, a little nervous and went through every emotion aside from depression and anger."
After he delivered his speech, he said Bill and Chelsea came up to him.
"They told me I gave a good speech, and they told me that I was real," he said. "I told them that I'm from South Dakota, so all I do is real."
Ortmeier said he thought Clinton would be all politics, but to hear that he cared about the efforts of the Alliance and South Dakota made him more personable.
"He became a real person to me," he said. "He's also a real guy."
As a youth advisory board member, Ortmeier is required to do a service learning project. He partnered with April Sorensen, a dietitian at the Faulkton Area Medical Center, to promote healthy living to students at the Faulkton Area School.
He spearheaded a wellness committee at the school that involved students of all ages and began developing a no-outside-beverages policy for the school in January. He saw how dependent his classmates were on sugary drinks, such as pop and energy drinks.
A presentation Sorensen did on the dangers of added sugar spurred the project.
"Whenever he wants to get concrete solid nutrition information, he asks me about it," she said. "He just keeps pushing forward and pushing forward and shown a lot of leadership skills."
The policy was adopted this at the beginning of the school year. Some students weren't pleased at first, but they have since come around, Ortmeier said.
Ortmeier works as a dietary aide in the Faulkton Area Medical Center in Sorensen's department, but has also been rotating through different departments as part of an internship.
"Staff in each department have said ‘That kid's going somewhere and he's going to do well with whatever he chooses to do,’ ” Sorensen said. "We all have really high hopes for him."
Ortmeier is looking for a junior high student in Faulkton who can take over his role as an ambassador of health and continue his work with the wellness committee.
"It's kind of a tough job sometimes because you have to do what's best for everybody," he said. "I'm not trying to be a Debbie Downer when I take the sugar away."
He said he has applied to some colleges out of state and is waiting to hear back. Sorensen said his presence will be missed in Faulkton.
"We hope to find the next Kyle," Sorensen said. "We are lucky to have somebody that's willing to stand up and fight for what he thinks is right and even go against the norm."
Ortmeier is in the process of finishing his senior year.
He will be throwing shotput and discus again this spring as a member of the track and field team and will finish his tenure as FCCLA state president in April.
Though he's very busy, he makes time for family, too.
"Sometimes I want to take it a little bit slower with being a senior and all," he said. "I'll be leaving the school next year, though, and I really want my project to keep going and expanding."