NORTHROP - Spend any time with the 18 students who comprise the Martin Luther High School class of 2014 and you'll probably be impressed.
There's no cockiness. They take their studies seriously. They love their school, and they enjoy their classmates.
"There's not too much 'bad' about this school," said Zach Watt, who transferred to Martin Luther at the beginning of the year from a parochial school in Green Bay, Wis. While his other school was larger, he said Martin Luther is "a lot better. Class size is insignificant compared to who is in the class."
Martin Luther High School’s senior class maintains a familial closeness and speaks highly of their education at the Northrop school.
"We all just kind of hang out together," said Amanda Whitehead, who noted there are no cliques within the tight-knit class.
She is the only student in the class not going on to post-secondary studies, opting instead to do mission work first. Her grandmother began a school for the deaf in the Philippines, and Whitehead hopes to teach percussion music there.
The seniors praised the teachers at Martin Luther, not just for their instructional expertise but for their guidance as well.
"We're held to a high standard," Whitehead said. "They (teachers) don't just give us the answers. They try and make us reach for it instead of giving us the answers."
As a whole, the class singled out math teacher David Bergt for his dedicated perseverance, calling him "so patient" and willing to "go over things again and again."
If students have ideas or complaints, the staff will encourage them to organize their thoughts and proposals for change, and present them to the proper authority. This type of action led to a change in the way final tests are conducted at the school.
The seniors said that a few years ago their predecessors proposed having two finals per day on three consecutive mornings, with school dismissed at noon to give kids a break, but also to allow for more study time.
This schedule was implemented and remains popular with students.
Like other small schools in the area, Martin Luther finds itself sharing sports with nearby schools. Only the girls basketball team remains autonomous. While students say it's sometimes difficult to feel a team connection with unfamiliar players, they also give it a positive spin.
"We're such a small school - it can't hurt us to branch out and meet new people," said Anika Johnson.
Martin Luther is in its 31st year, and a couple of this year's seniors share a legacy. Sam Geistfeld and Amanda Wiederhoeft both had parents in the school's first graduating class. In Amanda's case, Martin Luther was where her parents met.
About half of the seniors attended public school at some point prior to enrolling at Martin Luther, and some belong to denominations other than Lutheran. These students say they are in no way singled out because of their denominations, which lends validity to one of the school's recruiting slogans: Not a Lutheran; not a problem.
Not everything is perfect for the seniors. Like many students in both public and parochial facilities, they have issues with the school lunch. The meal is catered in daily from area restaurants, and the students' comments centered not around quality, but around variety and more time to eat.
Another area the students would like to see expanded is the addition of more AP classes to challenge them. The school offers only one AP class, English.
When pressed for comments - good or bad - about their experience, the seniors' dedication and loyalty toward Martin Luther is evident. Other than lunch and a lack of AP classes, the students couldn't come up with any negatives, but had no problem listing the numerous positive aspects of attending the school.
"It's friendship," said Tom Tow. "We're not just a number. We're a family."