Jake Mueller becomes 4th generation to earn valedictorian title in Triopia
By Julie Gerke
The classes of 1940, 1965, 1990 and 2023 at Triopia Junior-Senior High School all have something in common: The family lineage of their valedictorian.
Jake Mueller, 18, of Jacksonville joined that direct line on May 26, when he graduated first in his Triopia class. He follows his mom, Michelle Kircher Mueller, ’90; grandfather, David Kircher, ’65; and great-grandfather, Robert Kircher, ’40, Arenzville High School.
His aunt, Amy Kircher White, was Triopia valedictorian in 1998, and she and sister Suzanne Kircher Hobrock both were valedictorians at Illinois College. Grandpa Delbert Mueller, a longtime teacher in Jacksonville School District 117, may have been valedictorian at Chapin as well, said Jake Mueller’s dad, Paul Mueller (Triopia ’90).
No pressure, right?
“They always told me [about the valedictorians] when I was younger, her and Dad,” Jake Mueller said. “I’ve always just kinda been a straight-A student. I kinda expected it of myself. I just wanted perfection.”
“He comes by that naturally,” his mother added, explaining it’s her go-to frame of mind as well. “We like things to be right.”
Jake Mueller, who played basketball and football at Triopia, is leaving organized sports behind as he finishes an associate’s degree at Lincoln Land Community College. He’s got a lot of credits already in hand thanks to a dual credit program between Triopia and LLCC (Lincoln Land Community College), and is considering an eventual transfer to the University of Missouri with an interest in pre-law and finance.
“But contractual [law],” he quickly explained. “I don’t want to represent people in court.”
Mueller was the only student of his 26-student graduating class to earn a 4.0 grade point average; two students earned salutatorian honors with matching 3.97 GPAs, and at least six class members graduated with a 3.9 GPA or higher.
He stayed busy in school with student council and National Honor Society, and enjoys hunting and a newfound interest in golf. He was named an Illinois State Scholar, Rotary Scholar Athlete and was among the Jacksonville Elite 5, which honors the top 5% of high school students. He was named to high honor roll every year.
“It’s truly amazing to think about four generations achieving such a prestigious award,” said Triopia Principal Joe Kuhlmann. “Especially when you think about the rich academic tradition that Triopia has, it really says a lot about their family.”
The family, with dog Fonzie, lives in rural Jacksonville, but Jake Mueller isn’t too interested in agriculture (he’s allergic to soybeans). Brother Clay, 13, who enters eighth grade this fall, is more interested in farming and is part of Victory Ag 4-H.
Paul and Michelle Mueller don’t pressure the boys, they instead teach them to work hard for what they want and to aim for 110% success.
“Always do your best,” Michelle Mueller said.
Read the text of Jake Mueller’s valedictorian speech below.
Graduation Speech – By Jake Mueller
I’d like to start off by thanking everyone for coming out tonight. We all really appreciate your presence, and everything you’ve done for us throughout our lives. Though it might not get said a lot, we thank you. To the teachers and administrators, thank you for all of the hard work you guys put in each and every year to make us the best student and person we can be. Your efforts do not go unrecognized. To my classmates, thank you all for making these last few years so memorable and enjoyable, it’s been fun.
I’ve got to get my personal thank yous out of the way really quick. First and foremost, I’d like to give a massive thank you to my family. You guys push me to be the best I can be in every aspect of my life, and I can’t understate how grateful I am for that. To my teachers, thanks for putting up with me for these past four years and always preparing me and putting me in a position to succeed. To my coaches, thank you guys for the last four years, for all of the time you put in, and being the great role models and leaders for my teammates and I. Though we didn’t accomplish what we’d wanted, I wouldn’t trade the last 4 years for anything. And lastly, I’d like to give a big shoutout to all of my classmates for making school enjoyable and fun.
When I was told I needed to start writing my speech, probably much to my teachers´ surprise, I didn’t really have anything to say. When I asked around to see what I should do, I was met with a multitude of answers, some saying give a good quote, others saying “just focus on thank yous” or relate a word to your class. These were all great suggestions that got me thinking, but when trying to come up with a speech about our class, I realized you can’t categorize us into just one phrase or one word, and no one wants to listen to me come up here and tell everyone thanks for several minutes. We just have too many different people in our class. One word that came to mind when thinking of this was “cohesive”. Everyone here has their own interests and hobbies, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t get along with each other. We all get along rather well with each other, well, until we’re 10 hours away on a mountain in Tennessee living with each other for 4 days. But that’s besides the point, our togetherness is one of our strengths. There are relationships from here that will never be broken.
Another word that came to mind was “supportive”. This year we had a 2-7 record in football, yet almost every week multiple classmates came out and supported us on Fridays, and we really appreciated it, it meant a lot. The same can be said about our below expectations basketball season. However, this doesn’t just apply to sports. You see it in the classroom, too. Whenever you needed help on an assignment, you could go to anyone in the class and they’d help you to the best of their ability. While writing this speech I asked several classmates for their opinions on what I’d written. We are all each other’s support system, and that’s why this class will be successful in the future.
And lastly, there’s “resilient”. I don’t know if you guys remember this thing called COVID that happened a few years ago, but that affected the first two years of our high school careers. We had to go through quarantines, online schooling, and being masked up all of the time. We got through it, and I think that’s a testament to the adaptability of the class of 2023.
I could keep going on and on about all the different ways you can describe this class, but I don’t want to talk that long and you guys don’t want to hear it. Basically what I’m getting at is that Triopias Class of 2023 is too unique and well rounded to be classified under one word or phrase.
The versatility and traits of this class is what will undoubtedly make each and everyone of these young adults up here successful in all of their endeavors. Our ambition is unmatched, our determination is unwavering, and our commitment is unbreakable. Thank you.