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Alexa Wanless, a different kind of smart

Alexa Wanless, who graduated from New Richmond High School in May, is wise beyond her years in believing people should be happy with what they have. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia

It is kind of amazing how much you can learn about a graduate in one of these half hour interviews. You are about to meet New Richmond High School senior, Alexa Wanless, who graduated in May.

She fancies herself an explorer at heart, discovered theater on a dare from a friend, finally figured out high school just as it was about to end, cannot resist her mom’s tater tot casserole, got tipped off by her own heart about the career she is pursuing, sincerely appreciates her big brother, would like to buy Marilyn Monroe breakfast, exemplifies that cheerleaders are far more than just cheers and is a thoughtful, caring, promising human being. Let’s start with her three wishes.

“My first wish is for my grandpa. He had a stroke a year or two ago and he has trouble talking now and he hasn’t been able to get better. I know it’s frustrating for him. I want him to be able to speak as clear as he did before,” said Wanless.

With her second wish, she addressed her wanderlust.

“I really wish to be able to travel the whole world if I could. I want to see everything. I’d start maybe with Australia. I’m not sure why, but it really attracts me,” said Wanless.

She decided to keep her last wish for another day, an insurance wish.

Inspired by her own heart health, Wanless intends to pursue a career in sonography, which uses high-frequency sound waves, ultrasound, to construct images of internal organs. She has been accepted into the program at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) in Eau Claire starting this fall.

“I heard that it’s a good job and I’ve really wanted to do something within the medical field, but I’m not interested in medical school. Two years to get my associates degree and we’ll see what happens after that,” said Wanless.

Something mysterious happened to Wanless her senior year, something she cannot explain, something that made her folks happy.

“I wasn’t the best student when I started out in high school. I always felt like I was doing just good enough to get through. But somehow my senior year, I just have gotten a lot better grades than I have any other year. I really don’t know why. I started understanding it, understanding how to get those better grades,” said a smiling Wanless, “It’s a good thing.”

Included in her reawakening, Wanless snagged her first acting role as a waitress at dinner.

“I started out wanting to work backstage, but then my friend said, ‘Try out with me, it will be fun.’ We ended up getting parts in the play. It was a really fun experience. I kind of wish I had done it more years than just this one,” said Wanless.

In addition to the theater, a couple teachers also made a lasting impression on Wanless.

“Mrs. Filiatreaux was my sophomore English teacher. She was super nice and understanding. She really bonded with anyone who had her as their teacher. Miss Boe. I took all of her parenting classes and was in her personal finance class. I feel like I have a really good relationship with her too. I’m just more open in her class,” said Wanless.

Her hero is her brother, Tom.

“Not only do I look up to him, but I feel like he’s a really strong person. He was in a car crash in 2012 before his senior year. After that, he just pushed through.  He didn’t give up on school or anything else. He really worked on everything and kept going,” said Wanless.

She is grateful to her parents and her fellow cheerleaders for their support.

“My parents really helped me stay on track. But also on the cheerleading squad, last year’s seniors really helped. They told us what to expect. I don’t have many friends necessarily, but they were my best friends throughout the whole cheer season and I can still talk to them during the off-season. I feel like they are always there for me,” said Wanless.

She describes herself as a “streaky” eater when it comes to her sweet tooth.

“I’ll go through these streaks where I’ll be obsessed with cookies and then I don’t want them anymore. I work at Subway so I really like our chocolate chip cookies. It’s really bad when I work, but they’re half price, so…” said Wanless.

Given the choice, she prefers a cup of milk with her cookie and …

“I’d like to say I’m not a more than one cookie person, but, yeah usually more than one,” admitted Wanless.

Musically, Wanless likes a variety.

“I like country, alternative, rap, pop, really any type of music usually, except metal rock. Right now, I’m really into the songs of Chance the rapper because they’re just really chill. I’m going to a concert this summer where he is performing,” said Wanless.

Her mom will have a secret weapon when it comes to luring her daughter back home from CVTC.

“Tater tot casserole and it’s really good, probably one of my favorite things that she makes. It’s tater tots, hamburger and some green beans in there; you have to make it a little healthy, with A LOT of cheese on top,” said Wanless.

Although she didn’t have a movie to recommend, Wanless likes her popcorn with butter and if she could ask an historic figure a question, she headed to Hollywood and icon Marilyn Monroe.

“I really want to know how she had so much confidence throughout her whole career She seemed so confident in herself,” said Wanless.

On the little screen, Wanless can’t get enough of Grey’s Anatomy and she just finished Shameless on Netflix.

“It’s about a family that is really broken down and the kids have to fend for themselves. I feel like it was a good show because it could be so real for some people. It was a good story,” said Wanless.

Remember that heart of an explorer thing?

“I really like exploring things. Anything that I don’t know gets my curiosity up. Like when people find abandoned houses, I wish I could do that. Any National Park, I’d like to go there and just explore the whole place,” said Wanless.

As far as a favorite moment looking back, it was more like a favorite year for Wanless.

“I feel like this whole senior year’s just been put into one huge moment I should remember. I’ve been a lot more outgoing and ready to try new things my senior year. I wasn’t so afraid to get out there and it has made all the difference,” said Wanless.

What is the one thing everyone should have regardless of the cost?

“Everyone should have at least some sort of happiness in their life. Even if someone feels like they aren’t happy, I know that there is always something in their life that can make them happy. They just might not know of or think about it in that way,” said Wanless.

She is not thinking about a plan B going forward. She is all in and looking forward to getting to know a new city and meeting new people. And somehow in just 18 years, she has already begun to figure out what is really important.

“To me, being rich doesn’t mean you have a lot of money. It’s being happy with what you have, realizing you have enough.”