By NOREEN HYSLOP
When Tyler Hulshof, a high school senior who lives in rural Dexter, leaves for school every weekday morning, he allows himself about an hour to get to class. His daily commute is about 100 miles. Tyler will graduate this year from Notre Dame High School in Cape Girardeau, as his sister, Emily, did before him, as his younger brother, Ryan, will two years down the road, and as his father, Mark, did in 1979.
"We've always planned for all three children to attend Notre Dame, but Tyler initially wanted no part of leaving his friends and especially not being able to play football," says Tyler's mother, Cindy Hulshof. "He was very resistant to the idea. We told him to give it one year, and if he still felt that way, we'd rethink it."
In February of his freshmen year, Tyler came home one day with papers to sign -- enrollment papers for his sophomore year at Notre Dame -- there was nowhere else he'd rather be.
The Hulshof family is a family of deep faith. Cindy, a convert to Catholicism as a young adult, serves as the Sacred Heart Parish secretary in Dexter. The family worships at Sacred Heart, and all three children have been active participants in the church community all their lives. The boys still serve as altar boys, as they have since they were in grade school. Mark can be found serving with the Knights of Columbus and ushering at weekend masses. Where there is work to be done around Sacred Heart, a Hulshof can usually be spotted.
So, why would a family commit to nearly $60,000 in tuition alone to send three children to a Catholic school 50 miles from home? With the added vehicle expense and a schedule like Tyler's that demands endless hours of evening hour practices and programs, the costs in the end are difficult to measure.
"Faith put them there," says Cindy Hulshof. "We always wanted to provide our children with the opportunity to be nurtured spiritually and morally during their school years. Dexter Schools provided them with an excellent education, but when they reached high school age, we really wanted them to be in an atmosphere that reinforced both Catholic tradition and academic excellence while being grounded in a common faith."
Mark Hulshof concurs. "It's not been easy financially, and there have been a lot of involved sacrifices by the children and by us, but it has been worth every sacrifice and every cent put forward. We wanted our children to make Christian sense out of what they learn in their natural science and math courses, in their history courses, in their study of art, music, and literature, and I think they've been provided that opportunity."
"The discipline and respect expected in the Christian atmosphere of the school carries over into the students' daily lives," Cindy explains, "and forward throughout their lives. The religious commitment to God and service to community bring a sense of fulfillment to the students."
That faith has paid tenfold for Tyler Hulshof, who attests, "The school has a loving and caring atmosphere for everyone, no matter who you are or where you come from. I was convinced halfway through my freshman year that I was right where I was supposed to be."
Of all his accomplishments at Notre Dame -- and there are many -- perhaps none gives Tyler greater satisfaction than those in the realm of music. Notre Dame may not have a football program, but there IS music -- and lots of it for Tyler.
"Tyler is the only student to repeat All-State Choir both his junior and senior years," says Notre Dame Music Director Ellen Seyer.
Students across the state have only their junior and senior years to audition for All-State.
"He has also received multiple district honors for choir and for band," Seyer adds. "He is a member of Tri-M Music Honor Society and he'll be playing the lead in our spring musical, 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,' in April."
The handsome, very blonde over-achiever has been named to All District Band consistently for four years and All District Choir for the past three years. He is also a swimming state qualifier, and is a dedicated member of the Notre Dame Wrestling Team. He attended Boys State as a junior and the Missouri Leadership Seminar.
He is the Bass Section Leader at Notre Dame, and as a bass in the All-State Choir, he performed this weekend at Tan-Tar-A. He is the only student in the 120 senior population at Notre Dame to be selected to All-State, and has consistently excelled at academics as well. He was inducted into the National Honor Society in his second year at the Cape Girardeau campus.
"We really didn't realize that Tyler had the musical talent he exhibited in the choir until high school," says his mother. "But he has excelled in the music program and has loved every minute of it. His success in music has also granted him some scholarships at Notre Dame that we've been able to apply to his tuition, so it's been beneficial in that realm as well."
Notre Dame Principal Brother David Migliorino quickly recognized Tyler's potential at Notre Dame and has been witness to his success for the past four years.
"Tyler is a wonderful child," he says. "He never has a bad day, and he is as humble as the day is long -- the type of student you want every child to be. He's just a great kid."
Even the drive of nearly 117 miles each day to school doesn't deter Tyler, who makes the daily drive these days with his brother, Ryan. "It takes up a lot of time," he says, "but it also affords me time to relax and time with my brother."
College is on the horizon for this promising senior, but no decisions have been made yet as to where Tyler will attend. He is leaning toward a degree in business, and intends to take the Christian values he has learned throughout his young life with him in that pursuit.