When 18-year-old Spencer Speltz sat through the commencement ceremony in Lewiston-Altura High School’s sweaty gym, not many of his classmates knew he’d graduated already. While getting his high school degree, he’d also gotten an associates degree from Minnesota State College Southeast.
Most knew he was taking college classes. He was hardly at Lewiston-Altura, a small school in the countryside west of Winona, doing most of his work online, or at the Minnesota State campus.
If he was at the high school, it was usually for soccer, basketball, and baseball practice. His parents required he earn Bs and As if he was going to play sports, and he did.
He was so busy he didn't tell his family he'd been named to the Homecoming court until three hours before the ceremony. They scuttled their plans and headed to the event, where he earned the crown. The whole “homecoming court” thing hadn’t been on his radar until that moment.
Spencer, his mom Carrie says, has that quality rare in a teenager: an exceptional well-roundedness. He’s smart, athletic, friendly, tight with his family -- the high school version of having it all. If he were a character in a sitcom, viewers would complain the portrayal wasn’t realistic.
Mom admits it’s a little weird. She’s never met a kid with so much going on, and so little to say about it. She’s asked him if he ever looks back at everything he’s done in the last four years and notices how incredible it is. He says he doesn’t think about it that much.
Spencer isn’t great at talking about himself. He has trouble describing who he is. He lands on the word “easygoing,” even though he just earned two degrees at once by working nonstop.
“I don’t know if he’s that naive, or he just really doesn’t care,” she says.
When he was young, he was antsy. In elementary school, he was always finishing early, then skipping ahead. Through middle school, they’d get the same notes on his report cards: “great kid, great personality, a leader… but he needs to slow down.”
“A lot of it is his competitiveness,” Carrie says. “He always wants to see what’s around the next corner.”
He continued his breakneck pace through high school, making the varsity basketball team as a freshman. His coach, Brian Menk, watched in amazement as he would admonish players three years his senior for not pushing themselves and wasting time during practice.
“He wasn’t afraid to step up and bark at them a bit,” Menk says. Some of the older players resented him, but Menk said the ones who took Spencer’s words to heart were the ones who cared about getting better. That’s all Spencer cared about.
Spencer wore his workload gently. He doesn’t get too stressed–nothing a pickup game of basketball won’t fix. He likes watching movies, heading to Winona to get a bite to eat, going swimming with his friends.
For the next few months, he’ll be doing electrical work for a family friend’s business – assisting in cell tower maintenance. No, he says, he’s never done electrical work before. He’s going to pick it up on the job.
Then, at the end of the summer, he’s heading to Viterbo University in La Crosse to study engineering and business administration. He doesn’t know what he’s going to do with it yet, but it’s a practical choice. He figures he can do pretty much anything once he makes up his mind.
That has been his rule of thumb up until this point. It appears to be working.