RPS 205: Rockford Eisenhower Basketball Standout Wins IESA ‘Scholar Attitude’ Award

Kate Dennis’ goal is to play basketball for a Division I college. Her dream: play for Duke University. The Eisenhower Middle School eighth-grader has had her eyes on Duke since she got serious about basketball in fourth grade and attended a Duke University summer basketball camp on the Durham, North Carolina, campus. Around that time she had a growth spurt and grew nine inches in a year. The 13-year-old is 6 feet tall – “That’s what I’m told,” she says with a grin.


Kate actually can’t stop smiling. It’s a big year for her. She is the first student from Rockford Public Schools to win the Illinois Elementary School Association’s Scholar Attitude Award, which recognizes the best and brightest for their academic success, activity participation and community involvement. “They are the young leaders in their school and community who dream to do great things as junior high school students and become the leaders in their high school years and beyond,” said IESA Executive Director Steve Endsley. Winners must have a minimum 3.5 grade-point average and participate in at least one IESA activity during each of his/her junior high years. Applicants must also demonstrate outstanding citizenship and complete an essay, “The Value of Sportsmanship.”

Eisenhower bball

Eisenhower administrators nominated Kate. “Kate exudes excellence, not only on the basketball court, but most definitely in the classroom. She has outstanding leadership skills that set her apart from a lot of other individuals,” said Athletic Director Kelly Ellingson. Ellingson added that Kate is humble about her success in the classroom and on the basketball court. “It’s another quality she has that shows she strives for excellence,” he said.

Kate led the Eisenhower Eagles to the IESA Class 4A state tournament, marking the first time any basketball team from Eisenhower – boys or girls – competed at the state level. Kate finally made it to the state level with her peers, after competing for three years at the eighth grade level.

More for Kate and her parents, Cheryl and Russ, to smile about: Kate will be recognized next month at the RPS 205 Academic All-Star Salute, which celebrates students’ academic achievements. She’s in the top 10 in her class. Kate carries a full load of honors classes, participates in academic clubs and organizations, and she trains daily and competes in weekend tournaments with the Illinois Elite AAU National Basketball Club.


She excels at time management. “It’s hard to juggle everything,” she said. “But you just have to keep your eye on the target and try to do the best you can in everything you do.”

For the IESA award, Kate will be honored at a luncheon May 2 in Bloomington. Each winner receives a plaque, medallion, DVD commemorating the event and a small monetary award. “It’s kind of like a reward for all the hard work I’ve put in,” she said.


And she’ll keep working. She plans to take AP and honors classes in high school to make it to a Division I school, play basketball and study sports medicine. “I love it,” she said. “I wouldn’t do anything else.”

Cathy Bayer is a communications coordinator for the Rockford Public Schools. Click here to subscribe to this blog. Please like RPS 205 on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.



  1. I don’t need my reply published. I just want others to know about this student and that she hasn’t been sent off to a non-public school.

  2. That’s about the most impressive report on a Rockford Public School student that I’ve read in years. I hope it appears in an impressive place in the Register Star.

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