I have always been a planner. At one point, I planned to graduate from Menifee County High School. I planned to become a doctor. I planned to move far away. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’”. God has blessed me tremendously, and I am grateful that His plan for my life has ultimately prevailed.

I can confidently – and optimistically, too – say that who I was four years ago is far from who I am today. Life has a way of changing people. I feel I have learned to see individuals though a lens of humanity, I have learned that we are all God’s children, and I have learned to voice my opinion to uplift other people. The past four years have, collectively, been full of growth. I have learned lessons that extend far beyond the four walls of any classroom. 

I like to think of “Dear Younger Me” by MercyMe as it says, “And every mountain, and every valley... through each heartache you will see: every moment brings you closer to who you were meant to be.” When I began my journey as a high school student, I felt I had to be someone I was not. I felt confined by expectations of me. I felt I had to fit in. My mental health deteriorated quickly, and I was running on low steam for quite some time. 

And my Freshman year grew worse with the passing of Colton Ritchie. I had never prepared myself for the loss of his presence in my life. He was a warrior, and he taught me that I have a passion for caring for kids. I grieved greatly, but especially for my home. And, so, I decided to move back. I looked forward to beginning my Sophomore year as a student at Breathitt High. 

Just before the school year was to begin, I travelled to Knoxville with my aunt Kami to help her move back to Lexington. I was sitting at her kitchen table when my mother called to tell us about my father’s devastating bicycle accident. My heart sunk. I am grateful my father is with me still, and I am grateful, too, for his team of providers who have worked with him to help him recover. He is doing so well, and I am so proud.

And so, during Junior year, I learned about my own abilities. I joined Next Generation Academy one semester after most members of my graduating class. With determination and hard work, I finished on time and completed my Associate of Arts Degree. Junior year showed my class the importance of cherishing moments, and, also, the difficulties that arise in the midst of a global pandemic. Despite the difficulties, success is still achieved. I was proud to have graduated from Hazard Community and Technical College just this past Saturday.

As I look forward to the future, I know that Breathitt County will forever be at the very top of my list of favorite places. I am so grateful to be a resident of the county and to, too, be a product of it. I am excited to see where life takes me. As for now, I plan to major in Elementary Education with a concentration in Special Education at the University of the Cumberlands. I am beyond thrilled to become a teacher and to carry on with my work to better the lives of people.

I love you all, and I appreciate your support. Keep the faith and spread it, too. And know that I love you. 

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