Area high school graduates plan ahead, dream big


The class of 2012 has recently bid a fond farewell to the halls of their local high schools. 280 Living checked in with some area graduates and asked them to share their thoughts on looking back at high school and their road ahead.

Oak Mountain graduate Caroline Beauchaine

Caroline Beauchaine
Oak Mountain High School
Caroline graduated in the top five percent of her class and plans to attend Auburn University to pursue a pre-med degree in biomedical science. She served as president of the school SGA, and was also involved in Key Club, Spanish Honor Society, FBLA, Soccer Sweetie, NHS, Mu Alpha Theta, Peer Assistant, Oak Mountain Master, and Con Brio Showchoir. She was selected as the ABC 33/40/America’s First Federal Credit Union First Class Student, and a PEO Star Student. Active in her youth group at Shades Mountain Baptist, Caroline was a Shelby County Distinguished Young Woman finalist and participated in Youth Leadership Shelby County.

What cause are you passionate about?
Serving as the co-chair of the Relay for Life of Oak Mountain, it was very rewarding to see months of hard work and planning pay off as my community and school gathered together to raise money and awareness in the fight against cancer.

What advice would you give a ninth grader on their first day of high school?
Seize every opportunity to get involved! My experiences through school organizations have given me the opportunity to make a difference in my school and community.  The skills I developed from my involvement has helped prepare me for an independent life in college.

Briarwood graduate Jessalin Long

Jessalin Long
Briarwood Christian High School
Jessalin will be heading to the University of Chicago this fall to double major in Near Eastern Civilization Studies and Legal Studies as preparation to go into either Egyptology school or law school. While at Briarwood, she was a member of the Art and Photography Club, the Comprehensive Math Team, Mu Alpha Theta and the National Honor Society. Jessalin was also a principal dancer in the Alabama Youth Ballet Company, on the homecoming court both junior and senior year, and voted “most well-rounded” by her class.

What cause are you passionate about?
I am a co-chairman for the With Every Beat foundation that raises money and awareness for cardiovascular disease, and we recently added in pediatric cancer.

Were you ever a victim of a crazy fad?
Besides the Abercrombie/Hollister period in middle school, and the Wallabies and Sperry’s shoes, I’ve pretty much stayed away from fads and basically done my own thing. I’ve always had my own style and have wanted to be my own person. I did fall victim to the feather hair extensions, but since feathers are a big part of my style, I was still staying true to myself.

Chelsea graduate Kellie Mitchell

Kellie Mitchell
Chelsea High School
Kellie is valedictorian of Chelsea’s class of 2012 and will attend Mississippi State University, majoring in biochemistry with a pre-med concentration. Her goal is to go into cancer research, and eventually clinical oncology.  She was active in the school theatre program, playing Prince Chulalongkorn in The King and I. She has been in show choir, a member of National Spanish Honor Society, National Honor Society, International Thespian Honor Society, Beta Club and Mu Alpha Theta. She has also written a dystopian novel entitled Singer.

What advice would you give a ninth grader on their first day of high school?
Don’t lose sight of what’s actually important.  So, don’t look at graduation as your ultimate goal, because you will trudge through school like a toddler through a foot and a half of snow.  Instead, look at high school as a means to a different end.  Find something more important to you than making it to graduation, and graduation will take care of itself.

What do you plan to do this summer?
I am going to continue to work at Bella Cucina (my part-time job) and will probably serve a thousand pounds of chicken salad by the time August rolls around (but seriously, that’s some good chicken salad). Also, I am going on a trip to Italy with my dad, in which we will ride Ducatis through Tuscany.  Other than that, I will continue to learn Japanese with Rosetta Stone, try to get Singer published, write the story for a cooperative effort (a graphic novel with Cooper Dinwiddie), and begin training for a marathon.  Oh!  And, of course, I will obtain a cowbell at MSU orientation!

Westminster graduate Geny Kate Gurley

Geny Kate Gurley
The Westminster School at Oak Mountain
Geny Kate plans to attend Mississippi State University to major in special education and minor in communications in their Honors College. She served as Vice Chair of Westminster’s House of Augustine, was on the tennis team, captain of the girl’s basketball team and involved in the foster children’s ministry, 4 Foster Kids.  She is active at Faith Presbyterian Church and helps lead weekly catechism class for four year olds.

What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about missions and will be part of a trip to Uganda and Kenya this summer with the founder of a ministry called “Her Passion,” where we will conduct on-sight visits to medical clinics, foster homes and care centers for young girls. I’ve previously gone on mission trips to the Palmer Home for Children in Columbus, Miss.; to Bay St. Louis for Hurricane Katrina clean up; and to the Czech Republic as an English teacher’s aid for children.

What is your best senior class memory?
My class has a great sense of humor, and we enjoy joking around with each other and with our teachers. My favorite memory this school year has to be the night my senior class participated in a Nerf gun “war” after a dressy, formal dinner. So fun! A course I’ve particularly enjoyed at Westminster my senior year has been literature with Charlie Ritch. We’ve read and analyzed everything from Paradise Lost to Lord of the Flies.

Spain Park graduate Sophia Ritchey

Sophia Ritchey
Spain Park High School
Sophia will attend the University of Alabama as part of the New College with a depth study in sustainable architecture. While at Spain Park, Sophia was part of the Relay for Life Committee, the Environmental Club, the Concert and Chamber Choirs, Advanced Theater, Engineering Academy, and part of Student Government. She participates in her family’s choir, The Ritchey Family-Songs by the Dozen, a group who has recorded a CD, filmed a few commercials, and performed at nursing homes, libraries, and basketball games.

Share one of your most emotional memories as a senior.
I am extremely passionate about working towards a cure for cancer and was blessed to have the opportunity to work with the City of Hoover Relay for Life committee. During the event, candles could be purchased in remembrance of or in dedication to individuals struggling with cancer. Each candle was placed in the stadium bleachers forming the word HOPE. Amidst the laughing and fun, the crowd of 3,000 suddenly became silent, as, with the voice of my good friend’s dad solemnly speaking about losing his wife to cancer and his wife’s amazing journey in the background, I and the other committee members rearranged the candles to spell the word CURE. It was the most powerful thing I have ever witnessed.

Did you take a senior trip?
I took the best senior trip I could imagine this year. I went with friends to New Orleans for Jazz Fest. On top of the amazing shows we saw, we had a dinner that we will never forget. We were seated in Jimmy Buffett’s restaurant, Margaritaville, and in walks Jimmy Buffett and Harrison Ford. Not only did they walk by us and wave, they sat at the table next to us and proceeded to eat dinner there, while me and my friends giggled childishly the entire time.


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