LFCC student focuses on helping others

Cynthia Forrester, a 17-year-old Front Royal home school student, will graduate Saturday with an associate of science degree and will be the commencement speaker for this year's 1,036 graduation candidates at Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown. Rich Cooley/Daily

MIDDLETOWN — Cynthia Forrester wanted to be a pediatrician, but knowing it would take a long time to get through high school, college and medical school, she decided to expedite the process.

At 14, the Front Royal home school student started taking courses through Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown. At 15 she graduated from high school, and on Saturday, at the age of 17, she will achieve her next milestone — an associate of arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in science.

“It feels fantastic, actually,” she said on Thursday at the college, where she was rehearsing her commencement speech.

Other high school-age home school students have joined her in taking college courses, but on Saturday, Cynthia will stand alone to represent this year’s 1,036 graduates from all three campuses receiving associate degrees or certificates. As commencement speaker, she plans to address graduation candidates on how they might live a life of purpose.

Already along her road to success, Cynthia plans to transfer to the College of William & Mary this fall; but becoming a pediatrician is only a part of what Cynthia has planned for her life’s work.

Cynthia Forrester, a 17-year-old home school student from Front Royal, will be the commencement speaker for today's graduation ceremonies at Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown. Forrester will graduate with an associate of science degree from the school. Rich Cooley/Daily

“We will never be able to achieve our fullest potential thinking only of ourselves,” she rehearsed as part of her speech. “The challenges we face could make us tired, impatient and angry, but we cannot dwell on these obstacles. We can face them with the support of our communities.”

As president of the Lord Fairfax chapter of honor society Phi Theta Kappa, Cynthia has already begun giving back to the community that has supported her in her efforts so far.

She has collected blankets and coats for the Congregational Community Action Project of Front Royal, participated in her college’s Relay for Life team and helped raise money to purchase supplies for area women’s shelters, The Phoenix Project and Preston Place. For her main project, she produced a documentary on how borders and boundaries affect the American prison system. She said it brought awareness to how the system dehumanizes prisoners, and how these methods continue to affect them after their release. She also served as regional Phi Theta Kappa president for Virginia and West Virginia.

Cynthia completed work study hours as a campus assistant and works as an event busser at the Shenandoah Valley Golf Course.

In her free time she studies violin through the Shenandoah Conservatory Arts Academy in Winchester, performs theater with her church youth group and last year started classes at Boyce’s Martial Arts in Kernstown.

Krov Maga, an Israeli form of martial arts, is built on self-defense, she said.

“Basically [it’s] like the quickest, best way to get out of a situation that’s bad, and it builds on your muscle memory,” Cynthia said. “So we work a lot of the drills again and again and again so that we get it down, so that, if someone attacks you, you automatically do it without thinking about it.”

She also takes Brazilian jiu jitsu, which she described as more of a sport with a lot of groundwork that requires technique.

“[It’s] kind of a brain game,” she said. “It’s in a way like chess. You have to think moves ahead, I think two or three, if you’re really good. I’m still trying to work on one, but it’s good to like connect things and always think how [an opponent is] going to react to what you’re going to use.”

“My mom signed me up for Krav Maga, because she wanted me to be able to defend myself when I move out,” Cynthia said. “She wanted me to be able to not get in bad situations, or if I did get into a bad situation to be able to get out of it.”

Her friends think it’s cool she takes martial arts, and her best friend’s little brother is fascinated.

“You’re so awesome, Cynthia. You’re so strong,” she recalled him telling her.

“I think it’s very important,” she said. “I want my kids to be able to defend themselves.”

This summer, she plans a three-week trip to Ireland with a study abroad program at Christendom College in Front Royal. She also plans to gain experience shadowing her former pediatrician, Dr. Richard Christoph of Front Royal Pediatrics.

“I’ve always loved kids a lot, and I loved my pediatrician,” Cynthia said. “Actually I was weird, I liked going to the doctor’s, just ’cause I could see him and he was funny, and you know he was great with kids, and I always loved that kind of atmosphere.”

Her older brother Dale Forrester also shadowed Christoph years ago.

Each year, Lord Fairfax chooses one of its own to give the commencement speech, and Communications Specialist Leslie Kelley said Cynthia stands out among her classmates. Cynthia said she auditioned for and won the opportunity after her teacher Steven Wisecarver nominated her.

She plans to caution her classmates not to forget why they’re choosing their profession.

“Your purpose isn’t to serve yourself, but to serve others,” she said. “And you’ve got to remember who you’re serving and who you need to work with, and not only focus in on yourself.”

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com

At a glance:

What: 44th Lord Fairfax Community College commencement ceremony
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Skyline High School, 151 Skyline Vista Drive, Front Royal
Commencement speakers: Cynthia Forrester, of Front Royal, a 17-year-old graduate receiving her associate of arts and science degree in Saturday’s ceremony; and Cheryl Thompson-Stacy, college president.
Contact the college at 540-868-7000.