Thankful for support

Jessica Rodriguez

Central High School senior Jessica Rodriguez, of Toms Brook, never thought she would pursue a career in the military.

Settled on studying at the College of William & Mary, she said she changed her mind after attending the National Flight Academy camp last summer.

“That changed everything,” said the 18-year-old. “I knew that I was meant for military.”

Planning on leaving June 24 for the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, she said she’s undecided on her focus but certain now of her future.

“It was actually my grandparents that suggested I go to the camp,” she said, “so they knew all along that I was meant for it.”

At the school’s graduation ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, National Honor Society President Bethany Neri said she’ll speak for classmates like Rodriguez and Brady Baker of Edinburg.

“I’m planning on taking it more from the perspective of my whole class,” said the 17-year-old Woodstock resident.

Graduation, she said, “it’s a good time to reflect back on the last four years and everything we’ve done, and more importantly all the people that have supported us.”

In particular, she thanked her parents and teachers.

“Not everyone is as blessed and not everyone has such an amazing support system at home,” she said. “But I think that teachers at school are always stepping in and acting as that support system.”

“I think it’s time that they’re thanked for their sacrifice,” she said.

In her senior year, Bethany was vice president of the Student Council Association.

She ran cross country and track, and competed on the varsity swim team all four years. She was also in the math club, hiked with the Backtrack Trails Club and volunteered at the Shenandoah Community Health Clinic in Woodstock.

Asked to join the panels of the Teaching and Learning Action Committee and the superintendent’s student advisory committee, she said she learned a lot about the inner workings of the education system.

“I really appreciate our school system’s efforts to involve students at all levels of education,” she said. “[It’s] great learning how it all works and how complicated it all is.”

After a summer babysitting, working at Fort Valley Nursery’s Woodstock Garden Café and coaching the Shenandoah County Swim League’s Woodstock Dolphins, she plans to join the University of Pittsburgh’s emergency medical undergraduate program.

“I’m excited, like everyone else I’m sure,” she said.

Rodriguez has played clarinet since sixth grade and made district band all four years of high school. She ran cross country for three years and track two years and played varsity softball for two years.

Baker, 18, plans on studying sports management and statistics at North Carolina State, hoping to become a sports statistical analyst.

In the top 5 percent of his graduating class, he was junior class president and vice president of the Interact Club before becoming secretary of the National Honor Society and senior class treasurer.

He played varsity baseball three years and basketball two years.

“I think that my family deserves to know that they have done a lot to support me as well as challenge me,” he said.

Of graduation, he said, “I guess it’s a pretty big accomplishment, and I guess it hasn’t really set in yet.”

Central High School will award 214 diplomas at a 10 a.m. Saturday graduation.

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