The very busy Kristie Morrill took advantage of the opportunities at Hernando High in her four years: "To me, you miss out if you think school is just books, teachers and classrooms."
A few weeks back, Kristie Morrill was in her usual role as drum major with Hernando High School's band when she was suddenly swept up by thoughts of the finality of her senior year.
Here she was a proud graduate-to-be looking around the room and paying particular attention to the faces of the freshman band members.
"I kept thinking back to when I was sitting there, and I couldn't help hoping that they get as much out of our school as I did," she said.
The friendly, outgoing teen will be graduating sixth in her class today. As Kristie heads for college, she does so knowing that she took advantage of her opportunities at Hernando High.
During the past four years, she was deeply involved in campus life. She joined clubs, marched in the band and was a member of the cross country team. And then there was the extra effort that earned her the reputation for being, what assistant principal Tom Varn called, the "go-to person" at the school.
"You don't often find kids who jump up when you ask them for a little help," Varn said. "Kristie was always the first person you thought of when you needed someone to organize an activity or take charge of an event. She inspired a lot of kids to want to give more back than they received."
For the 18-year-old, being involved was what school was really about: preparing for future adulthood.
"I always felt sorry for kids who felt that being anywhere else was better than being here," she said. "To me, you miss out if you think school is just books, teachers and classrooms. You need experiences that help shape your life and teach you about yourself."
Kristie admits that school life did make for some hectic days. In addition to membership in the Key Club, French National Honor Society, National Honor Society and the Beta Club, she also served as vice president of the senior class. One of her main tasks involved planning and implementing this year's homecoming and prom activities.
"It was incredibly busy, but it was fun, too," she said. "One of the things I learned was how important teamwork is. We had a great senior class with kids that took pride in seeing things get done."
Some of Kristie's favorite memories came from her years in the school band. An oboist at heart, she became a percussionist in the marching unit. However, her leadership skills and her ability to motivate her peers earned her the job of drum major in her senior year.
"Band was always a blast for me," Kristie said. "I'll miss it because it's a lot like saying good bye to a huge family."
Even as her senior year ends, Kristie tries not to be overly sentimental. After all, she will be taking the best part of high school with her. She knows she is prepared to enter Florida State University to study nutrition and music this fall.
"Your future is linked to how well you're able to accept challenges and responsibility," she said. "I had a lot of great influences and people who showed me what my potential is. I'll never forget them."