By LOGAN NEILL
© St. Petersburg Times,
Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of stories introducing a trio of Hernando County high school students that the Times will be tracking through their senior year, as they prepare for life in the real world. Top of the Class will revisit them throughout the school year.
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SPRING HILL -- A typical school day for Katie Hallberg is practically a non-stop affair that begins in the pre-dawn darkness of 6 a.m. and concludes 18 hours later at the stroke of midnight.
Her waking hours are consumed by what the Springstead High senior considers a personal need to achieve.
By day's end she will have put in six class periods, most of which are in honors level subjects such as English, German, math and science.
She most likely have attended a meeting or two in one of the four campus clubs she belongs to.
And with volleyball season in full swing, there are three solid hours of practice with the team before heading home to study.
"Probably the greatest thing I've learned in high school is how to work hard for success," Katie says. "It's not something that anyone can teach you. Your drive has to come from within. The reason you succeed is that it's your mission. You have to want to do it for yourself."
Confident but humble, Katie's education philosophy has helped carry the 17-year-old away from her freshman days when, she explains, "was afraid of everybody I looked at in the hallway" to an outgoing, well-respected member of the class of 2002.
For Katie, who finished her junior year ranked 17th in her class, the year ahead is something of a launching pad for her future dream of becoming a teacher. She has put a lot of personal faith toward the goal of finishing among the top five percent of her class.
"I've been praying a lot," she says. "A lot of kids can coast in their senior year, but I don't think I can. I don't have any real easy classes."
Deeply religious, Katie has her sights set on attending a small, out-of-state bible college next fall. Because it is a private school, any scholarship hopes rest on Katie finding her own financial resources.
"My parents aren't rich; so for the most part, what I get for college I'm going to have to be responsible for myself," Katie says.
In addition to hunting down Web sites and catalogs that offer scholarship opportunities, she also has applied for smaller money sources such as essay contests and other local scholarships.
Katie's weekends are often as busy as her school week. She holds a part-time job at her parents' auto repair business, where she helps sweep floors and tidy up the building. She also devotes a significant portion of her spare time to her church, Spring Hill Baptist, where she volunteers in youth community outreach programs.
Katie is involved in several on-campus organizations, in many of which she holds an official position. She recently was elected vice president of the student council. But she admits that her social circle doesn't revolve around school activities.
"I don't hang out at school a lot," says Katie. "Most of my friends are people I know from church."
Katie does enjoy the camaraderie in volleyball, which she has played since her freshman year. It will be among the things she will miss most once she leaves Springstead next spring.
"Being a senior is one of those things you look forward to but tend to be a little sad about once it get here," she says. "You know you're going to have to say goodbye at some point. It's the last step before you go out into the world."
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