Editor's note: This is the second in a series of articles highlighting local students and their accomplishments, in order to encourage young people to complete school and achieve their dreams.
A Tucker County native is currently working for Disney in the sunshine of Florida, less than a year after graduating from college.
Anna Lea Patrick, who graduated from Tucker County High School in 2009, is completing a one-year professional internship at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. She said she enjoyed high school and college because she became involved in many ventures, but made sure she set priorities to accomplish all that needed completed.
"It was extremely easy for me to find activities in high school that interested me," Patrick said. "Whether playing varsity sports, acting in high school plays or serving as a class representative, I wanted to do it all, and I did."
Patrick said she shared valedictorian honors with two TCHS fellow students.
"The small size of Tucker County High School gives it a familial sense and I loved it," she said. "During my times there, I had the privilege of learning from teachers that inspired and challenged me daily. I was also fortunate to form and grow lifelong friendships."
Patrick said it was extremely easy for her to find activities in high school that were interesting.
"I think the more involved you are with your high school or college, the more invested and connected you become. I was extremely invested at Tucker County High School, and worked with a number of clubs and organizations to improve it. One accomplishment that I am very proud of is leading the efforts to establish a recycling program at the high school in 2007."
All that hard work also came with some challenges and compromises.
"As much as I loved being involved in extracurricular activities, I admit that it was challenging at times," Patrick said. "I remember many nights of completing homework on a bus to a softball game or trying to solve math problems at the lunch table. Because I was committed to so many teams, clubs and organizations, I had to prioritize my time extremely well.
"I think one of the hardest challenges for any high school student is solving what path they will take post-graduation. How can you decide what you want to do for the rest of your life at 17 or 18?"
Patrick said another reason she feels getting involved in high school is important is that trying many things will help you learn what you like and don't like.
"Knowledge is power," she said. "Get out there and explore."
She offered additional encouragement for current high school students.
"I would advise any high school student that education, like life, is what you make it," Patrick said. "Too often I hear parents and students complain about the quality of education in North Central West Virginia. Their complaints vary - some point the finger at teachers, others at lack of resources and so on. However, blaming others is lazy.
"Claim responsibility for your education," she said. "Don't expect someone to hold your hand and give you everything you need. If you want to get better in math, then make the effort. Students have to work hard for what they want to accomplish. There is no hand-holding in college. If you want to do well, it is entirely up to you to make that happen."
Patrick graduated Summa Cum Laude from West Liberty University in May 2013 with a Bachelors of Science degree in Communication. She served three years as editor of "The Trumpet," her university's newspaper, and served several internships at The Inter-Mountain.
Currently she works within Disney's Internal Communications department, writing and producing "Eyes and Ears," an internal magazine written solely for their 70,000 employees.
"During my high school and college career, I gained seven years of experience working for newspapers," Patrick said.
"I am a born communicator and passionate about print journalism. I'm not sure where my next step will take me, but I know that I want to be working within communications."
She said she would advise any high school student today to challenge themselves, and never stop asking questions.
"Spread out your roots and grow," she said.