Editor's note: This is the third in a series of articles highlighting local students and their accomplishments, in order to encourage young people to complete school and achieve their dreams.
BUCKHANNON - Making a plan for future career or education goals while still in high school is a perplexing challenge for many, but Lucy Swecker, a 2007 Tygarts Valley High School graduate, said making that decision is an important step for students.
While in high school, Swecker said she underestimated the importance of certain skills she was learning.
"Now that I am a teacher, I am grateful for my public speaking skills," Swecker said. "As a teacher, it is imperative that I can communicate messages effectively to my students, their parents and my colleagues. Having a sense of confidence and poise in front of diverse audiences is an incredible skill to possess, regardless of your profession."
Good writing techniques is another skill Swecker said she uses daily.
"From writing letters to parents, lesson planning and writing grants, writing skills are a necessary part of my career."
While in high school, Swecker attended Rhododendron Girls State. She was a recipient of the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Award, the Promise Scholarship, 4-H Charting and All Star Pin and the Skills USA Public Speaking National Gold Medal.
She was valedictorian of her graduating class and served as lieutenant governor of Division 4 Key Club and as a member of the West Virginia Presbytery Youth Council.
Swecker graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College in 2011, earning a double major in elementary education and communication studies.
"In college, I became involved with campus activities beginning my freshman year," Swecker said. "Those organizations included Alpha Delta Pi sorority, collegiate 4-H, honors program, Student Education Association and various honorary societies.
"Upon graduation from Wesleyan, I served as a Fulbright grantee teaching English at Kyungpook National University's Elementary School in Daegu, South Korea."
Currently, Swecker teaches fourth grade at Union Elementary in Upshur County, and is working toward a masters in reading education at Wesleyan.
"Get involved while in school," Swecker said. "You will get out of your high school experience what you put into it."
Swecker said high school is the perfect place to discover new things.
"Try a sport, take a class, engage in community support, learn to play an instrument or join a club," Swecker said. "High school is a time to discover your interests and talents. You will develop leadership and social skills that can be used during your lifetime."
She also encourages high schoolers to get to know others.
"Everyone has a story," she said. "Make a point to sincerely interact with your classmates. Although it may be tough to venture out of your comfort zone, limiting yourself to a few friends does just that it limits you from building relationships, considering ideas from others' perspectives and learning more about your interests, beliefs and values."
She said she hopes students will consider the legacy they want to leave for their high school, their community and the world.
"Don't wait for the 'real world' to learn something, share something, try something or make something of yourself," she said. "Don't wait for the 'real world' to be responsible, be compassionate or make the right decisions. Why not wait? Because the real world doesn't begin after high school, or after college, or after the military, or after you move out of your parents' house. The real world is now."