Editor's note: This is the sixth in a series of articles highlighting local students and their accomplishments, in order to encourage young people to complete school and achieve their dreams.
ELKINS - Looking back on her high school experience, Cassandra Bodkin believes she got where she is by studying hard, making good grades and knowing that her future was in her own hands.
Bodkin, who graduated from Elkins High School in 2008, is currently in her second semester of law school at Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh.
"In high school, I cheered for an all-star cheerleading team and we were named national champions two years in a row," Bodkin said. "I was also captain of the soccer team and went to state tournaments all four years in track. I was fortunate to be nominated homecoming queen by my peers my senior year."
But Bodkin said juggling so many activities was hard.
"I always participated in numerous activities and homework was difficult," she said. "I loved sports, but I always knew my future depended on good grades."
Bodkin said, at times, it was hard to maintain her motivation.
"But at the end of the day, I knew I had teammates relying on me and I knew my future relied on my grades," she said. "No matter how tired I thought I was, I always remembered that I was fortunate to be able to do so much in high school."
Bodkin said it's very common to hear high school teachers say, "You will see this material again in college."
"While it's easy to blow that off, it is true," she said. "In college everyone is required to take basic courses and while in these courses, you will see that material again.
"Also, I did not pay much attention at the time to the life lessons my teachers gave me," Bodkin said. "They have experiences and wisdom that is worth listening to - even if you're too cool to admit it."
Bodkin said she is thankful to her teachers at Elkins High School, especially Brad Martin and Coach Greg Hott.
"Mr. Martin was an amazing Spanish teacher," she said. "His teaching methods are ingenious, and his love of language and life is infectious. Traveling with him and the class to Costa Rica was an unforgettable experience and I thank him for my travel bug.
"Coach Hott was also an awesome teacher to have in class," she said. "He has a captivating way of making any subject interesting and relative to real-life situations."
Following graduation from high school, Bodkin attended West Virginia Wesleyan College, where she majored in political science and minored in English literature.
"While in college, I cheered and ran on the track team," she said. "I was also in the pre-law society, a member of Zeta Tau Alpha and was an English as a second language tutor."
Bodkin said running track in college offered her many unique experiences.
"Not only did I make many lifelong friends, but our track team won conference the first two years," she said. "I also studied abroad in Linkoping, Sweden. It was my first time traveling abroad by myself and living alone. It was dark almost all day long and there was a constant blizzard."
Bodkin said she finally got over the culture shock and learned more Swedish.
"I really enjoyed my experience," she said. "I encourage anyone and everyone to travel as the opportunity presents itself. It will teach you so much about the world and yourself."
While at WVWC, Bodkin was awarded a J. William Fulbright scholarship.
"I was fortunate to have the opportunity through the scholarship to teach English in Dimitrovgrad, Bulgaria for one year," she said. "Not only did I get to teach high school students, but I got to travel to 10 countries and run a marathon in Athens, Greece."
Bodkin has advice for students still in high school.
"I want high school students to be able to form their own ideas about the world and what they believe in," Bodkin said. "I urge you to do the things that scare you. There's nothing more rewarding than doing what you think you cannot do."
Bodkin told students to enjoy high school, have as much fun as possible and be nice to each other. She does, however, couple that with a warning.
"Remember that your future is in your own hands," she said. "Things are not handed to you in the real world, and high school is far from the real world. Regardless of what teenagers are told by the media or society, intelligence is beauty and power, and education can take you to new worlds."
She also advises high school students to appreciate their right to receive an education at all.
"It is a cliche, but now more than ever, we realize that education is a luxury denied to many," Bodkin said. "Study new languages and study abroad. Traveling and learning about new cultures will open your mind to so much more than you ever imagined."