By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published May 13, 2010
Isis Freeman transferred into Our Lady of Mercy High School her junior year. During her two years at the Fayetteville school, she has earned the respect of faculty and peers.
There is little she hasn’t done on campus. She was elected president of the Fatima House, which gives her an inside track to advise the principal on student concerns. She is one of the top three students in her class academically. She played basketball, did cheerleading and ran track, in addition to singing in two school choirs.
“It’s been interesting. It has been quite a change,” Isis says. “I think it has opened a whole new world for me, just more people, more opportunities.”
Isis is the eldest daughter of Anthony and Jennifer Freeman, a professor at Tuskegee University and a physician, respectively. Her younger brother, Nile, is a sophomore at the school. The family worships at Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in Riverdale. Attending the school was her first exposure to the Catholic faith.
“It was a culture shock at first and quite interesting. I had no true fears or concerns, just a strong curiosity. It has brought me closer to my church through service hours and projects and has given me an appreciation for it,” she says.
She moved into Our Lady of Mercy when her former school closed. Isis says her parents wanted a school that taught “how to learn instead of just cramming (students) with knowledge” and they found it at the high school.
A former English teacher, Francis Giknis, spurred her interest in literature, which she plans to study in college. He told her about “Pygmalion” and both read “The Shack.” He left the school in 2009 to attend graduate school at Columbia University.
“He just had this big passion for books in general. We used to trade books outside of class. He’d recommend a book; I’d recommend a book. He’d recommend a movie; I’d recommend a movie. He saw the world differently. He saw it through literature. And I thought that was so amazing.”
Giknis says Isis is one of those students all teachers hope to find in their classroom. In fact, when he moved to New York for graduate school, among the few books he brought was one Isis lent and later gave him, “Jake, Reinvented.”
“Not only do I have fond memories of working with Isis in the classroom, but that book reminds me of the kind of interactions that made me become a teacher in the first place. To say that Isis is an exemplary student would be an understatement,” he wrote in an e-mail.
Giknis says one of Isis’ traits is being true to herself. When she was a newcomer, Isis didn’t change to fit in, but brought her personality and contributed with her opinions in the classroom.
Julie Gagnier, the principal’s administrative assistant and the school’s athletic director, called Isis a “quiet leader.” When the cheerleading squad needed a leader, she stepped in to lead the squad of five freshmen and one sophomore, says Gagnier.
“I think she has blossomed. I think she embodies all the qualities we hope our students possess as they graduate from Mercy,” says Gagnier.
With a little less than a month before graduation, she has her pick of either of two top universities, narrowed to Brown or Vanderbilt. At college, she hopes to study English literature, with a minor in pre-law.
Isis says students shouldn’t be intimidated by hard work.
“Be dedicated and push through. It’s hard sometimes, but if you give everything you have, you’ll make it through. It only hurts yourself; nobody else is hurt by your lack of motivation.”
Like many 17-year-olds, she hasn’t settled on a dream job. Isis sees herself doing a variety of jobs, from representing professional athletes as an agent to investigating crime with the FBI.
“I want to do so many things,” she says.