By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published May 13, 2010
In the last month, Pinecrest Academy senior Kristen Petros has visited two different countries on mission trips. These trips have become the norm for the young woman, who recently spoke about her high school experience and what she has planned for the future.
During Holy Week, Kristen ventured to Mexico with her family on a trip where she combined physical labor with personal ministry. In addition to painting churches and repairing houses, she went door-to-door in a region a few hours south of Mexico City, making sure people knew about the importance of Holy Week and passing along church service information.
But one experience she will never forget happened spontaneously.
“One of the most moving things I experienced on that trip was when we climbed up the mountain and we got to a village,” she said. They found a man who had lost the use of one of his arms after being shot in the head. He was trying to build a house for his wife and children. They offered to help the man, who gladly accepted.
“By the end of the week, he had built his house,” she said smiling, again saying how moving it was to help a stranger in such a direct way, and also to see the immediate effect it had on the man and his family.
While Kristen, who attends Mary Our Queen Church with her parents, John and Teresa, and four sisters, has been active abroad with her family since she was in seventh grade, she has also brought that hard work ethic with her to Pinecrest. She said the school has given her a clear sense of responsibility and also helped get her priorities in the right order.
One of the most difficult times came when she left Pinecrest her freshman year to attend a vocational discernment and boarding school in Rhode Island.
“It was a very hard year for me,” said Kristen, who had some trouble getting used to the rigid schedule. “There was a lot of discipline. … But I grew so much that year. I learned how to discipline myself and organize my studies and my prayer life.”
She admits that Pinecrest has challenged her as well.
“(Pinecrest) has always challenged me to really actively try to make myself a better person—a better student, a better daughter, a better friend, a better sister. It’s made me really want to excel and not just float along with whatever I see happening,” she said.
She has a close bond with her literature teacher, Carla Chwat, her favorite faculty member.
“Kristen is a wonderful student,” said Chwat. “She is a hard worker who is excited about learning and sharing her perspectives with others. Most importantly, Kristen truly embraces her faith, and she is a role model for our younger students.”
Kristen plans to attend Emory University in the fall. Both of her parents are doctors, with her father serving as an urologist for Emory Healthcare so it seemed like a natural choice. However, Kristen never really planned on staying in Georgia for school.
She applied to 11 schools across the country and even to a few overseas. She spent time before the Blessed Sacrament in adoration in hopes of getting some direction on where she might be called to attend school. She eventually narrowed it down to Emory and St. Louis University in Madrid, Spain.
“I really, really, really wanted to go to Spain,” she said. “But I’ve learned that what you want isn’t always what God wants.”
She isn’t quite sure what she wants to do with her life, though she occasionally jokes and tells people she wants to be a pirate.
“But, no, not really,” she said, laughing. “I think I just want to take the things I love— like art and literature and I love people—and find something that I can do with all of those things so that I can be like my dad.”
“He says that when he drives to work he never feels like he’s going to work because he loves it so much.”
“Kristen is a very humble and charitable student who has made Pinecrest an even better school, and she is an inspiration to students, staff, faculty and administrators,” said Chwat. “Her zeal for Christ makes us all want to be better Catholics.”