By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published May 27, 2010
Stephanie Shipley leads her senior class academically at Heritage High School. The 17-year-old isn’t shy about letting people know that God has a lot to do with it.
“The greatest lesson I learned in high school was that all I needed to do to succeed was do my absolute best and trust in God. If I do these things, he will guide me in the right direction,” she said.
Out of a class of 176 graduating seniors at Heritage High School in Ringgold, two hours north of Atlanta, Shipley will be at the top. The valedictorian will be attending Georgia Southern University in the fall. She plans on studying in the pre-med program and maybe engineering on the side, because math is her favorite subject.
Betty Curry, the high school’s senior class counselor, said Shipley doesn’t let her success go to her head. Curry called her “humble, not haughty.”
“She’s got it all. She has a smile on her face all the time,” she said. “She has high standards in everything she does. She excels unbelievably.”
Shipley has accomplished much in high school, from good grades to a state championship with her cross country team.
“Some advice I would give for the class of 2014 would be to always try your absolute hardest in anything you do and never give up, even when you feel you can’t go on. Also, be yourself in anything you do and trust in God’s guidance,” she said.
Her father, Roger, works at a nearby community college and mother, Donna, is a physical therapist assistant. Her sister, Trinity, attends Berry College, Rome. The family worships at St. Gerard Majella Church in Fort Oglethorpe.
Shipley is reading “The Lovely Bones” novel after finishing classics for her honors British literature class. When she isn’t at school, she can be found camping and hiking. She also spends her time scrapbooking and making jewelry. On her iPod is everything from Broadway’s “The Phantom of the Opera” to Christian contemporary band Casting Crowns.
At the parish, Shipley is involved with Life Teen, is an altar server and helps decorate the church.
“My favorite group is my youth group friends. I need to learn more about my faith,” she said.
And during a Georgia Southern tour, Shipley scouted out the local parish near the Statesboro campus so she’s ready for the fall.
“I’m trying to get in the mindset that I’m starting over. I’ll learn as much as I possibly can,” Shipley said about college.
Shipley is a standout on the running course. The Catoosa County News called her “one of the toughest competitors along the trails.”
This year, the senior took home the Region 6-AAA girls individual championship. Her team took fourth place at the state cross country meet.
As an athlete, Shipley joins others at meetings of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Members share matters of faith at its weekly meeting. She is the president. Her e-mail address is “athlete 4christ.”
“It’s really encouraging. The message is always great. It makes my day turn around if it goes bad,” she said of the meetings.
She’s also the leader of the Beta Club, which is a service organization.
Math was one of her favorite courses.
“I like that everything has an answer. I like solving problems. I love it, that’s why I’m weird,” she joked.
“My proudest accomplishment in high school is being the hardworking, determined student that I am and always trying my best to give all of the glory to God,” she said.
Shipley said one of her favorite teachers is Coach Ernie Ellis, her health occupations teacher and cross country coach.
“He has always been there for me in my faith, my schoolwork, and anything else I may need. He’s encouraged me in the tough times and taught me the correct way to celebrate in the joyous times,” she said.
Asked what her dream job would be, Shipley keeps her options open.
“I’m not sure exactly what job I would like to have at this moment, but I know that whatever job I end up with, it would be my dream job if it was something I loved to do and would choose to do each day without being paid,” she said.