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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Campbell High grad Brianna Hardy: Starve your anger, nourish your happiness

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of a series of profiles of graduating high school seniors.

LITCHFIELD – When her dad died at age 42, about two months into her junior year at Campbell High School, nobody could have blamed Brianna Hardy if she became a bit withdrawn and started avoiding activities she once liked while plodding along from one day to the next. ...

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of a series of profiles of graduating high school seniors.

LITCHFIELD – When her dad died at age 42, about two months into her junior year at Campbell High School, nobody could have blamed Brianna Hardy if she became a bit withdrawn and started avoiding activities she once liked while plodding along from one day to the next.

But that’s not what Hardy is made of. As sad and painful as her father’s premature death was on Hardy, her mom and little sister Talia, it also steeled the resolve of a young woman who wanted more than ever to “really make a difference in other people’s lives.”

While Hardy looks back with a warm smile at the memory of her father, Sean, a gregarious, well-liked man who battled for years the heart condition that eventually claimed his life, she also looks eagerly forward to Friday evening, when she and just over 100 fellow seniors will don caps and gowns, walk across a stage and into the next chapter of their lives.

Campbell’s commencement starts at 6 p.m. on the athletic field in front of the school. In the event of rain, it will be moved into the school gym, with a video feed provided to the auditorium for overflow attendees. If weather is iffy, school officials will make the indoor/outdoor call at 7:30 a.m. Friday and post it on the school website.

Hardy grew up in Litchfield, making friends with ease and frequency at Griffin Elementary, Litchfield Middle School and Campbell.

A fairly tall young woman with wispy light-brown hair and a ready smile, Hardy calls herself a “floater friend” when it comes to peer relationships.

“I don’t just hang around with one group of people. I have close friends who are athletes, others who are into art and who get the best grades,” she said. “I get along with everyone.”

That other kids’ backgrounds, or stations in life, don’t faze Hardy a bit when it comes to making friends is a great trait to have for someone who captained the school’s volleyball team, played basketball and was the vice president of Campbell’s National Honor Society.

Campbell principal Laurie Rothhaus praised Hardy as a natural leader, whether it be on the volleyball or basketball court or in the classroom.

“Brianna showed a lot of courage,” Rothhaus said of the trying times Hardy encountered with the loss of her father. “She’s always been a really good student, and she really pushed herself in the arts.”

Apparently Hardy pushed herself effectively, because art – specifically, graphic design – is what she’s planning to major in when she starts classes later this year at Roger Williams University, the smallish liberal arts school in Rhode Island.

“I’ve always loved digital art, but I decided to try the portfolio class this year,” Hardy said, referring to Campbell’s honors art course. “I’d never been in anything like that, but I fell in love with it.”

When Hardy was inducted into Campbell’s National Honor Society in the middle of her junior year, those who chose the inductees cited her history of “giving back to the community by helping out local volleyball camps … teaching kids the fundamentals of the sport.”

In April, Hardy wrapped that community spirit with a desire to honor her father when she organized an American Heart Association fundraiser as her senior project.

The event, a 5K run, carried her dad’s name and ended up raising around $4,400 for the heart association.

With all she’s involved in, it might seem Hardy has little time for any other kinds of pursuits.

Not so: For most of her high school years, she’s worked not one, but two part time jobs.

“Yeah, I work every day during the week,” she said rather matter-of-factly. The jobs – one at a child and youth clothing store and the other scooping ice cream – help solve an issue that most people would never see as a problem: Too much free time.

“I wouldn’t know what to do with myself,” she said with a big grin. “With my dad not being here, I’ve become very self-motivated. What happened makes me want to value my time here.”

While she’s plenty aware that anger, frustration and such negative feelings are unavoidable facts of life, Hardy tries her best to lend them as little energy as possible.

“I feel that every minute you spend angry is a minute you’ve lost your happiness,” she said. “I really want to make people smile.”

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Shalhoup on Twitter (@Telegraph_DeanS).