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Friday, June 13, 2014

Hollis/Brookline senior overcomes shyness, finds her passion on her way to Keene State College

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

HOLLIS – Savannah Robert struggled with her academics and shyness for the first half of her high school career, but joining an intense activity like cheerleading, and touring a family member’s alma mater, helped her find balance and new focus in her life. She will graduate from Hollis Brookline High School on June 14, and plans to attend Keene State College in the fall as an education major. ...

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

HOLLIS – Savannah Robert struggled with her academics and shyness for the first half of her high school career, but joining an intense activity like cheerleading, and touring a family member’s alma mater, helped her find balance and new focus in her life. She will graduate from Hollis Brookline High School on June 14, and plans to attend Keene State College in the fall as an education major.

“When I first came into high school, I was extremely shy and didn’t even talk to anyone,” said the Brookline resident. “I had one friend from middle school but was stuck in my little bubble.
The people I did surround myself with were very smart. I wanted to fit in and pushed myself further than I could handle. I tried to do the work but didn’t see the point if I was failing.”

Trying to keep up in challenging classes resulted in mediocre grades, a need for tutoring, and low self-esteem.

During the winter of her freshman year, she joined the Cavaliers cheerleaders. The team was relatively new, so there were no cuts. Since she had never played sports before, being on a team with almost daily practices was a novel experience.

“It gave me a confidence boost,” she said. “I’d never been out in front of people before, and now I had new friends and more socializing.”

Cheerleading is a two-season sport: football games in the fall, and basketball in the winter. Then there are cheer competitions. Savannah took her commitment seriously, and never missed any events.

And she’s proud the cheerleaders went from finishing last in competitions early on to being in the top eight in the most recent state competition, and finishing in second place in the Capitol City Invitational.

The major turning point in her transformation occurred during her junior year. She took on a more manageable class load, and made honor roll for the first time. Like her peers, she also was encouraged to start thinking about college and careers. She said she hadn’t given much thought to the future, and would probably have settled for enrolling in a community college. A well-timed campus tour and conversation with her aunt and uncle, both teachers and school administrators, gave her the clarity she had been lacking.

“My aunt and uncle had both gone to Keene and loved it,” she explained. “They took me on a tour, and I loved (the campus). I asked them questions about their jobs, and I started to fall for the idea of going in that direction.”

Since she’s always loved children, she said learning more about careers in the field of education helped her make the connection to staring down that career path.

HBHS Guidance Counselor Sandra Bent recalled her first meeting with Savannah following her visit to Keene.

“I don’t think I can put into words what it was like when she came in and said, ‘I’m going to be a teacher,’” Bent said. “When she talked about it, she just lit up. There was a visible transformation in her, now that she stopped floundering and had a goal. Cheerleading was the start of it, and then she took off. She’s a different child now. She smiles, is light and is confident.”

Bent also pointed out that an important aspect of Savannah’s story is that it’s typical of many students.

“Most kids come into high school not knowing where they will end up,” she continued. “They work on courses because they are told to and struggle to keep their grades up. Looking at Savannah, you don’t know her journey, but as an educator, those experiences will help her to understand the students sitting in her classroom. She has had a bigger transformation than most.”

With new focus and energy, her senior year has been her most successful year so far. Her grade point average for the year is top notch and she continues to be on the honor roll.

“It’s the first time I ever had a tangible goal and wasn’t just doing something for the sake of doing it,” she said. “It really made a different in how I performed academically. For the first time in my life, I’ve stopped procrastinating.”

“I get an assignment and I want to do it and turn it in early to get extra points. That is new for me, and I’m happy about that. I have more free time because I’m not thinking about things as much, I’m just doing.”