June 7, 2009 in Idaho Voices

She’s a natural scholar

Academy’s Hillary Child explores in school, outdoors
Jacob Livingston jackliverpoole@yahoo.com
Kathy Plonka photo

Hillary Child, shown at school last month, is the valedictorian at Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy.
(Full-size photo)

Hillary Child is the kind of person you want in your corner.

Whether it’s for a national academic competition, a stroll around Tubbs Hill or a searing hike through a sun-baked Grand Canyon, Child is the sort of stand-out student teachers wish for, diligently toiling away with a soft-spoken demeanor, an atypical teenager who makes an impression with her determination and intellect.

“I’ve always liked to learn,” she said.

An insatiable learner with a creative imagination, the Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy valedictorian and only child could often be found, her parents, Jeff Child and Heidi Fisher Child, say. That was, if she wasn’t busy gathering random objects at Sanders Beach for one of her diverse childhood collections, which included colorful foam bits that had dislodged from docks and pebbles found along the water.

“She’s always been a very independent individual,” her mother said.

“She’s been from the get-go a voracious reader. Science fiction, nonfiction, it didn’t matter – she consumed everything. … She’s always been very academic. I see her as a real scholar in that she loves to learn.”

Fisher Child said that whenever her parents tried to help young Hillary with anything, she’d say, “Hilly do!” and work it out on her own. Whatever Child has put her mind to, including becoming a strict vegetarian at age 11, she’s achieved, her mother said.

The North Idaho native has made a name for herself at the academy as a thorough, hard-working student. She’s a member of the National Honor Society, Key Club and band, and she is an avid art student.

“She has a perfect academic record,” said Jim Schaffer, the school counselor.

“Her work is always top-notch, and almost always done to perfection. … She seems to do equally well in any area.”

That excellence was on display this year when the school’s Academic Team won the state title. Team members had to draw on their knowledge of Latin, history, government, English, literature, math and science.

Child was a key member of the team, which traveled to Washington, D.C., for the national competition.

The recent graduate said the Charter Academy, which she’s attended since the seventh grade, provided an excellent learning environment.

“Everybody is expecting you to do well,” she said.

“You can’t just sit in the back of the class – and I was a pretty quiet student – and hide. The classes are a lot smaller, so everyone has to participate.”

She’s tackled more than schoolwork, though. A vacation last summer stands out as one of her proudest moments, Child said. She hiked through the Grand Canyon in a three-day excursion during a heat wave. Her group covered 22 miles and several thousand vertical feet.

“It was very hot and the hike out especially was exhausting, but I was certainly proud once I’d finished,” she said.

“She’s a bushwhacker. She’s always been interested in every square inch” of her surroundings, Jeff Child said.

Child said she enjoys scuba diving, which she is certified in, waterskiing and snow skiing. North Idaho, she added, has suited her well.

“I certainly like the small-town sort of feel,” she said. “I love the lake, I love four seasons and I love the winters.”

In the fall, Child plans to attend Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, on a $20,000-a-year scholarship.

As for her future, she said, “I’m thinking of something related to math, or science or languages, but I’ll wait for a year or two to narrow it down any more.”

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