When Madeline Christiansen talks about coming out of her shell, she looks all the way back to second grade, when she was so shy she would do almost anything to avoid talking to classmates.
“When I went to my old school, I was totally, like, terrified of people,” she said.
Ten years later, Christiansen is preparing to graduate from St. George’s School, a private nondenominational school located along the Little Spokane River. She’s a four-sport athlete with a 4.0 GPA, and she’s made enough friends to become the student body vice president – a distinction that required her to give a speech in front of the whole school last year.
Christiansen, 17, still considers herself an introvert but said she’s much more confident nowadays. She attributes that success to small class sizes and helpful, tuned-in teachers, especially her English teacher, Chad Rigsby.
“She is just a brilliant, hard-working kid,” Rigsby said. “I remember reading the first paper she wrote in ninth grade and thinking, ‘This could have been written by a college kid.’ She’s really just a natural talent as a writer, but she’s also really humble.
“She’s certainly quiet, but over the years she’s gotten braver and braver about speaking up in class,” he said. “It took her a while to figure out the scope of her talent.”
Team sports have helped Christiansen make friends, too. She grew up playing soccer, and it remains one of her favorite activities. Golf is her other favorite, and last summer she won a district golf tournament. She’s also played basketball and run cross-country for St. George’s.
About college, she said, “I might play club golf, but I don’t want to go to a school that I don’t necessarily love just to play golf.”
Christiansen is also laser-focused on academics. She took part in a curriculum called International Baccalaureate, a major component of which is the Extended Essay, a sort of thesis for high school seniors.
For her paper, Christiansen, who has long been interested in criminal justice, chose to examine the history of the death penalty and how it’s used in different parts of the United States.
“Basically, what I learned is that it’s not a deterrent,” she said. “If you look at all the data, it doesn’t really work, and it’s not worth, like, how immoral it is.”
Christiansen said she might pursue a career in criminal justice, but lately she’s thought about majoring in English or business. She was accepted to a number of elite universities, and recently she was trying to choose from her three favorites: the University of Southern California, Cornell University and the University of Notre Dame. She chose Notre Dame.
“I’m nervous, but I’m also ready,” she said of her upcoming graduation. “It’s just crazy to go from somewhere as small as St. George’s to some of the big schools that I’m looking at.”
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