Among the many social nightmares that high school students may endure, moving to a new city before senior year is probably among the worst. But North Idaho Christian School’s Madison Smith flipped the script on that scenario this year, and for all the best reasons.
Smith said her parents had long hoped to move to Coeur d’Alene, and when that hope became a reality last summer, she had a typical reaction.
“I didn’t want to move,” she said. “It was scary because all my friends were there (in Albany, Oregon), I was a competitive cheerleader with an amazing team, and I loved it. It wasn’t a good year to move.
“My parents left the decision up to me, though. I had a few months to think about it and to decide, and once I did, I was still scared, but I had a sense of peace about it. Moving was maybe not the best thing for me, but it was best for my family. My parents have made lots of sacrifices for me, and this was a way for me to give back.
“It was still weird enrolling in a new school, though. At first, I thought I wanted to go to the public high school, but I had been in a Christian school for several years before we moved, and my parents convinced me to give NIC a try. It was quite the experience at first. Santiam Christian in Corvallis has over 600 students, and here there are only 13 students in the senior class.
“Lots of my classmates have been going to NIC for a long time, but everyone was really nice and I felt welcome. It was still a process to feel like I belonged, but my amazing technology teacher, Mrs. O’Neal, wrote me the sweetest letter of recommendation ever a few months ago, and that just confirmed that I was in the right place.”
Paulette O’Neal is the NIC school and enrollment counselor and was Smith’s instructor in Technology Innovations. She has a hard time finding enough superlatives to describe her student.
“Madison is an excellent student full of joy and enthusiasm. Once she decided to come, she has taken the opportunity to make the most of it and put herself out there to meet new people and join a small school where students were already connected. She just exudes a friendly, positive attitude to everyone she meets.”
Smith’s experience at NIC also led to an interesting discovery. Her teachers seem to see her as a leader in the school despite her short time there. She said she didn’t previously see herself that way, but O’Neal’s letter opened her eyes to how other people see her.
She’s considering a couple of options for next year, either Grand Canyon University in Phoenix or working with Youth With a Mission, a Christian organization which serves through mission and discipleship work. Either way, she says, she will study to become a nurse and eventually a nurse practitioner.
After the big decision she made last year, Madison is confident she is better prepared for the future.
“Before that,” she said, “I hadn’t had any big decisions, so this was huge for me. Sure, there have been times when I have missed my old life, but my family has been my rock, and I haven’t lost my old friends in Oregon, I’ve just made new ones here. My faith and my love for others are what define me. I have a big heart for people.”
Joe Everson can be reached at email@example.com
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