Sophea Christensen has dealt with her fair share of adversity throughout her life. Overcoming those obstacles and the lessons she’s learned from them has helped her to become the person she is today, with a newfound drive for success and appreciation for community and helping others.
Christensen attends University High School in Spokane Valley and will graduate June 11. Her high school years were largely spent online due to personal struggles as well as the pandemic; however, she learned to stay determined and push through. One of the biggest lessons Christensen learned to apply to her life was self-discipline.
“I had to take care of myself throughout high school, so that made (my experience) very unique,” Christensen said. “If you want something done, you’ve got to do it for yourself. You just kind of have to get through the hard times so you can get to the good ones.”
One of the biggest support systems she found throughout high school was her teachers.
“I feel like just reaching out to my teachers and getting help and support is how I got through it,” Christensen said. “I think my teachers were my biggest support system in how I got through those (challenges).”
Outside of school, community service is one thing that Christensen is passionate about, which led her to become involved in the Act Six program. Act Six is a leadership-based program that offers four-year, full-ride scholarships to students who want to become involved and make a difference on their college campuses.
“Act Six … connects local, faith-based community affiliates with faith and social justice-based colleges to equip emerging urban and community leaders to engage the college campus and their communities at home,” according to their website.
Christensen received a full-ride scholarship to Whitworth University in Spokane through the program, and she hopes to be involved in more service through that.
Throughout high school, she volunteered with Blessings Under the Bridge, a faith-based nonprofit that works to support the homeless population. Christensen also started a few of her own service projects, including one to support the Hutton Settlement, a children’s home that provides support to abused, abandoned and traumatized children in the Spokane area.
“My community has helped me a lot, so I love it,” Christensen said. “It makes me feel good. I … like getting donations and making sure they get to good places.”
At Whitworth, Christensen plans to major in business administration and secondary education, with the hope of one day starting her own nonprofit organization.
“My teachers helped me a lot and I want to be able to do that for a student,” Christensen said.
Paul Schneider is a social studies teacher at U-Hi and was Christensen’s history teacher for the fall semester. She was also a teaching assistant for one of his classes.
“Sophea has a big story to tell,” Schneider said. “She has not had the easiest of lives, and to see her show up every day, to see her put one foot in front of the other, and to see her demand of herself that she succeed, those are all the best qualities of being not only a good student but a lifelong learner and somebody who’s going to make a mark on this world.”
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