My middle name is Annaree. My parents made it up as a combination of several of my family members’ names: Mary Ann, Marie, Annette. My middle name is important to me because it tells a story about my family, and they’re important to me. My family consists of my mom and dad, my brother, Zander, my sister, Camryn, my dog, Ace, and my three cats, Charlie, Cassie, and Little Bit. I have so many cats because as a child, I begged and begged for a dog but my parents got me a cat every time. Finally, in May, my sister and I were able to convince them to let us get a puppy, and we got Ace. My mom is an Educational Consultant, she helps get students that on falling behind on grade level. And she is good at what she does; she has a caring heart and a strong will. My dad is a Senior Manager for a networking company. He is logical and witty. Both of my parents work very hard at what they do and hold me to high expectations, motivating me to be great in everything I do, too. My brother, Zander (short for Alexander) is the quietest of my siblings. I would also describe him as funny, kind-hearted, hardworking, and a little sneaky. As a fourteen-year-old, our relationship is just now getting to where we can be friends— middle school boys can be very annoying. Zan is every teacher’s dream student. He spends his free time playing baseball and football. My sister is a true third child. To strangers, she seems shy, but those close to her know otherwise. Cam is the family’s sassy, book-loving, soccer player. We get along pretty well because I drive her around sometimes and we jam in the car.
As for me, I’m going to start from the beginning. At age three, I fell in love with gymnastics. I loved the danger, competitive nature, and ability to beat every single boy in my class in pull-ups or push ups, whichever they wanted to challenge me on that day. By the time I was in 8th grade, I spent 30 hours a week on gymnastics and left school each day to pursue my goal to be on the collegiate level. I loved being a gymnast… until I didn’t. After several major injuries, great pressure from coaches, and losing my already minimal social life, I decided to walk away from the sport that shaped me into who I am. It wasn’t an easy thing to do; I feared that people knew me as a gymnast and that defined my identity. I found myself, the summer before the start of high school, with more time than I had ever had before. I didn’t know what in the world to do with it.
I feel that it is important to point out that I was a shy kid. I only spoke when spoken to. I became a part of a big friend group based on luck, I guess. At three years old, I moved into my current house. There were a bunch of kids my age on my street, so we naturally became friends. The surrounding people were extroverted and confident, so more classmates joined our friend group as the years went on.
In the first year of high school, I outgrew my “speak only when spoken to” thing. After I stopped gymnastics, I decided to try cheerleading because I already had the tumbling background. Cheer gave me confidence quickly. I guess that getting thrown in front of a 400-person crowd in December of 9th grade made me realize that I can just be myself because nobody is going to know if you mess up. In fact, I realized that nobody really cares. Eye contact, parties, new people, and big crowds still make my stomach hurt a little, but I’m not the shy girl I once was.
Aside from cheer, I am extremely involved in Heritage. I love this school. Between seven clubs and two other sports, I keep busy and basically live in the school walls. If I’m not here for cheer (which I usually am), I am giving tours as an Ambassador, running Lettermen’s Club or an NEHS meeting, or tutoring a student. It really is a love-hate relationship. This school stresses me out, but I couldn’t imagine not cheering or not being in clubs.
After Friday night football or basketball games, my weekend begins. I spend my Saturday mornings coaching a team at the Miracle League. This is my happy place; I absolutely love those players and that organization. I can’t go there without smiling. For once, children with special needs aren’t labeled, they’re just kids playing baseball. It’s beautiful and pure. One day, I want to work with kids in my career. On a normal weekend, I leave my ML game and head to UNC Charlotte go watch the Niner’s football game. (Go Niners!) Upon leaving Charlotte on Sunday, I come home and usually try to do something with my friends. I’m busy but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I decided to take newspaper because, despite being told that I was math and science-minded for most of my life, I don’t like math. Unfortunately, it took me sitting through a year of AP Calc to figure that out. During that same year, I took AP English 4. I really enjoyed it. I began to explore writing styles and turned to writing as an outlet for the stress of junior year. I learned about myself and developed a voice. I knew that I probably wouldn’t pursue a career in journalism or English, but I wanted to give myself the opportunity to do some public writing before I graduated. Honestly, I was scared to live with the “what-ifs.” I decided to just try it.