Teachers, youth leaders and parents expend a lot of energy encouraging young people to set and achieve goals. So what happens when the youngster in question is a self-starter?
Maybe the trip of a lifetime.
Grace Hatheway is a senior at Cedaredge High School. An honors student and athlete, she strives to keep her grades up, is applying for college scholarships, and will be busy with her editorial duties for the CHS newspaper and school yearbook while juggling cross-country and track and other school activities.
She's also striving to reach one more goal: to raise more than $5,000 to fund a June 2020 trip to the Galapagos Islands.
To earn money she is doing yard work around town and babysitting, tidying up the homes of local residents, and house sitting. She's about halfway to meeting her funding goal. Though it will be a challenge to balance her odd jobs with the demands of her senior year, she's optimistic.
The idea of going to the Galapagos first struck Hatheway in 2017 when she and her older sister Hannah and a group of other CHS students took a school trip to Costa Rica. The trip was organized by Ecology Project International (EPI), an educational foundation that strives to improve and inspire science education and conservation efforts through field-based student-scientist partnerships. EPI is headquartered in Montana where it facilitates Yellowstone projects. EPI also mans outreach centers in Costa Rica, Mexico, Belize and the Galapagos.
"Being in Costa Rica, I was inspired to go on another trip," she said. "I was talking about it to everyone before I even got home."
Once back home, her audience included her parents, Jim and Kristin; sister Hannah, now a sophomore at Colorado State University; and her younger brother, Chris, an eighth grade student at Cedaredge Middle School.
Hatheway also talked to her CHS science teacher, Kevin Dunbar. A graduate of Meeker High School, he put Hatheway in touch with a Meeker teacher who was working with EPI to coordinate a 2020 trip to the Galapagos. Eleven MHS students are also signed up for the trip, and Hatheway makes an even dozen.
She is definitely looking forward to the adventure. "Just knowing that I can travel to other countries and be able to help people there, it's a great feeling," she said with a smile.
What's she most excited about?
Known for its giant Galapagos tortoise, she and the other students will work with scientists and Galapagos high school students to monitor these unique animals. Students will also study the dynamics of seed dispersal and the challenges posed by invasive plant species. They'll compare the ecology of the archipelago's diverse islands, learn about the management of conservation and protected areas, and observe marine animals and reptiles.
"Plus the islands are home to the only penguins north of the equator," she added. Traveling from island to island with her fellow explorers, she hopes to catch a glimpse of the unique flightless birds.
An amateur photographer and experienced artist, the talented traveler plans to capture images of the islands. Locally she has entered her work in the Edge of Cedars art show, countywide school exhibits and the Delta County Fair, where she's been displaying her artistic endeavors since age 5.
She enjoys photography, painting, charcoal drawing and wood burning. She's less into color and more into artwork that allows her to highlight "intricate little details." It's a preference which might explain her love of art and math, her two favorite high school subjects.
In addition to attending classes and working on high school publications, Hatheway is also a track and cross country athlete and a competitive climber. She is also active in the National Honor Society, the CHS Student Health Advisory Council (SHAC) and Sources of Strength, a new school group that focuses on helping fellow students struggling with adolescent issues.
As for a future career, Hatheway has her sights on medicine. She envisions starting with a degree in biomedical engineering, applying to medical school, and becoming a surgeon specializing in pediatric or neurosurgery.
Those may seem like lofty goals, but not for a 17-year-old girl who has her heart set on a 3,000-mile trip to help others and to learn more about her world. And she is willing to work for it.