It’s graduation time, and as young people set out to blaze their own trails, several graduating seniors, representing the cream of the crop from Frederica Academy on St. Simons Island, and Glynn Academy in Brunswick, contemplated the most important life lesson they have learned so far, and how they expected to apply that lesson to their lives in the future. Their responses, along with the colleges they will be attending in the fall and their anticipated majors, are below:

Frederica Academy

Sara Kaitlyn Gierc, New York University, applied psychology — “I believe how happy you are is determined by the happiness you bring to others. This has been true throughout my life, and I anticipate it will only grow in its truth as I grow older. My biggest hope is that my career and study of psychology will not only bring joy to my own life, but will also teach me how to use my life to better the lives of others. I cannot think of anything more fulfilling than to be able to see the effects of my work transcended into the lives of those with whom I work.”

Kaitlyn Hannah Goodbread, Mercer University, business administration — “Everyone fails at something at one point in life. Whether it be a failure to hold a commitment in school, for work, or to friends, everyone fails at something … In my opinion, part of failure is learning, and learning from my failures is what makes me a more knowledgeable and better person. And this stretches past college to entering the work field as well as to relationships with other people. The word failure may seem like it has a negative connotation, but ultimately failure is what leads to growth as a person and the knowledge that past failures can be used to change the perspective of future situations.”

Margaret D’Arcy Holt, University of Georgia, undecided — “A lover of all things nature and adventure, I was thrilled and honored to be given the privilege to participate in a test called “Bell” one summer at Camp Crestridge. Bell is a 12-hour challenge that takes place all throughout the night …, and consists of a series of obstacles designed to challenge aspiring campers mentally, socially, physically, and spiritually Part of what makes the experience so special is that communication in any form, along with failure to complete the present obstacle, takes you out of the test. … Just as we were given our last instructions, I nodded my head in understanding, accidentally communicating, and therefore taking myself out of the test. I hold this experience close to my heart because I learned that even an instant of looking away from what you are chasing can cause you to lose the finish line in front of you.”

Ivey Elizabeth Jorgensen, University of Georgia, biology — “Through hard work and dedication I can achieve anything. Applying this life lesson while in college and to my career will assist in my future success.”

Nicholas Jan Willem Noltes, University of Virginia, global commerce — “… The importance of working hard to achieve my dreams, and I plan on applying this to my future career so that I’ll know I’m doing everything I can to reach my full potential.”

Christopher Jennings Osgood, Wake Forest University, undecided — “Do whatever you are doing to the best of your ability. Whether it is a trivial task or a very important one, give it your all and do the best you can. Even if it seems trivial at the moment, doing a good job will benefit everyone in the future. I hope to apply this to everything I do.”

Nina Poulakis, Georgia Tech, neuroscience — “It is okay to make mistakes; you learn from them. Also, time management is key in every aspect of life.”

Connor Edward Runyan, Southern Methodist University Business Honors Program, finance — “The most important lesson I have learned … is to not procrastinate. If you plan ahead and get started early, then your life will become less stressful. In college, I will avoid procrastination by using many of the techniques that Frederica has taught me throughout high school.”

Clare Ellen Seymour, Georgia Tech, intercultural studies and Spanish — “Effort is the utmost defining trait in a person. I am not necessarily the smartest or most talented when it comes to my activities in and out of school, but I have succeeded so far by always putting forth my best effort. Starting college and figuring out how I can make it in the world outside of St. Simons, I know that no matter what, my effort will dictate where I will go from here.”

Samuel Taliaferro Thomas, Elon University, communications — “Life isn’t fair but it’s still good. I had to learn that lesson the hard way because I moved at the end of my sophomore year to a completely new place. But when I got to Frederica Academy, I began to make new friends and do well in school. Beginning a new life is difficult. Whether it is moving, or going off to college, life is what you make it, and you can choose to make it miserable or make the best out of a difficult situation.”

Glynn Academy

Benjamin Brubaker, Mercer University, economics — “ Always be yourself and make your own decisions, regardless of what everyone else may be telling you do do. I will make my own decisions about what I would like to major in and what I would like to be, no matter what everyone else is doing.

Talia Forcina, University of Georgia, biology — “Hard work goes farther than natural talent with no work put into it. I plan on using this to keep myself working hard towards my plan of going to medical school.”

Alexis Harris, Princeton University, English — “The importance of empathy and understanding. It’s shaped my relationships, my interactions with people, the way I view the world; the ability to reach outside of myself and consider how other people feel, and why they may feel that way, and what the might lead to, has led me to be a much kinder and more patient person. It’s allowed me to connect to others and form deeper relationships, and it’s allowed me to perhaps help them feel a little less alone. Moving forward, I want to continue to do that — I want to be a pillar of support for others, and perhaps make the world feel a little bit less intimidating and cruel.”

Zalon’tae Hillery, University of Miami, architecture, football scholarship — “Actions speak louder than words. By residing in silence and allowing all of your blood, sweat and tears sacrificed behind closed doors to speak, sooner or later, the world will hear you.”

Jack McCrary, Georgia Tech, architecture — “The incredible value of time management. Long gone are the days of flying by the seat of my pants through school; now, I have to stay ahead of my assignments to avoid them piling up, and I’m sure I’ll have to continue to develop this skill at Georgia Tech.”

Xavier McClinton, Florida A&M University, economics — “Go with your gut. Whether it is taking a test, picking out clothes, or choosing a school, always put your best foot forward, weigh your options, and trust your gut. In college and in life you are faced with many choices and temptations, but if you weigh your options and just trust your gut, you will never regret the decisions you make.”

Sarah Murray, Berry College, nursing, member of tennis team — “Find something you love and pour all of your heart into it.”

Kiera Nelson, United States Army, nursing — “Life has a way of throwing obstacles in your way and testing you, but I’ve learned that you have to push through and continue to be strong. I anticipate applying this lesson to my future college and career by continuing to move forward and ‘stand firm’ no matter what.”

Madison Steilen, University of Georgia, journalism — “You never know until you try. I have been able to apply this to my schoolwork as well as the other social aspects in my life. It is always important to try and reach out to teachers and friends. Whether that is to receive help with something or to just be friendly. I plan to apply this lesson toward everything I do in the future. With this type of mentality, I hope that college can become less frightening and challenging. It can be comforting to know I can always ask for help. The same can apply for a future career. You have to put yourself out there if you want to be considered for the position and give it your all.”

Matthew Torbert, University of Georgia, double major in sports management and finance — “The most important lesson I have learned … is to not change who I am so that I can please others. If I have to change who I am for a person to like me, they are probably not a person that I should associate myself with. This lesson can be used all throughout my future including in college and throughout the business world.”