It is hard to believe that it was been nearly eight years since I was but a sixth grader getting ready for the annual end-of-year award ceremony. By the end of the ceremony, I had raked up over 12 awards- most for highest average, one for being the top student, several for leadership, and one for my perfect TCAP Writing score of a 6. As I walked the stage for the last time, my science teacher at the time, Mrs. Hasselbacher, stopped me for a second before I could return to my seat. "Do something with all of this." "Do... something... with... all... of... this." Those words have not been able to leave my mind since.
For those that know me, know that I have spent the last two years studying (Pre-Medicine) Honors Neuroscience at Belmont University. While most of my fellow colleagues come from a land luxurious islands, private jets, and huge cities- if you know anything about Robertson County, you would know that nearly the opposite is true. The city of Springfield stands at a population size of a whopping 16,000 residents, a land of hills and fertile ground snuggled tightly between the great city of Nashville and the corn fields of Kentucky. The only thing close to a private jet being the several railroad tracks that intertwine throughout the town.
While a huge spectrum of opinions exist concerning public education and the educational system of small towns in general, I am here (as a living testimony) to break all stereotypes. I vividly remember the first day I moved to college and wondered what my journey would entail, the people I would meet, the things I would experience, but most importantly, if I would find success academically. Even as the Valedictorian, how would my public education rank among others from high end private institutions? Rumors had it that college would be a self-esteem beater, classes would be impossible, professors were impossible to please, no questions could be asked, and only little time would be allowed for extra-curricular activities.
As of now, I will be starting my junior year at Belmont as the president and founder of both Nu Rho Psi (Neuroscience Honor Society) and Women in Science, as well as Secretary of the National Science Teaching Association, on the Executive Board of the Hispanic Student Association, on the leadership team of Omicron Delta Kappa, the administrative director for HOPE Council, and a proud member of Tri-Beta (Biology Honor Society) and Alpha Epsilon Delta (Pre-Health Honor Society). All of this while still finding time to teach health literacy courses to incoming refugees, traveling and gathering stories for the Brain Injury Association, leading support groups, working as a CNA, work as a research intern for Vanderbilt's Psychiatric Hospital, and being on Belmont's Dean List for two consecutive years. The biggest class size to this date has been of 35 students, the professors encourage questions and discussion, they know you by name, they know what your schedule looks like and any event you have coming up, they take the time to wish you the best and help you along the way. All of which was similar to what I experienced at Springfield High School- the public school no one wanted to be a part of. The walls of that building have forever transformed me and my gratitude for my beloved teachers holds without end. Those are the individuals that helped guide me, spark my interest in the STEM field, helped me find my love both science/math as well as leadership through service. So, thank you Ms. Stanley, Mr. Beirne, Mr. Schlipp, Mrs. Hasselbacher, Mrs. Bush, Mrs. Tyson, for seeing my potential. It is that very spark that helped springboard me into the success that I now obtain.
Living in a small town has taught me that just as everyone knows everyone- they are also here to support you in whatever endeavor it is you may tackle. One of my favorite things about coming home is knowing that there are people back home that know what I am doing and are always exciting to hear more. Whether it's friends, family, old teachers and administrators, or simply someone you run into at Walmart that just so happened to hear about what it was you were currently doing- everyone cares and wants you to succeed.
I truly believe that every individual in this world has the ability to learn anything, no matter how difficult the task or objective, having put forth enough time and passion. I say this to encourage all of you- the students of Robertson County, the teachers that are shaping lives, and anyone else that may be reading this- that while many rumors may linger around, anything can be put behind you with hard work and dedication. While there are many different ways of going about success and dissection of the word, I like to think of it as a see-saw. You are on one end and your life goals and achievements are on the other. One cannot expect to rise having nothing on the other end. It takes a balance of you working and putting onto that opposite seat that you will then start going higher and higher without realizing it.
My name is Crystal Lemus, I am now going in to my third year as an undergraduate student where I will be tackling courses such as Physics, Biochemistry, Sociology, and will be working on my honors thesis. After undergrad, I plan on going to medical school and pursue a career in medicine- Neurosurgery? Psychiatry? Medical Research? All of the above? Those questions are still in the air. And while much is still unknown about my future, my past has been set in stone and has shaped me for the better. I have learned to be proud of residing in the great city of Springfield and much more proud of being a graduate from Springfield High School. Know that anything can be achieved and that the people of this town are behind you and supporting you every step of the way. If anything else, knowing that I was once there and am supporting you in all that you do. Find inspiration in the simple, think big and do even bigger, be proud, and never forget where you came from.