Elizabeth Lara graduates tonight from Murray County High School. But she already has a start on college work.
She took classes this past academic year in psychology from Georgia Northwestern Technical College and in the certified nursing assistant (CNA) program from Dalton State College.
The latter turned out to be a life-changer.
“I was having trouble deciding what I wanted to do. I just wanted to explore it (the CNA program) and see if I liked it,” she said. “I found that I really enjoyed it. I like working with people. I liked the nursing part of it.”
Lara plans to start at Dalton State College this fall and major in biology.
“I took AP (Advanced Placement) biology and really enjoyed that,” she said. “I’d like to eventually go to medical school, maybe at Emory University.”
Lara, who captained the soccer team at Murray High School, said she had a scholarship offer to another college but turned it down because Dalton State College has a solid biology program and because it’s close to home.
“It was important for me to stay close to my family,” said Lara, the oldest of three children. “I plan to live at home to save money, and I’ve been working at a Mexican restaurant. I plan to keep working and try to save some money. I know medical school is expensive.”
Lara says her parents, especially her mother, have been very supportive of all her efforts.
“She came to scholarship night and honors night. She had to get off work to do that, and that means a lot to me,” Lara said.
Lara said she’s excited about Dalton State College’s plans to add a soccer program. She said she might try out if it opens while she is a student.
“Soccer has been a big part of my life. I started playing when I was in first grade,” she said.
In addition to soccer, Lara played basketball for two years, served on the student council, took part in the art club and is a member of the Beta Club.
“But this year I focused mainly on soccer and Beta Club. When I do something, I want to be really active in it and give it my full attention,” she said.
Lara did all that while staying active in St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and taking a host of honors classes as well as AP classes in subjects as varied as statistics, art, literature and history.
“I always like to challenge myself. Even if it puts myself in a position of having to work more I want to do it,” she said.
She says art has been important to her since the sixth grade, when taking an art class helped her deal with a time when she was being bullied.
“I had a little rough time, and I was very shy back then. It was the only way I could express what I was feeling. Art is really calming for me,” she said.
Tara Robinette, a counselor at Murray High School, describes Lara as a model student
“She’s just an all around excellent student. She’s one of our scholar graduates. To be a scholar graduate you have to have over a 4.0 (grade point average),” she said. “She’s captain of the soccer team and very active in other extracurricular activities.”
Born in Mexico City, Lara came to the United States at 6 and moved to Chatsworth a year later, where she attended Spring Place Elementary School and Gladden Middle School before coming to Murray High School.
“I was in ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) classes in first grade and second grade. I got out of them in third grade,” she said. “It’s funny. Now, I’m taking AP literature and English classes, but it wasn’t so long ago that I was learning English and having trouble pronouncing words.”
Lara says she believes that attending Murray County schools helped her grow.
“The feeling you get in Murray County is great. It’s a healthy environment, and I think it was the best place for me to figure out how to be myself,” she said.
Murray County High School’s graduation ceremony is tonight at 8 at the football stadium. In case of rain, the ceremony will be held at the same time in the gym.