When Cierra Geiger was in her sophomore year of high school, she decided she wanted to be back at Gateway High School.
Gateway is Carroll County's alternative school for students who need more individual attention than others and whose stated mission is "to help students grow socially, personally, and intellectually while inspiring them to achieve behavioral and academic success."
Geiger had attended Crossroads Middle School and was sent to Winters Mill High School for ninth grade instead of continuing on at Gateway, which shares a building and a mission statement with Crossroads. But Geiger wanted to go back. She knew that she wanted to do well in school, and she felt she needed Gateway's smaller crowds and atmosphere to do that, she said.
At first, the Winters Mill principal denied her request. So she protested until, halfway through her sophomore year, she was allowed to attend Gateway.
Although Geiger graduated on Wednesday, she had already completed her coursework by the end of the first semester, and instead of attending school for the second half of the year, she worked full-time at a horse farm.
Geiger is one of the 23 students who walked across the stage Wednesday to receive their high school diplomas from Gateway.
Her ability to finish her required coursework early and her determination to get back to Gateway are just some of the reasons that her teacher Heather Semies described Geiger as a "go-getter."
"I don't worry about her in life because she's highly motivated," Semies said.
Semies is the adviser for the student government. As a junior, Geiger served as the student government president.
"Sophomore year, I told you I was going to be in the student government," Geiger said, reflecting with Semies.
As president and a member of student government, Geiger attended several conferences and led many workshops, all which counted toward her service hours.
When she arrived at Gateway, Geiger had 25 service hours. She graduated and was recognized Wednesday for completing 201 service hours. Students need 75 to graduate and are awarded for doing more than 100, Semies said.
"So 201, that's pretty good stuff," Semies said.
Semies described Geiger as "one of the hardest-working students I've had in a long time," she said.
Her motivation can be seen in the fact that Geiger was able to stop attending school early, according to Semies. Geiger initially decided she wanted to be able to attend Carroll Community College during the second half of her senior year. Needing only a couple more credits to finish, she went to the administration and asked what she had to do to graduate early.
She put a plan together, but ultimately decided to wait to attend community college until next fall. Instead, she was able to work at the horse farm full-time and buy a car, which will allow her be more independent, she said.
Geiger said her motivation comes from wanting to earn her way on her own and she doesn't want to be the typical teenager.
"I don't want to ever rely on someone else," she said.
Semies said that Geiger wasn't a student who required a lot of assistance. She was intrinsically motivated, and knew she had to just get up and get the job done. She also had excellent attendance while at school.
"She realized she wasn't going to have what she wanted unless she did something about that," Semies said.
After finishing school, Geiger continued working at the horse farm, where she helps look after the horses through feeding them, cleaning them and setting them out into the fields. Prior to her work at the horse farm, she had not been around horses, Geiger said.
But Geiger has horse sense, Semies said. Semies owns horses, and the two often talk about the animals. She noticed that Geiger has an ability to work with horses that is natural talent, she said.
Geiger plans to take classes to become a veterinary technician at the community college next year. She said that if she likes the field, she plans to continue her education and become a veterinarian, but she wants to try it out first.
Gateway graduation statistics
•How many graduating: 23
•How many going to a four-year college: 4
•How many going to a two-year college: 11
•How many going to a trade school: 1
•How many going into the military: 1