Erin Delph, who will graduate with the Carroll Christian Schools Class of 2018 on Friday night, has a unique goal for her next step at Carroll Community College.
"I'm hoping that by the end of my two years that I'll know everyone," she said. "I really want to try to get to know different people and their backgrounds."
This isn't as surprising when one considers that Delph has spent her high school experience jumping into new environments as she traveled on mission trips to Alaska, Grenada and more.
The Saturday before graduation she and the rest of her senior class returned from a mission trip to Puerto Rico where they helped to build houses and worked at a local nursing home.
"One of my favorite days was [working at] the coffee plantation because it employed a lot of elderly people," she said. Last year, the owner's crops were destroyed, and he faced having to close the plantation, meaning the loss of many of those jobs. The help from the group on the mission trip brought him to tears, she said.
"He told us that he couldn't believe people from all the way from America that didn't know them would come and help them. I think that was really special to see that," she said.
The experience broadened her idea of the world and made her feel blessed by her own upbringing.
"There's more to the world than just where I live," she said. "I think it's really easy, especially when you're a teenager growing up in America with all the blessings we have, to think that the rest of the world is like this, but it's not.
"I think it makes you more thankful, no matter what walk of life you come from, or background or what religion you are, to go see what people in other countries deal with and what their normal is."
Delph's ability to welcome people comes out on the basketball court, too, according to her coach Matthew Resiberg, who is also the school administrator.
When a new player joins the team or someone attends an open gym, "she's the first one to stop and go over to welcome them. … She's been that way all along," he said.
On the team, some of the younger players jokingly refer to her as "mom." She said their friendship and her desire to set a good example helped her get through a tough senior season that was marred by an injury.
After training all summer for the basketball season, she tore her meniscus at the beginning of the year.
"I went all through basketball season at like 40 [percent] or 50 percent of what I knew I could do, and it was frustrating," she said.
Balancing extracurriculars, academics and physical therapy appointments made it difficult not to fall behind.
"There definitely came a point in the season of basketball when I didn't want to play anymore, and I was just in a lot of pain," she said.
But she found encouragement and strength in her teammates.
"I'd look at them and I was like, 'I can do this for them,' " she said. "I leaned on them a lot … and a whole lot of God."
Next year at Carroll Community College, she will be part of the Hill Scholars program and will focus on her studies in hopes to move to a four-year school. From there, she hopes to become a midwife or go into obstetrics and gynecology.
"Ever since I was little, I kind of wanted to deliver babies, which is really weird for some people, but I just think that it's like seeing God first-hand," she said. "It's like a miracle that you can grow a tiny human inside of you and it comes out like with 10 fingers and 10 toes."
Senior year at Carroll Christian, she was elected class president by her peers, a position she says taught her a lot about leadership.
"Naive me thought, 'Well if I do it right, then everyone's going to be happy.' But that's just not how it is because we're all different," she said.
Reisberg said Delph has "a good heart for other people" and leads with generosity. Sometimes senior students have an attitude of "I'm a senior, get out of my way," he said, but Delph isn't like that.
"If you need somebody to step up … she's going to do it, and you can count on her doing well," he said.
If she was giving advice to someone starting high school, she would encourage them to realize just how short four years can be and to invest in the people around them.
"I love my school, but I'm ready to go on and do new things," she said. "But I'm really going to miss the people. A school isn't really the building, it's the people."
Carroll Christian Schools graduation statistics
How many graduating: 31
How many going to college: 31
Valedictorians: Lily Nelson and Allison Ott
Salutatorian: Alberto Echegoyen