GREENBRIER — Emily Chambers, 17, said although she appreciates being named Student of the Year by the Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce, she thinks others deserve the honor more.
“I’m so grateful to have it, but it’s a surprise. I feel like there are so many kids who deserve it who work harder than me,” she said.
A quick rundown of her achievements at Greenbrier High School tells a different story: She has a 4.0 grade-point average, and that’s after missing a month of school because of illness; she’s a cheerleader and junior class reporter; and she’s a member of the National Honor Society, Beta Club, Future Business Leaders of America, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and serves as the group’s vice president, the Student
Council and Mathletes. In addition, she tutors and volunteers with Hooked on Fishing — Not on Drugs.
“I’m a nerd,” she said, laughing.
Emily, the daughter of Penny and John Chambers of Greenbrier, was presented with the award April 4 at the chamber’s annual banquet. She was nominated by Kim Hebel, senior and concurrent-credit counselor at Greenbrier High School.
“She’s just very well-rounded,” Hebel said. “She is involved in multiple clubs and organizations, she’s got numerous volunteer hours, and she maintains a 4.0 GPA. She’s very intelligent and compassionate. She’s very busy, but she manages her time very well. And, she’s just a sweet girl.”
Hebel said Emily has several academic awards from previous schools and has volunteered in the Greenbrier School District, as well as in the community.
“She volunteered at Vacation Bible School at her church; she made blankets for homeless shelters,” Hebel said, going through a list of Emily’s accomplishments. Hebel said Emily has also helped with a local food drive and volunteered at a Greenbrier veterinarian’s office.
John Chambers said that although he’s proud of his daughter’s academic achievements and her chamber award, “I think the thing that makes me extremely proud is that’s she a genuinely concerned person.”
Emily gave her parents credit for raising her to do the right thing.
“I’ve always looked to my parents for advice,” she said. Emily said her parents have also emphasized education to their daughter.
“My parents have always drilled that in — you come home and get your homework done before you do anything else,” Emily said.
She said throwing herself into clubs and activities helps build her college resumé and keeps her out of trouble.
“That’s what my mom always says: ‘Stay busy; stay out of trouble.’”
Emily said she was in the middle of ninth grade when her family moved to Greenbrier from Illinois.
“I’ve actually been to nine different schools,” she said. “I was born in South Carolina, but I spent most of my life in Illinois.”
She said her family, which includes her two older brothers, moved because of her father’s job with State Farm Insurance.
Emily said that although she basically has an outgoing personality, she found herself becoming shy and immersing herself in schoolwork as she changed schools.
“As soon as you make new friends, you move,” she said. After withdrawing somewhat, “I said, ‘This is kind of boring. I should make new friends.’”
Emily said she decided to throw herself into school activities and thrive wherever she was.
John Chambers said the family is in Arkansas for good.
“We were in South Carolina, moved to Illinois, North Carolina, back to Illinois and Arkansas. We’re definitely here to stay,” he said.
Emily said attending different schools gave her a broad experience in different curricula and a diversity of students and teachers.
“It made me appreciate different schools and how [students] learn differently,” she said. “It makes you appreciate the good teachers more.”
Greenbrier is the first school Emily has attended that offers Advanced Placement courses.
“That’s going to help me a lot,” she said. Emily said she will graduate next year with 40 to 50 college-credit hours.
Her favorite high school courses are statistics, precalculus and chemistry, and she said her goal is to attend Harding University in Searcy and become a pediatric oncologist.
“This year, I was in the hospital at [Arkansas] Children’s for a while. My gallbladder was going bad, and they couldn’t figure out what it was,” she said.
Emily said she had surgery on New Year’s Eve to remove her gallbladder. She missed a month of school and relied on an AmeriCorps volunteer to tutor her in the hospital.
“While I was there, I met a bunch of boys and girls who had cancer,” she said. “I knew what they were going through was much worse. Between that and my grandparents having cancer, it inspired me.”
Emily said she also enjoys painting and helping her father build their home in Greenbrier.
“I like doing the tile the best,” she said.
And even the Greenbrier Student of the Year isn’t immune to the desire of most teenagers — a car.
“Dad also works on cars and restores old cars. He got a ’68 Firebird that he’s going to restore for me. I’m real excited,” she said.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.