Animals have a positive influence on their humans, as evidenced by numerous studies that show pet owners are more content, healthier, and live longer. The experience of owning animals has definitely had this impact on Laura Smith’s life. She spoke about her animals and their role in her life in her Chapel Talk, delivered on April 24.
Laura has been surrounded by animals on her family farm all her life. However, during a difficult time in her life, she learned just how important her own animals would become.
On track for college with memberships in the National Honor Society and Beta Club at Amelia County High School, Laura got a part-time job once she could drive. After convincing her parents that she could pay for a dog with her earnings, she found an “adorable little fur ball” of an Australian Shepherd puppy and brought him home. Rambo became her best friend and would help see her through a difficult time.
As a junior at the High School, Laura was given more free time when two study hall periods meant she could leave early. “Some of you might be thinking, ‘that would be awesome,’” she said, “but only if I had used my time wisely.” Instead, Laura made mistakes and lost the trust of her parents.
It was during this time that her dog, Rambo, and her horses provided the opportunity for Laura to regain that trust and navigate a school transfer to Amelia Academy for her senior year.
With her free time curtailed, Laura started spending more time with her horses. “I went to the Amelia [riding] ring one day and met a woman named Ashley Messer who was also riding.” Weekends became a time for going to rodeos with Ashley and her son. “She taught me everything from horses to life lessons,” Laura said.
This year, Laura continues riding horses and competing in barrel racing events. She also joined the Amelia Academy Equestrian Program for her senior year. And, Rambo remains by her side. “Rambo and I do everything together now, from riding horses to mowing grass, and eating ice cream,” she said.
The love and support of family and friends have helped Laura become the person she is today. However, the animals have helped shape her life and provide the inspiration for her vocation. Next fall, Laura will attend Bridgewater College where she looks forward to pursuing degrees in business and equine studies.
As a student at the Academy this year, Laura has played volleyball and softball. She was elected vice-president of the senior class.
Attending Laura’s Chapel Talk were her parents, Tanya and David Smith, both Academy alumni, along with her sister Jacquelyn, a 2016 Academy graduate. Her grandparents Shirley and Tommy Flippin were in attendance. Another special guest was her friend and mentor, Ms. Messer.
Amelia Academy senior Mikayla Stables throws another pitch when the Patriots hosted Brunswick Academy on Thursday, April 25th. The Patriots lost this contest.
The Amelia Academy Lady Patriots hosted Brunswick Academy on Thursday. Pictured is senior short stop Ellie Taylor preparing for the batter.
Senior Laura Smith awaits her turn at bat during the Patriots loss to Brunswick on Thursday.
The Amelia Academy varsity baseball team hosted Brunswick Academy on Thursday, April 25th. Pictured is senior Will Jay Steger waiting for his pitch during the Patriots loss.
Tyler Gough makes the throw to first during Amelia Academy’s home loss to Brunswick on Thursday.
Junior Ryan Anderson throws another strike for the Amelia Academy Patriots during Thursday’s loss to Brunswick Academy.
Softball and baseball pictures by Mrs. Angela Anderson
The Amelia Academy Horse Show was held on April 27 at Joe Paulette Memorial Park. The Show featured English and Western events. Proceeds from the show support the Academy’s Equestrian Program. Riders in a Western Pleasure class await the ribbon awards, and Emily King, a student in the Academy’s program, rode in the morning’s Hunter and Equitation classes.
“A change of scenery helps you grow,” said WillJay Steger in the opening of his Chapel Talk, delivered on April 9. And, WillJay shared what was a big change for him, beginning last year. The experience of coming to Amelia Academy changed his perspective, to say the least.
Even though he loves his hometown of Norfolk, WillJay said that he was glad he came to Amelia. He found out about the Academy from an AAU teammate, Kameron Harris, a 2018 AA graduate. After his junior year, he realized that he needed a change. “I wasn’t focused at all,” he said. “And, it showed everywhere—at home, school, and on the basketball court.” A change of scenery was needed, and he decided to re-consider the Academy.
The culture shock was immediate. “My parents and I pulled up into the middle of nowhere to a small school in between a cut of woods,” he said. “I told them we must be at the wrong place, but that was where the GPS brought us.”
Even though the experience of moving to live with the Harris family and changing schools seemed daunting, WillJay persevered. “When I left home, my mom and girlfriend cried, which made me sad, but I knew I would always have them by my side,” he said. WillJay also knew how much he would miss his dad, whom he described as “my favorite person.”
He credited his dad with being a positive role model. “He’s taught me how to work and be responsible, to never depend on anyone, and to work harder than everyone else for what I want,” he said.
WillJay also found it difficult to leave his girlfriend, Kyra, who he described as his best friend and “a great person.”
Arriving in Amelia to live with the Harris family, WillJay was apprehensive about living with another family. However, he said the experience has been “amazing.” “They treat me as if I were their own child,” he said, “even if that meant getting the look from Ms. Val if I got a bad quiz grade.” The Harris family has become more than a host family; they are his family, WillJay said.
Arriving at Amelia Academy provided an opportunity for WillJay to change his viewpoint. Joining a student body different from what he was accustomed to felt nearly impossible. “I am not going to like these hillbillies,” he thought when he first arrived. “However, I was wrong.”
He quickly made friends with Tyler Gough and Brent Carwile, despite their differences. He also met Jamal Grant, who has become “like a brother to me.”
WillJay said the friendships he made at the Academy have been “life-changing.” He also credited teachers with “helping us become better people and more responsible.”
As he looks toward graduation next month and the future, WillJay reflected on his life journey that brought him to Amelia. “Sometimes God puts people in your life, and you have no idea why. But, you shouldn’t question it because everything He does is for the best.”
As a student at the Academy, WillJay has played basketball and was captain of the team this past season. WillJay was named All-State this year. He was named Player of the Year for the Virginia Colonial Conference (VCC). WillJay also received All-Conference and All-Tournament recognition.
Attending his Chapel Talk were his parents, LaDonya and William Steger, and his girlfriend Kyra. Also present were Valerie and Gregory Harris and their son Greg, an Academy sophomore.
The Amelia Academy Senior class attended the prom on Friday, April 5th. The theme was “Moonlight and Magnolias”. Pictured left to right (top) Catarina Stanley, Amari Hicks, Kelly Flippin, Hannah King, Julia Huddleston, (bottom) Wilbert Allen, Ellie Taylor, Mikayla Stables, Laura Smith, Sam Breuscher, Elena Easter, Tyler Gough, and Mitchell Carey.
This year’s junior class at Amelia Academy hosted the 2019 Junior Senior Prom. This year’s theme was “Moonlight and Magnolias”. Pictured are junior class members and their dates. Left to right – Junior Madison Barnard and her date Corbett Bowman , Freshman Madison Borum escorted by junior Brent Carwile, junior Lexi Easter escorted by Joseph Borum, junior Sarah Pomfrey escorted by junior Chase Landry, and freshman Emma Allen escorted by junior Ryan Anderson.