The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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May 22, 2013

An Eye Toward the Future

Clifftop native considering a career in education

Editor’s Note: During the next several days, The Register-Herald will run feature stories about graduating seniors from area high schools. The series of stories has been tagged “An Eye Toward The Future.” We hope you enjoy these in-depth looks at some special young adults.

The community of Clifftop may be small, but it has meant big things to one of its most recent high school graduates.

Kennedy Cochran, who graduates from Midland Trail High School near the top of her class, grew up in the town — “just a few houses, really,” she says — and found strong support in its close-knit community.

“I like small communities,” she says. “I like how everybody is so close.”

Clifftop Community Church has been an anchor institution in the graduating senior’s life. It has only about 25 attendees, but like Clifftop itself, strength isn’t necessarily found in numbers. It’s found more in the strong ties felt between church members. Kennedy, for example, regularly visits older congregants — including a 101-year-old woman in the community — who share their history with her.

“I’m definitely a church girl,” she says. “People know I’m a Christian and that shows in the way I act toward people. I’m pretty open about it.”

Sometimes she acts as a small voice of conscience for her peers.

“In my vo-tech class, when people cuss, I say, ‘You owe 25 cents into the cuss jar.’ Now they automatically apologize when they say something they know they shouldn’t,” she says, laughing.

Cochran is appreciated by her peers for her kindness and trustworthiness.

She’s also an asset on the basketball court. Kennedy started on the varsity team all four years of high school. She received All-State honorable mention this year and last year and made first team All-Coalfield Conference both years, as well.

She and her classmates in the Careers in Education course at Fayette Institute of Technology (FIT) won first place in the Energy Day competition sponsored by Future Educators Association this year.

The group went into area middle schools and taught science lessons and hands-on activities related to science and energy. Their project, titled “Energy Is Everywhere,” aimed to get kids excited about energy through experimentation.

Advanced Placement Environmental Science was also a favorite high school class for Kennedy.

The Careers in Education course got her interested in her current career path — elementary education. She plans to enroll at Glenville State this fall to study education. She wants to teach in West Virginia, and everyone keeps telling her that math and science teachers are in high demand.

“They say it’s good job security,” she says. “I’m still thinking about it.”

Kennedy’s father, Clinton, has always worked for the state park system. The family moved to Clifftop when she was 3 so he could take a job at Babcock State Park. Her mother, Lisa, works part time for nearby Camp Washington Carver.

Growing up, Kennedy explored Babcock on foot, on horseback, and in the water. She took her prom pictures there, went on hikes in the park with her mother and cherishes her time spent in nature.

“I’ve always been around the outdoors,” she says. “It’s nice to get away from everything and get out there and have the fresh air and be peaceful. I usually go out with mom hiking, so it’s a chance to talk and get away from problems and see all the creations that God has made.”

Kennedy chose Glenville State over Concord University because it was closer to home and family. She says that leaving Fayette County will be a transition, but she plans to come home every weekend. At least that’s the plan now.

“I’ll definitely miss all the people here, and seeing them all the time,” she says.

To her peers, she says she hopes that whatever plans they have for the future, “put every effort into it. You can reach all your goals you’ve set for yourselves and be successful with your lives.”

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