Three recent high school graduates from Raleigh County Schools are ready to take on the world.

One wants to help children take on their anxiety. One wants to conduct neuroscience research at a hospital. One wants to use the power of interconnectivity to help underprivileged kids. 

With these big plans come now-adults with big hearts. 

These are their dreams. 


"One day, I really want to start a job in agriculture. I love all things to do with it," said Christyana Jones, 18, a recent Woodrow Wilson High School graduate. "Personally, I'd love to be an environmental justice lawyer, but I also have a passion to start a nonprofit." 

With a number of dreams in mind, one is near and dear to Jones' heart — a nonprofit organization centered on a greenhouse. She hopes the greenhouse will host underprivileged kids and will offer resources to teach them how to grow plants. 

"I want it to hopefully be like a therapy for them," she said. "I feel like it's a great learning experience, to learn how to take care of something else." 

Having recently graduated with honors, Jones will be attending West Virginia University in Morgantown in the fall. She left behind a legacy in the halls of Woodrow Wilson High School.

Jones said serving as student body president gave her the opportunity to aid her school community more than she ever thought possible. 

One of the biggest struggles, which later turned into a success, was overcoming her "lackadaisical personality," as she calls it. 

"I like to have fun with everything I do, but there are times when you're not supposed to have fun and you're supposed to, like, flip the switch, and there are times when I had trouble doing that. That was probably my biggest struggle throughout high school," she explained. "I just like to have fun, and I like everyone around me to have fun, too."

So, she took that desire to have fun and connect with others and turned it into a project to help students with special needs at the school. 

"I ended up planning Easter egg hunts for the special needs students, and on Valentine's Day we would give out personalized goodie bags, just things they would enjoy," she said. "In turn, it made them really happy, and we had so much fun planning it." 

If Jones could give advice to her 14-year-old self, or any incoming high school freshman for that matter, she would say having fun is an important part of your high school career, but orchestrating ways to have fun in a different manner are also important. 

"You should definitely get involved because you will meet different groups of people and different types of people," Jones said. "The more you get involved, the more other people get involved. Once that happens, your group of people have the power to make things happen." 


High school was pretty smooth for Grace Sullivan, 18, another recent graduate from Woodrow Wilson High School.

However, overcoming her anxiety was one of the bigger triumphs of her high school career. 

"It was my sophomore year in particular, when it [anxiety] would flare up," Sullivan said. "Having to deal with that was hard, but it helped me decide the path I want to take and what I want to go into."

Sullivan will be attending WVU Tech in Beckley in the fall. It's there she hopes to start her path toward becoming a child psychologist. 

"I want to help kids who went through those same types of things as I did. I want to tell them, 'You can get through it; it's fine.'"

One of Sullivan's fondest memories of high school was working in the Next Step program, a peer-mentoring group, where she got to help underprivileged kids. The program pairs mentors like Sullivan with underclassmen to help guide them through their school year. 

"I wanted to do something where I felt like I could give back, and it helped. It lines up so much with what I want to do."

Sullivan took AP Psychology, and although it was tough and tiring, she felt it better prepared her for college coursework, despite "the crazy amount of flash cards," she said, laughing.

In a few years, she sees herself possibly in Utah, Arizona or Colorado. 

"After specializing in anxiety disorders, I want to open my own practice. By then, I'll say bye and head out West." 


Some students go above and beyond during their high school career.

Sachet Sachdeva, 17, a recent graduate from Shady Spring High School, is no exception. 

Being part of Key Club, Chess Club, a Susan Landis Youth Philanthropists member and taking all AP courses were small pieces of the pie known as Sachdeva's high school career. With all those responsibilities, time management and overcommitting himself were two of the biggest obstacles Sachet had to overcome, he said. 

"I wanted to work hard and I wanted to do everything," the young graduate said. "I didn't have time to get everything done that I wanted to. It was hard, but I think that helped me better prepare for college, because I know I'm the type that will be that way there, too."

Sachdeva will be attending Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., this fall. He plans to study neuroscience, psychology and psychiatry. 

Beginning in sixth grade, Sachdeva began to lose feeling in two of his fingers on his right hand. He hasn't had feeling in them since. 

Despite the loss of sensation, he continues to use his right hand as his dominant one. The struggle was one of the many reasons he decided to attend Johns Hopkins University. 

At 17 years old, Sachdeva had decided to spend his life researching a fix for the condition. 

"Because of the nerve condition in my arm that has made me lose feeling in two fingers, I want to do that kind of research and work toward nerve regeneration. That's really honestly what I want to do for the rest of my life."

Aside from studying neuroscience, Sachdeva has interest in psychology and psychiatry.

"My uncle is a psychiatrist, and he's kind of inspired me with an interest for it. I'd love to do something with that, too," he said.

Sachdeva wants incoming freshmen to know high school is a new step, or a "clean slate," as he called it. 

"I think it's important to know at 13 or 14 years old that high school is a fresh start," he said. "Middle school is hard, and when you get to high school, you think it's going to be all scary, and it's not. It's the chance for something new.

"Experiment and try stuff in high school. Don't stay cornered into what you know you enjoy," Sachdeva added. "Try new things and challenge yourself and do things you won't normally do. Try to put yourself out there a little bit."

• • • 

With guidance from family, friends, and teachers, Jones, Sullivan and Sachdeva say they owe so much of their desire to change the world to those who have supported them the last four years. 

They referred to many of their teachers at Woodrow Wilson and Shady Spring as their "school parents." They offered a special thanks to the following teachers:

Brandon Bennett and Elizabeth Hegele, of Shady Spring High School, and Bobby Gumm, Debra Adkins, Michelle Clarkson, Meribeth Underwood, Haley Snyder and Cindy Stark of Woodrow Wilson High School. 

— Email:; follow on Twitter @jnelsonRH

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