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Volunteering at Riley Hospital helped shape salutatorian

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Dropping from the top of the class to No. 2 isn’t bothering Center Grove High School’s salutatorian because she’s happier with the memories she made than her final ranking.

Instead of piling on as many honors classes as she could, Erica McGraw decided instead to lighten her homework load as an upperclassman, take some electives she was interested in and have more time for friends and family.

She didn’t have to worry about studying for another test while she was out on trips with her youth group. She could spend Friday night attending football games and hanging out with friends, instead of getting a jump on her weekend homework. And she had the time to attend homecoming events because her schedule wasn’t overloaded.

Her original goal was just to finish within the top 10 of her class, so losing the valedictorian title at Center Grove High School wasn’t a big deal, she said. The memories she made were more important than finishing on top.

“The sacrifices I made to spend more time doing other things was worth it,” McGraw said.

She found out she was at the top of her class in her freshman year and wanted to stay there. But as a junior and senior, instead of loading her schedule with honors or Advanced Placement classes, McGraw added some others, such as child development, where she could learn something new without the same type of workload.

Honors and AP classes help raise a student’s GPA above 4.0. So while McGraw was still bringing home A’s on her report cards, the electives didn’t raise her grade-point average as much as other courses could have. The couple of decimal points that got shaved off her GPA allowed Ian Kenney to slip past her and become valedictorian. But the classes were a fun diversion from her other courses, she said.

McGraw will attend Indiana University in the fall and plans to major either in human biology or psychology, with a pre-medicine focus. She knows she’ll need top grades and have a heavy course load to get accepted into medical school, so making the most of her time in high school was important to her.

McGraw said she hadn’t always planned to become a doctor and wasn’t sure what she wanted to do earlier in high school. So she started volunteering at multiple places and got involved at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. As she spent her summer months helping around the hospital, she saw the work the doctors do to help sick children and decided she’d like to be able to do that someday, too.

“Spending time at Riley was the thing that motivated me to want to be a doctor. All the doctors were nice and seemed happy to be there every day,” she said.

Her yearly battle to stay in the top 10 of her class has shown McGraw what it takes to keep up good grades, including balancing her homework and studying against basketball and lacrosse practices and other activities and setting goals.

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