High school comes with its own unique set of challenges for every student. Expectations to maintain grades, trying to fit in while also trying to figure out one’s own identity, and extracurricular activities like clubs and athletics all increase the pressures high school students experience. Momence High School Senior Haylie Smart is no exception, but the way in which she handles the pressure is what makes her stand out.
“Trying to find the balance … has really been one of the, probably the best, things I could have learned,” and her support system has been key, “My family, my friends, they’ve all helped with it. … And I’m still maintaining my mental health,” she said. Keeping mental health in mind is important for everyone, but especially important for such a busy student. Smart participates in volleyball, basketball, and soccer; as well as being the 2023 class Vice President, Treasurer for the National Honor Society, a member of the student council and the yearbook staff, and a Gold Braid in the Honor Guard. She does all of this while maintaining an impressive 4.0 GPA.
I like to take charge. I like to be the person people can rely on and that people look up to as a role model.
By Erica Loos
“I like to take charge. I like to be the person people can rely on and that people look up to as a role model,” Smart said. Living in a suburban neighborhood, but spending most weekends at her family’s farm, has provided her with the varied life experiences that have helped to shape her into the person she is today. Hard work and leadership are qualities that come naturally to Smart, and which have been reinforced by the positive influences of her parents and older sisters. She has followed these positive examples while carving her own path as an individual in academics and sports. “I really tried to find positions that would enlighten me a little bit more and where I could flourish,” she said.
Being an athlete is important to Smart for all kinds of good reasons, but being part of a team is her favorite. “I feel like I have somebody who is relying on me, but I can also rely on someone else. … You get to have fun with your friends while also having the competitive part,” Smart said. On the volleyball team, Smart plays at the setter position, one she equates to being a team coordinator. “People are looking at you to call what to do, … the best [play] that’s going to win you that point. … You have to make the decision that would be best for everyone,” she explained. She feels that being a member of a team also helps her stay accountable. “There’s been times I’ve been really stressed out and [felt like] I can’t get this homework done … but my team is also counting on me,” Smart said.
Even though she loves sports, she says her schoolwork is “my number one priority”. Her favorite subject is science, specifically her anatomy class, but she also enjoys history and math. Haylie has her sights set on a degree in nursing, having already completed her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certification in her junior year. Currently, she’s leaning toward attending the University of Iowa, but is still considering Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and University of Southern Indiana as possibilities for the future. Her advice to other students would be, “Focus on your studies, get as much as you can from it. … Keep pushing, even when times get rough, and they will, but just keep going with it.”
Hailey cherishes her community as well, saying they have the ability to rally around each other when times get tough and lend a helping hand when someone is in need. The diverse backgrounds of the members of her community are something she values as well. “I feel like you get all these different types … people who are county, or city, [or] more suburban. … You get a whole bunch of people that … have different experiences than you,” she said. Displaying immense empathy, compassion, and wisdom, Hailey said if she had to power to make anything possible, she would want, “…everyone to have the same opportunities, …whether that’s in school or sports, that everybody gets to try to do what they feel like …they could eventually love, whatever they’re doing.” Haylie Smart is already making a difference and making us proud, but through her empathetic brand of leadership, we believe she’s going to put a real dent in the Universe one day.