In eighth grade, Kobea Reynolds wasn't satisfied with having the second-best grades in her class.
She studied and worked hard all year and was rewarded for her diligence when she was told she was the salutatorian, but she had to watch as her friend was named valedictorian. That didn't sit well with Reynolds.
"I remember that whenever he won that I was really happy for him, but I wasn't going to let it happen again," she said.
In high school, she studied harder and worked harder and now, four years later, she's at the top of her graduating class at Berean Academy. Reynolds has kept an eye on her future during her academic career and said she's always been motivated to succeed, so now she can open doors down the road.
"It was just one of those things that I realized I had to do good in school to get a good-paying job one day," she said. "There were plenty of times when I didn't want to sit down and study or do homework, but I knew it was something I had to do."
Reynolds said she'll attend either the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga or Bryan College this fall and has decided to use her love of statistics to pursue a career in actuarial science. She wants to work in insurance, determining what risks customers face.
"I took a class on elementary statistics from Bryan College and I found that I really liked that work," she said. "I like being able to look at something and have hard evidence for why things work the way they work. It's a perfect combination of statistics and research."
On top of her studies, Reynolds has been riding and training horses since she was 12 years old. Her parents wound up getting her a horse, Rambling Girl, once they realized her fascination with horses wasn't just a passing fancy. Now she approaches her riding the same way she does her schoolwork.
"I'm happy to put in that time and work. It'll be worth it in the long run to be able to say I rode this horse," she said. "I try to persevere and push through. I'd like to be remembered as a hardworking person that was willing to go out and do what needed to be done."
Contact staff writer Emmett Gienapp at egienapp@times freepress.com or 423-757-6731. Follow him on Twitter @emmettgienapp.