Lofty goals? Eh, no sweat – NU’s top grad loves a challenge
Whether it was the relative who scoffed at the notion that she would one day attend a prestigious university or that seventh-grade teacher who told her she needed to find a more “realistic” goal than one day becoming an Olympic athlete, they might as well had simply said, “I dare you.”
That’s because if you tell Amanda Poteet she can’t, she more than likely will – or at least she’ll set goals that others describe as being too lofty.
She loves a challenge, especially those that turn naysayers into believers.
And as she accepts her diploma from Nevada Union High School today, those who have doubted her should take notice. She’ll be the one standing in front of the microphone at Hooper Stadium, offering a valedictory speech after attaining the highest grade point average in her class, being accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and closing her high school athletic career by making school history.
A few years back, listing such expectations for herself might have seemed overly optimistic to some of the adults around her.
“That just kind of bugged me. I mean … I was in the seventh grade when I wrote that I wanted to be an Olympic athlete. Aren’t teachers supposed to encourage all kinds of goals?” she said.
“They shouldn’t be telling kids ‘You aren’t going anywhere’ or ‘You need a more realistic goal.'”
Fortunately, not all of her teachers took such a tack.
“In my junior year, I had a teacher who really taught his class with a lot of passion,” she said. “Mr. (Mike) Cartan made his students want to go out and experience life because he was so passionate about what he was doing in his teaching.”
Although she found a mentor who fanned the flames of dreaming big, Amanda admits that she’s still driven to prove doubters wrong – both in the classroom and on the playing field.
“I’m kind of a competitive person by nature, whether with sports or my grades,” she said. “The little group (of classmates) at the top of the class – I’ve been in school with two of them since the fifth grade. We’re always saying things like, ‘Oh, I got a better grade than you on that test.’
“I don’t think that will ever go away. It’s just who I am.”
And apparently, it’s served her well.
Though it wasn’t clear whether she was just being humble or if she actually was unsure of her exact GPA two days before graduation, she estimated it to be a 4.5, which surpassed the perfect 4.0 scale thanks to the fact she enrolled – and aced – college-level courses while still in high school.
“It’s always been one of those things where if someone laughed at her or told her she couldn’t do something, it becomes a personal challenge – kind of an ‘I’ll show you’ thing for her,” said Amanda’s mother, Jackie Poteet. “That makes her take the time and the effort to make straight A’s or to work hard in sports.
“She’s very goal-oriented and very competitive.”
Amanda said she probably got that personality trait from her mom and dad, Mike, who were both athletes growing up. Jackie Poteet ran track at Nevada Union and held the record in the 200 meters until a few years ago. Mike Poteet played prep football and continued to compete later in life on the softball diamond.
Amanda also knows a thing or two about softball after having helped lead her Miner team to the first league championship in school history during her senior season. She hit at a .264 clip and drove in 14 RBI while earning first team All-Metro Conference honors. The award was her third all-league selection in four years of playing varsity softball at Nevada Union.
“I’ve played travel softball every year since the eighth grade and rec league since I was 8 years old,” she said. “One of my favorite memories will always be winning the league title this year. We had some ups and downs, so it was nice to go out on an ‘up.’
“Sometimes, if things were not going remotely correct, I would (be a vocal leader), but other than that I would kind of lead by example.”
She is also sure it will be nice to leave the country this summer, spending two weeks in Europe with friends from her French class, taking in the sights of Venice, Florence, Nice and Paris before she heads off to MIT in pursuit of another set of goals at the end of August.
“I’m still deciding on a major, but I’m going to try both (aerospace engineering and microbiology),” she said. “I’ll make a valiant attempt to try do both things I want to do, but realistically I might end up dropping one. Softball is a varsity sport there, so I plan to play, and you never know where that will go.
“My ultimate goal is to hopefully work for NASA as an astronaut. I know that’s kind of a lofty goal, again – how many people get to be astronauts? So I’m also thinking about going to medical school in case that doesn’t work out.”
Short of giving away what she’ll say when she steps onto the podium today, Amanda did offer the thrust of her speech.
“I’ll say it a little more eloquently in the speech,” she said, “but I’ll tell them, ‘It doesn’t matter where you are in life, just go out and give it your all, your best in life.’
“As far as ‘words to live by?’ It may sound cheesy, but Nike’s got a pretty good slogan: Just do it.”
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