As in the past two years, the Sentinel Echo is launching a series of student profiles to highlight the students and youth of the Laurel community. These stories will be featured in the Monday edition each week throughout the school year. This is the first installment of the 2019-2020 school year.
Organization ranks high on the list for Autumn Hackler - a characteristic she attributes primarily to her mother, Joy Hackler.
"My mom is very organized. She says everything has a home," said the North Laurel High School junior student. "I'm organized, except my room. It's not always as neat as my mom's, where everything has a place and nothing is never out of place."
That organization is key for Hackler, who believes in excelling in everything she undertakes. That organization is exemplified by her involvement in JROTC, which she joined as a freshman. She is the supply officer for the school's program and has earned the rank of Lieutenant.
She juggles her many duties of school with a creative balance that includes two AP (Advanced Placement) classes of anatomy and physiology and maintains a 4.3 GPA.
"I've only made one B in my life," she said. "That was in math and I had an 89.3 average (90 points equals an A)," she said. "I was home schooled the first two years but when I went into the public school system, I skipped the third grade."
Hackler's activities also include involvement on the school's Youth Service Center's advisory board, a member of the Beta Club, National Honor Society, is captain of the JROTC Rifle team and presents the colors at the school's football and basketball games.
But being a member of the rifle team has also brought her success - she placed 112th of 800 national shooters. She is part of the Kentucky Youth Assembly, which goes to Frankfort and debates topics of interest with the Kentucky General Assembly. She interned as a teen counselor at the Feltner 4-H Camp and participated in a conference at Berea College this past summer through the Hugh O'Brien Foundation.
Hackler also holds a black belt in marital arts and was set to compete this past Saturday in her area Shaolin-Do. She has achieved the level as a student teacher in that area, which qualifies her to teach those skills to younger students.
The middle child of Joy Hackler and Brandon Hackler, this red-haired teen is sandwiched between two brothers, Todd and Tony Reynolds. But she is the sole child of her family that is interested in marital arts, although she said her younger brother tried it but did not wish to continue in that area.
"I've been involved in marital since I was 6 or 7," she said. "Nothing really interested me until I watched 'The Karate Kid.' Then they came out with a female version, and that was it for me."
While she continued that love for marital arts, Hackler also explored other interests. When entering high school, she said her parents both encouraged her to become involved in different activities.
"My dad wanted me to join ROTC and my mom wanted me to join FFA (Future Farmers of America). I joined both, but I didn't like FFA and I did like ROTC, so I stayed with it," she explained. "I've always liked parliamentary procedures and I get a lot of that in JROTC. Everything has a place, has a method to it."
Her future plans revolve around a military career. She wants to attend the U.S. Naval Academy or the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
"I hope to have a career in human resources or public relations," she said. "I'd really love to be a medical recruiter but only comes after you've been in for five years. In that job, you recruit medical students to work in V.A. hospitals. You can only work for V.A. if you're in the military. The military pays for your medical school on the condition you work for them for five years and then your school is paid for."
She said some of the strict organization skills taught by her mother stem from her mother's upbringing.
"My mom was from a small town and her parents wouldn't let her go to college until she was 19," Hackler explained. "She felt like she missed out on a lot of opportunities because that's when the work place opened up for women."
Hackler is also involved in church, although she said she is not involved in the youth activities.
"I go to three different churches. My dad lives in Knoxville and I go there with him. I also go to my mom's church and my dad's family started a church in Harlan and I go there too," she said. "My grandfather was the pastor of the church in Harlan and I go there. I'm not involved in the youth groups with any of them because if I can't be involved in all of them, I can't be involved with any of them."
Hackler also wants to be an inspiration to her fellow students and has a different outlook on the peer pressures that her age group often faces.
"The biggest peer pressure I see is not trying," she said. "It seems as if some people think it's cool not to try and I just don't get that. What you do or not do is all going to affect your future."
Another aspect of Hackler's perception of peer pressures include a lack of respect for parents. She denies the tween and teen belief that adults "don't know anything" although she admits that her style of dressing during her middle school years was a topic of frequent disagreements between her mother and herself.
The tendency of many teens and tweens to smoke, drink, do drugs and vape have never interested Hackler.
"My mom's dad was a chronic smoker and he died in his sleep of a heart attack, so those things never interested me," she said.
She is a firm believer in two things she learned in JROTC.
"Two of the biggest lies in life are: 1. Life is not fair and 2. That self esteem doesn't matter," she said. "You have to find what you want to do and do it and if you can motivate yourself, you will build your self esteem."
She credits her achievements to her own efforts but again pays tribute to her mother for her encouragement.
"For my mom, failure is not an option," she said.