Her own personal challenges have enhanced the career goals for South Laurel High School senior, Kayli Bolton.
Despite her quiet disposition, Bolton harbors an inner strength seldom detected among one her age - strength and faith of making the world a better place for others.
Besides her regular academic schedule, she was part of the school's marching band throughout her high school years as a member of the Color Guard - with the marching band making it to state finals last year and bringing home the Class 4A State Marching Band Championship title this past October.
Bolton did this while also taking six AP (Advanced Placement) classes for the full schedule of her final year of high school - a schedule that includes Environmental Science, English Literature and Composition, World History, Calculus, Chemistry and Physics I.
She has already completed six other AP classes - Biology, European History, Statistics, English Language and Composition, American Government and Politics and U.S. History. She will receive college credits for those six classes, having passed the exam and preparing for the other six AP exams this May. She was once enrolled in the Allied Health classes at the Center for Innovation, but decided to forego that program to take the AP classes this year to obtain more college credits.
She admits having a preference for the science classes, which she hopes to pursue in college to major in biology with emphasis on microbiology and do research. Bolton has already been accepted to the University of Kentucky and the Lewis Honors College - one of the programs for exceptional students and a very restrictive program.
"They only accept around 10 percent of applicants," she said.
But even with her heavy schedule, Bolton manages to maintain a 4.0 GPA, or a weighted cumulative GPA of 4.4. She said academic performance was always important in her life, but it didn't stop her from participating in extra activities.
"I've done high school dance and studio dance and gymnastics and I was in DECA Club," she said. "My parents didn't insist that I make straight A's but I was always a good student. My parents taught me when I had trouble to take care of it myself and learn."
She shies away from the typical teenage parties and has no regrets for not being involved in that aspect of teen life.
"I try to stay away from the drugs and alcohol scene," she said. "i must have always had a nerdy reputation. I don't get asked to do those things so I don't know if it's a peer pressure issue or not. I don't know and I don't want to know. I think I'm kind of known for trying to have a healthy lifestyle."
Bolton admits putting much of her time into studying for her classes, stating, "I guess I study a lot this year. I've never taken all AP classes before."
But she has no regrets for that heavy class load, knowing it will all benefit her in the future.
She credits Mr. Scheithauer as her most influential teacher for his techniques in teaching calculus and physics.
"This is the first year I've had Mr. Scheithauer and I was nervous," Bolton said. "But he's good about breaking things down and he presents it in a way we can understand."
When she missed a week of school last semester, Scheithauer helped her make up her work and gave her that extra incentive and encouragement she so desperately needed during the most devastating time in her life.
But with amazing strength and character, this 18-year-old senior has taken one of the most trying times of her life and used it as an inspiration for her own future.
"My mom (Diana Bolton) was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in 2016," she explained. "She was a court reporter and worked until the week she died. She died on October 22. I missed a whole week of school and all the marching band practices, but they let me go to state finals and perform that Saturday (Oct. 27)."
This traumatic life experience, however, has brought Bolton even closer to her family - her father, Willie Bolton, three sisters - Brandi Bolton, Morgan Evans and Cassie Vaughn. She spends a lot of time with her mamawas well, and realizes the true value of close family relationships.
"I'd like to have a career in the medical field with microbiology and doing research," she said. "I know I can't cure every disease, but I'd like to be part of something that helps other families have time together."
She hopes her classmates remember her as "passionate about other people," and that her career goals are directed toward helping them.
"I'd like to be remembered as someone people could come to for help, whether it's school related or not," she said. "I've tried to live like a Christian - loving and caring."
While she sets her own goals, she realizes that many others fail because they may set their expectations too high without a true understanding of the sacrifices needed to achieve that goal.
"It takes commitment and focus," she said. "People set big goals but they aren't willing to work for them."
Setting priorities is what she focuses on herself, and encourages others to do the same. But, with that, she also knows that cherishing those who love you the most is just as high a priority as career goals.
"You need to work out your priorities, but save time for your family," she said. "Usually during your senior year you're getting ready to leave for college and get distracted by that from your family. Since my mom died, I've tried to be there for my dad and grandma like they have been for me. It just shows how important we are to older family members."
With her focus on the future, Bolton cannot - and will not - ignore the past and the experience that now inspires her own future.
"There are things that you want to share with your family - graduation and marriage and grandchildren," she said. "I want to do work to help other families have that."