Bethany Thornton was one of the students giving the farewell remarks at Monday night's Skyview High School graduation.
Amid the solemnity, she and Angel Hollers picked up inflatable plastic guitars and skipped about the stage to a lighthearted ditty with the chorus "The measure of success is happiness."
But after the music, Thornton finished the ceremony with a sincere prayer for her classmates' future.
That combination of activity, levity and gravity, with a song-and-dance routine thrown in for good measure, sum up Thornton's stellar high school career.
Performing comes naturally to her. This year, she played the queen in the school musical, "Once Upon a Mattress."
"I got drama student of the year," she said. "That was pretty cool."
Thornton's talent and upbeat attitude impressed her teachers.
"Bethany is what theater people call a 'triple threat': She can sing, dance and act," said drama teacher Terri Zopf-Schoessler. "She is absolutely mesmerizing on stage, and she has a natural sense of both comic and dramatic timing.
"When you consider that she's also a great student and a joy to be around, I think her college is getting a gift."
Thornton's other activities included choir, swing choir, student council, Natural Helpers, the National Honor Society and teaching a preschool Sunday school class.
"I am a person who burns the candle at both ends. I've done way too much," she said.
Through it all, she took advanced courses and worked hard. Her academic favorite was the AP language arts class taught by Clark Fair and Zopf-Schoessler.
"They are both charismatic, involved teachers," she said.
But Thornton has another side.
She is a minister's daughter, the child of Sue and Dan Thornton of Grace Brethren Church. Born in Indiana, she has lived in Soldotna for 16 years.
This summer, she will work at the Stylistix Team Salon in Soldotna for two months, followed by a national youth conference and a family vacation.
She plans to attend college this fall at her parents' alma mater, Grace College and Seminary in Indiana.
Through her church, she has traveled on mission trips to places few American teens ever see. She toured other states and visited Mexico as a service worker rather than a tourist.
Last summer, she spent a month touring Brazil with the program Operation Barnabas. That vast country, with its diverse cultures, landscapes and extremes of wealth and poverty, was an eye-opener.
"That is one of the reasons I want to be a teacher," she said. "That made me know that I want to do ministry."
The tragic events of Sept. 11 reaffirmed her sense of purpose.
"It hasn't really changed my plans, but I think it has subtly changed our attitude as a whole," she said.
It shook teens, like others, out of complacency and highlighted the value and vulnerability of the nation, she said.
"Everyone had to realign our priorities."
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