LEE CO., GA (WALB) - I want to introduce you to an extraordinary student.
She excels in her classes, has hundreds of hours of volunteer work, and serves on numerous councils.
She chose not to become a statistic, but to persevere after a tragedy in her family.
Candace Shirley is a senior at Lee County High School, who always strives to do well.
She says she has always done her homework and studied every night for tests.
"My mom was always a big influence on my academics and my sisters were too," Shirley recalled.
She and her twin sisters were raised by a single mom.
But they said the biggest obstacle to overcome was the death of her father.
"He did commit suicide, so that was another emotional thing to deal with, said Shirley. "He left on purpose."
Candace Shirley and her sisters never had the opportunity to attend father-daughter dances, and he won't be there to walk them down the aisle.
"My mom [has] to go back to college and work really hard for what I get," she said. "The statistics for girls raised in homes without fathers is definitely not in my favor."
But Candace didn't focus on the bad, and found a passion in helping others.
She started volunteering while in middle school at the Albany hospice Camp Good Grief.
Genetics class teacher Dr. Dave Baltenberger said Candace is easy to teach and fun to be around.
"She volunteers a lot," he remarked. "She does drama department which is very demanding at the high school and she keeps up with all her school work, and she doesn't take easy classes. And to keep that all organized, a lot of adults couldn't handle that."
Candace stays busy with drama, four Advanced Placement classes, and volunteering with numerous organizations. Her one guilty pleasure is sleeping in on Saturdays.
"I find myself doing things at the last minute, so that's a mistake I try to learn from," she said.
Baltenberger's goal is to help students look at the big picture and give them something to strive for, by exposing them to what they will learn in college.
"Sometimes it's not just school. Home is sometimes not as good for some as it is for others, and that makes school difficult but there's people that can help," Baltenberger said.
"People may think, 'Well I don't belong here, [or] I'm not good enough for this, [or] I could never do that,' but that's not true. If you work hard and put your mind to it you can do it," Candace said. "If you are struggling, reach out for help. It's okay to ask for help. I do it all the time.
She said she would love to study psychology at Emory University and also study abroad to experience other cultures.
Below are some of what Candace Shirley is recognized for.
- Over 700 hours of volunteer work
- Recognized by Girls, Inc. of Albany and Congressman Sanford Bishop as a “Woman of Purpose” for Excellence in Servant-Leadership in May 2014.
- 2014-2015 Ambassador for Southwest Georgia Chapter of BigHouse Foundation. This is a Christ-centered non-profit that focuses on meeting the needs of children in foster care.
- State Thespian Officer for 2014-2015 for the Georgia Thespians. I am part of a small adult/student planning board (1 of 7 students elected in a Georgia state-wide election) entrusted to plan and implement a 3-day State-wide Thespian Conference for more than 4,000 high school thespians.
- President of the Lee County Youth Council
- President of Thespian Troupe #5297
- Senior Resident Stage Manager of the Robert A. Clay Auditorium