Gifted dancer, leader, inquisitive mind, a strong work ethic. These are all ways that teachers and local leaders describe Haley Parrish, the 18-year-old daughter of Leo and Susan Parrish of Statesboro, who is the 2018 Southeast Bulloch High School valedictorian. Accepted to both the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Georgia, she’s decided UGA’s course offerings best support her desire to major in Human Development and later advance to occupational therapy school.
“I’m excited to go to Athens. I have a big group of friends going from Southeast Bulloch, and I’ve never lived outside of Statesboro, so it’s exciting to be going to a new city," she said.
Haley credits the cluster of Early Childhood career pathway courses at Southeast Bulloch with helping her make a career choice.
“My teacher, Ms. Jackie Merrill was like my school mom, and I loved these classes," she noted.
“All students are special,” said Merrill. “However, some creep into your heart and become part of who you are. While I hope I have taught Haley something, I know she has taught me to not only be a better teacher but also a better person.”
As part of Haley’s Early Childhood coursework, she was able to serve as an intern in SEBHS’s pre-kindergarten lab, where she periodically witnessed speech therapists work with children.
“It made me very interested in therapy, so I volunteered at the Therapy Spot in Statesboro with Ms. Leah Lanier, Ms. Olivia Chester and Ms. Caroline Bowman. It helped me decide whether I wanted to pursue speech, physical or occupational therapy,” she said.
“We really appreciate having high school volunteers like Haley from the schools,” said Lanier, a speech therapist with The Therapy Spot. “Haley is a great girl. When she came to us, she had an idea about her career path, but she was trying to decide between colleges and the type of therapy she wanted to pursue. I’d like to think we’ve inspired a few students like Haley to pursue occupational, speech or physical therapy.”
Lanier noted that Haley was very natural with their children and families, which fits with Haley’s goal to eventually work for a school system as an occupational therapist.
This was not the first opportunity for Haley to work with children. Since she was 11, and in sixth grade, she has been a teaching assistant for Shay Morgan’s Statesboro School of Dance.
“I’ve been dancing since I was 3,” Haley said. “I especially love teaching classes to children from the Boys & Girls Club.”
“Haley is an accomplished classical ballet, tap and jazz dancer, but her natural, God-given talent is ballet,” Morgan said. “She is just so special, and I could see it from the time she was very young. In her 15 years with my studio, she’s danced every part you can be in the 'Nutcracker,' from the Sugar Plum Fairy to Clara, and she’s been the lead in many of our recitals: Belle in 'Beauty and the Beast,' Dorothy in 'Wizard of Oz,' and Alice in 'Alice in Wonderland,'" she said.
Morgan said Haley has always stood out as a leader. “I wish she could work with me forever, because she has a great work ethic. She never slacks off, and she’s loving and happy with everyone.”
Haley was also very involved in extracurricular activities at SEBHS. She was treasurer of her senior class, president of the FCCLA chapter for two years, and a member of Beta Club. She was inducted into the National Technical Honor Society and the National Society of High School Scholars.
“My favorite classes besides my Early Childhood coursework were Ms. Linda Fix’s AP Literature class and Ms. Susan Boddiford’s AP Statistics class. They kicked my butt and challenged me.”
"I had the privilege of teaching Haley Accelerated Pre-Calculus and AP Statistics,” said Boddiford. “Hayley could always be counted on to ask high-level questions which show a deep understanding of the concepts we learned. She always has a smile on her face and a humble spirit that makes her a model student for any teacher."
The Statesboro Exchange Club has also recognized Haley’s extraordinary high school career and community contributions. They selected her as the 2018 Student of the Year from applicants across Bulloch County’s public and private schools.