SPRING HILL — Jessica Lamb is a young woman with a mission.
The valedictorian of West Hernando Christian School's Class of 2008 has stepped onto the world stage and looks forward to a repeat, if not more than once.
Lamb is one of nearly 50 students who will be graduating in the coming weeks from three Hernando County private schools and the local home school association. (Wider Horizons School has no graduates this year.) The list includes 26 seniors at Hernando Christian Academy.
In many ways, Lamb, 17, exemplifies the traits and experiences of many of her fellow graduates.
As a freshman and a sophomore, Lamb took part in two week-long missions to the Dominican Republic, sponsored by the school with generous financial support from Northcliffe Baptist Church.
In her first mission foray, the teen engaged in service projects for a rural village, such as painting and helping to build a handicapped ramp. She also distributed Christian tracts and took part in an all-native Spanish language program espousing Christianity in speech and song.
This after she went to market with the 20-member Hernando group to buy food, then helped to cook meals for as many as 300 who had attended the gatherings.
"It was a very rewarding experience," said the soft-spoken daughter of Patricia and Richard Lamb of Spring Hill. In teen lingo, she added, "It was cool."
On her second trip, she helped teach vacation Bible school. "We would drive a truck through the village and pick up all these kids (to attend)," Lamb recalled. As the village was about two hours from the team's lodgings, it translated into a six-hour day, she noted.
Although Lamb has three years of Spanish language classes at school, the book learning didn't necessarily translate to the Dominican patios.
"We learned to play charades a lot," she said of her troupe's experience.
"I really like working with kids," said the teen, who was first introduced to educating youngsters as she assisted her mother in teaching Sunday school to 4-year-olds at Northcliffe Baptist.
She cherishes the younger set, noting, "They're interested. They don't have an attitude." Her calling now is to become an elementary school teacher.
Having been awarded a Bright Futures scholarship, she will enroll for a two-year course at Pasco Hernando Community College. The scholarship pays 100 percent of tuition and books, but does not extend to room and board, so she has chosen a local institution to enable living at home while she works part time at local restaurants to earn money to pay for the following two years of study toward a degree in education.
On her resume is volunteer work with the Christian Contractors Association, based in Brooksville, where her father is a worker; editor of the school yearbook; vice president of student government; honored at the age of 12 with the Duke University Talent Identification Program through which she attained a score on the Academic Comprehensive Assessment test that would have admitted her to college at that time. On an ACT exam her senior year, she scored even higher.
Said school administrator Marti Covert: "She has just about carte blanche for any college she wants to attend."
In classes, Jessica has earned all A's, but says she doesn't have a favorite subject.
Covert added of the top student, "From such a young age, one would never expect so much. But Jessica exudes those qualities that will one day impact others. Her thirst for knowledge will take her far in life.
"Jessica also has a servant's heart," said the administrator.
Echoing those words, Lamb said, "Someday, after graduating college, I want to go back to the Dominican Republic, go to the villages, do what is needed."
Beth Gray can be contacted at gray