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Hometown girl uses heart to reach goals and top of the class

By Thomas Sellers Jr.Lauren Lester Dr. Forbess Lauren Lester roses Lauren Lester

The Library of Congress selected Forrest Gump for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
One Millington Central High School student who would validate that selection is 2014 Valedictorian Lauren Lester. Several teachers, friends, family members and her parents Cara and Sam had a huge impact on Lester’s success as a student/athlete.
“I’ve always had more honors and AP teachers. So they definitely pushed me to study, and my parents as well. But extracurricular activities like soccer kind of helps with the work hard and play hard deal.”
But an x-factor contributing Lester’s drive was an Academy Award winning movie. The Lauren Lester Story shares many similarities to Forrest Gump. The character portrayed by Tom Hanks grew up in a Southern city. Forrest Gump went on to make his hometown proud, travel the world and win many awards while impacting others.
In just 18 years, Lester has lived a life to rival Gump. The Millington native became a MCHS Hall of Famer after completing her studies at E.A. Harrold and Millington Middle schools. It was at Millington Middle that Lester first watched Forrest Gump.
“I got most of the references,” she recalled. “It definitely helped re-watching it and taking U.S. History. You understood a lot of things a lot better.
“It taught me the heart is the biggest thing you can have, the most important,” Lester continued. “There’s people out there with brains and the braun. But as long as you have heart, you get the effort. And you can do anything with heart.”
Like the character who originated in the 1986 novel by Winston Groom, Lester following her heart has allowed her to reach high levels at MCHS. Gump played football, Lester was a vital part of her Lady Trojan Soccer team.
Gump traveled the world and Lester recently returned from a trip to France. And while the prodigious from Greenbow, Alabama earn medals from his service to the country, Lester is just as decorated academically as a member of the National Honor Society, Beta Club, Mu Alpha Theta, Key Club and more.
Now her biggest accomplishment is earning the No. 1 spot for the Class of 2014. Lester was near the top of her class the entire four years. Through all the challenges Lester kept her solid pace in the race to be the best.
“I’ve always been in the top 3 for all four years,” she noted. “It was more challenging during the months of soccer. I always knew I had to have a study hall to get done with everything in time. But it was more of a release and that connection with certain people that I probably wouldn’t have got without soccer.
“Certain skills you learn having dedication to something,” Lester added. “You do it over and over again so you can finally get it. Those things kind of rubbed off into other phases.”
Gump’s go-to move was running, doing that over and over again for success. Lester used a strong work ethic and accountability to reach her goals. That strategy helped the little girl from Flag City even before she knew about Forrest Gump.
“Being here at Millington, we have a lot of the Navy Base kids go here,” she noted. “A lot of my friends are from different parts of the country. Even different parts of the world, they lived a portion of their lives. I’m one of the few people actually from here. It’s different and a nice change of pace knowing my place has always been a little more secure here.”
Lester has build lasting relationships in the 38053 zip code through art, academic clubs, soccer and community involvement. Gump created friendships all over the world.
And it appeared Gump did things spontaneously. Lester has more of a defined plan for her next scene of life.
She will be heading to UT-Knoxville this fall to major in aerospace engineering.
“I have goals I want to hit on more as far as college and my major,” Lester said. “I guess mine is more of the American dream with travel and stuff. I don’t know if I do it running. But I am one of those spontaneous people like, ‘Why not?’”
One thing is for certain that Lester will be moving forward in life giving her heart to those she cares about and the goals she sets. And as she address her classmates in the Hope Presbyterian Church Tuesday night at 7 p.m. during the MCHS Commencement Ceremony, she will emphasize that notion.
“One of my points (in my speech) I do make is effort is needed,” she concluded. “Effort can get you anywhere. So long as you do what you want to do, be proud of it. Be who you want to be.”

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