Katie Freeborough — Times Observer Student of the Year — is living her life to the fullest

Katie Freeborough

“Life is so short,” said the Times Observer Student of the Year Katie Freeborough, “you just need to find enjoyment in it, and bring joy to others.”

Freeborough has faced struggles during her final year at Warren Area High School that have taught her some of the most important lessons of her life. It used to be that she pushed herself hard to be the best, and to perform at all of her activities, from school to work, the best she could.

The struggle was constant.

After the death of her father, Darin Freeborough, this past spring, Freeborough said that she just realized, “it can always be worse. It’s what you make of it.”

Struggling through the challenges of this year has given her a broader view of life with a capital L than many high school seniors are aware of.

“You try so hard,” said Freeborough about the struggle to perform to external standards, “and when you realize something and you stop trying so hard, that’s when things get easier.” Rather than setting goals like being the best hitter or being on the best softball team, Freeborough said, she set her own goals. “I wanted to make sure I was doing what I wanted to make myself happy,” said Freeborough. “I started setting my own standards. As long as I was doing well in my own book, that was enough.”

For a while after the death of her father, Freeborough said the grief had the potential to make or to break her.

“I went back to school after about two weeks,” said Freeborough. “But it really brought me down to a low point.”

It was then that she decided that she needed to be true to herself, and at that point, she said everything just got easier. From school, to sports, to meeting new people, “I just decided that I’m going to be myself,” said Freeborough. “If people don’t like it, too bad.”

Freeborough said that she is going to Indiana University of Pennsylvania to major in Nutrition and Spanish. An odd combination, Freeborough said, but she’s “passionate about both.”

The interest in nutrition came from her job. Working at Little Caesar’s, said Freeborough, she came to understand the many different components of the food we eat, and how closely related nutrition is to chemistry.

“Chemistry is my favorite subject,” said Freeborough, so being able to break food down to its basic chemical components and analyze it at a structural level is something she’s looking forward to learning.

Spanish, Freeborough said, is related to her love of travel. Freeborough said that she’s taken Spanish all four years of her high school career, and “it just comes naturally to me. I think that’s why I love it.” Freeborough said that she’d love to travel to latin and non-latin speaking countries to see and experience the many lifestyles there are.

Freeborough said she’s traveled to different parts of the Dominican Republic as part of a family holiday earlier this year, and loved it. It reinforced her newfound understanding of what’s important in life. The trip, Freeborough said, showed her “how easy we have it. Some of those people were working for something like fifty bucks every two weeks. They were traveling for months just to send a few dollars home to their families. Some of the people who had the least,” said Freeborough, are the happiest. “All they wanted was for us to see their country,” said Freeborough. “It was the best vacation — the best experience — ever.”

Freeborough said that she is looking forward to college, and to starting this new chapter in her life. And she’s thankful, said Freeborough, for the community and those who’ve supported her in the past year. To younger students, Freeborough said, she’d offer the following advice:

“Teachers aren’t out to get you. Respect every single person you meet. They all have a story. Use the resources you have to discover your passions. And make as many memories as possible. High school goes by way too fast.”

“The interview process was wonderful to experience, as all of the candidates have bright futures,” said Managing Editor Jon Sitler. “Katie has her priorities straight, no doubt because of how much she has grown in the past year. On the softball field, in the classroom, at Little Caesar’s, and in life, Katie lives life to the fullest, with a great attitude and full heart. Congratulations, Katie.”

“We’ve always had great students interview for Student of the Year,” said Times Observer Publisher Bob Patchen. “Katie is truly a remarkable young lady. The amount of adversity she faced this year is immeasurable, and yet she stands here today, stronger. That speaks volumes to her character, her family, and how good of a human being she is.

“I look forward to hearing all of the good things she will accomplish in the future.”