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Sarah Mackey, Falls City: Commitment To Change

FALLS CITY -- If she could go back in time and talk to herself as a high school freshman, Sarah Mackey said there would probably be a stern lecture for her younger counterpart.

FALLS CITY -- If she could go back in time and talk to herself as a high school freshman, Sarah Mackey said there would probably be a stern lecture for her younger counterpart.

"Or a slap in the face," Mackey said with a laugh.

Mackey admits to not being a particularly ambitious student during her first 2« years at Falls City High School.

She put in just enough work in classes to get by, pulling mostly "Cs" and the occasional "B." She argued with teachers when called out on mistakes.

"I didn't like school," she said. "And going to college wasn't something I really wanted to do."

Mackey, 17, might not have, but for a late change of heart near the end of her junior year. Since then, she has spent much of her senior year fulfilling higher education requirements at Chemeketa Community College.

Thanks to a boost to her grade-point average, she's bound for Western Oregon University in the fall.

"Sarah almost missed her opportunity to have a choice," said Lynn Bailey, Mackey's academic adviser at FCHS. "But she's grown tremendously."

Mackey was a fairly involved student, playing volleyball, basketball and running track for most of her high school career.

She volunteered in an after-school program, taking care of children and helping them with their homework. She's captained a Relay For Life team. And for her senior project, she spearheaded a fundraiser for cancer patients, collecting money and hair for Locks of Love.

But college was never in the cards.

Until the end of her junior year, Mackey had initially planned to get a job styling hair. Then she had a conversation with a girl who dropped out of high school and was going into the same field.

"That's kind of a trend and I didn't want people to think of me that way," she said. "If I was to go to beauty school, it would be because I like doing hair, not because I didn't want to be in school."

Mackey said she panicked after discovering she wouldn't meet college GPA and course requirements. So she enrolled at Chemeketa last summer and has been commuting to the campuses in Dallas and Salem almost full time. Earlier this year, she received her acceptance letter to Western.

Mackey said she may pursue a business degree while at WOU -- and use that to help open her own salon.

"Or in four years, I might not want to do that," she said. "Seeing all the different majors there, I even thought about becoming a teacher."

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