COOLIDGE — While many graduates face the prospect of starting fresh in a city far away from Coolidge, Joslyn McSperitt’s next move after graduation will be … next door.

“My parents are stuck with me still,” joked McSperitt, this year’s salutatorian at Imagine Coolidge Prep, who lives very close to Central Arizona College’s Signal Peak campus.

McSperitt signed up in middle school for CAC’s “Promise for the Future” program, which offers students a free ride into a two-year certificate program if they maintain good grades and fulfill community service requirements.

McSperitt plans to attend CAC for accounting. But while the physical distance to her next school may be short, emotionally it represents a major step for both McSperitt and her family.

That is because, like Imagine valedictorian Nataly Miramontes, McSperitt will become the first person in her family to attend college, something she says is both exciting but also scary.

“It’s such a huge standard to hold,” McSperitt said. “Being the first in the family makes you feel good about yourself. But that’s also a lot of pressure: you don’t want to mess it up.”

As of now, McSperitt has had no trouble excelling academically, having been an honors student all throughout middle and high school. In addition, McSperitt plays violin, and has been active in performing arts locally, doing theater in school and taking classes at United Dance in Coolidge.

McSperitt credits her family for teaching her to finish what she starts and to push herself constantly. But she also credits her religious background and Christian faith for playing a major positive role in her life.

“I grew up in a Christian household,” McSperitt said, “so if you ever feel like you can’t do anything, you just ask God, and he will help you through. God has helped me get things I never thought possible, such as becoming salutatorian.”

During the pandemic, McSperitt said she and her family would gather around a phone and watch her pastor’s sermons on Facebook or Instagram.

Academically, McSperitt said the biggest challenge was to stay on track, as she describes herself as more of a hands-on student.

“It’s kind of hard being stuck in a room and working from there,” McSperitt said. “Stuff wasn’t open and we couldn’t do what we wanted. It just took a toll.”

Despite the time away from school during the pandemic, McSperitt described her overall experience at Imagine Prep as a welcoming and nurturing environment. Even as teachers at Imagine help students, McSperitt said she saw kids help new teachers become part of the Imagine Prep Coolidge team.

As for what advice she can give new students, McSperitt said that she encourages them to take more risks and try new school activities, understanding that grades don’t define someone as a person. McSperitt said that she didn’t think she’d like the school’s drama program, but after participating in plays—her favorite role was sword-fighting as Benvolio in “Romeo and Juliet”—she said it became one of the highlights of her time in high school.

Over the summer, McSperitt said she is hoping to get her driver’s license and work at a dental office putting her CAVIT skills to use.

“It seemed like this year went by fast,” McSperitt said. “It’s hard to believe graduation is here now. I just know that once I am done with here, I will go to college, get my degree, and from there who knows? It is in god’s hands now.”

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Aaron Dorman is the Casa Grande reporter at PinalCentral, covering government, schools, business and more. He can be reached at adorman@pinalcentral.com.

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