Lindsey Gibson isn't the youngest in her family, but she has a soft spot for babies.
As a Flinn Scholar, the graduating Sinagua senior hopes to earn a nursing degree from the University of Arizona and learn what it takes to care for the youngest patients in the pediatrics or even neo-natal intensive care unit.
"Kids are fighters. Adults kind of accept, now is their time to go," she said. "Kids don't really accept that, so they fight harder."
Only 20 Flinn scholarships are given out each year statewide. This year, more than 550 Arizona high school students applied for the award, which allows them to study full-ride as an honors student at a state university. Lindsey was the only Flagstaff winner.
Lindsey visited all three state universities and found the best fit and opportunity to test her independence in Tucson at UA. If there's anything she's unsure of, it's the weather -- Lindsey is a Flagstaff native. Here, 90-degree days are uncommon and would happen in the height of summer. In Tucson, they're a reality now, in May, and will get warmer.
Lindsey will enter UA as a pre-nursing major -- the nursing program is competitive, so to get into the professional program, she'll do more of what she did in high school.
That means studying hard -- she's taking advanced placement calculus and statistics in her final semester of high school -- and getting involved with service clubs.
Last summer, she earned her certified nursing assistant credentials and worked with elders. She'll do the same this summer before heading south.
Lindsey said she's known since seventh grade that she wanted to be a nurse. Her father suggested it, and she knew she wanted to help people, make personal connections and be challenged. She began researching the profession -- and scholarships.
Earlier this year, she put herself into the Flinn process. It took three essays; a resume of activities, teacher and counselor recommendations; and two rounds of interviews.
Winners get four years of study, academic-focused travel abroad, personal mentoring by faculty members and other benefits. Just to be considered, students needed a minimum 3.5 grade point average, a ranking in the top 5 percent of their graduating class, a minimum score of 1300 on the SAT test or 29 on the ACT, and demonstrated leadership abilities.
Lindsey fulfilled that by being co-valedictorian of her class, student body secretary, a member of the National Honor Society and an anti-substance-abuse club, playing varsity volleyball, helping out in her church nursery, and volunteering in the gift shop at Flagstaff Medical Center.
While confident in her application, she thought odds would be against her based just on the volume of qualified students.
"In all honesty, the probability of getting the scholarship was so small, I wasn't even banking on it," she said.
But beating odds is something she admires the challenge of.
She said pediatric nurses can burn out, watching children struggle and slip away.
"At the same time, you get to see these kids who don't have a fighting chance and they do make it," she said.
Hillary Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 556-2261.
Upcoming high school graduations
-- Saturday, May 22: Northland Preparatory Academy, 2 p.m., NAU's Ardrey Auditorium
-- Friday, May 28: Flagstaff Unified School District- Flagstaff 9 a.m., Sinagua 2 p.m. and Coconino 7 p.m., all at NAU's Skydome
-- Friday, June 4: Flagstaff Arts & Leadership Academy, 7 p.m., Coconino Community College-Lone Tree