Kimberly LaMar is graduating from East Union High tonight. The Lancers’ Class of 2013 valedictorian has a speech to work on and a host of other things to worry about.
Truth be known, though, those concerns are just the tip of the iceberg for this 17-year-old human bundle of energy. That’s easy to understand considering what’s coming up on her plate this summer alone.
She will be in an African village called Morogoro in Tanzania in July where she will be doing missionary work including Bible studies for two-and-a-half weeks with a group from her church, Sequoia Heights Baptist in Manteca.
For the third year in a row, she will be helping with Vacation Bible School at her church. She has been the music leader the first two years; this time, she will be the music director.
And for the fourth year in a row, she will be helping at a Baptist Children’s Camp near Strawberry in the foothills working as the assistant to the director. It’s a camp that involves all Baptist churches in the Central Valley.
The first Saturday in August, just before she leaves for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where she intends to study civil engineering, and for the fourth year in a row, she will be at a Migrant Workers Day in Lodi where she will help facilitate a dental and medical clinic for migrant farmworkers and their families, feed and give away clothing, and generally helping other churches with other go-fer chores such as distributing prizes and school supplies. This is a project that is facilitated by her church’s youth group of which she is a member.
Then there’s her graduation trip to Hawaii with a group of friends soon after the commencement exercises.
Sandwiched through all that, she and her parents will be taking camping trips to Silver Lake, and probably Half Moon Bay and Woodward Lake. The trip to Silver Lake is an annual family tradition where they usually soak up the sun and pile on the fun for five days.
“My summer is jam-packed with five million things that I’ve got to do!” she said laughing during the telephone interview, and sounding not a bit concerned about the logistics of it all.
Family for Lamar is not just her father CJ “Clinton John” who works at J.R. Simplot in Lathrop, mother Patricia who is a “foster mommy” who also teaches foster-parent classes for those who want to become foster parents or adoptive parents, and older sister Brittany who is studying to become a social worker at William Jessup University in Rocklin, Calif. She also lives with one adoptive sister plus five – currently – foster siblings.
“My parents have done foster care since 1996,” LaMar said, and by her rough estimate, the family has had “about 100 foster children” in the last 16 to 17 years.
“We usually take girls because we’re girls, but we’ve had every ethnicity, age, medical condition – you name it, we’ve had it – Down Syndrome, ODD, ADHD,” she said in her cheerful soprano voice.
Growing up in such a large family, LaMar and her sister grew up learning responsibility – they were like a “second mommy” to the young foster kids – and “how to help out because our family is so large and so crazy,” she explained laughing.
“We constantly have foster kids in our home. They are like my own children. And I love my foster siblings,” she added.
“That definitely made an impact on how my sister and I have grown up. We’re responsible and mature because of what we’ve learned through the years” from that experience, she said.
Her sister has been a constant inspiration and a role model throughout her years in high school.
“She was the stellar athlete (at East Union). She got athletic scholarships (that’s how she ended up on the Rocklin college campus), and I grew up almost in her shadow achieving all this greatness. She definitely was a role model. At times it was discouraging because she won everything, but at the same time, it was inspiring,” LaMar said, referring to her valedictorian status plus the scholarships and awards she has thus far received.
Sibling motivation, hard work, and achievement
“Because of her being so great, it motivated me. I want to be something. I couldn’t be as great as her in sports so I decided to do something. I gave my everything into academics, and because of that drive and motivation, it propelled me to where I am today,” LaMar said, talking about how she ended up as the class valedictorian.
“I tell people, it’s weird to know that I’m valedictorian because although I’m academically bright, I’m not one of those people (to whom) school comes automatically to. There’s a lot of people that are smart and don’t have to try for it; they grasp it very easily. Even though sometimes I do that, I put forth effort. I have to work my butt off in order to become valedictorian. It’s not something that was handed to me. I’m smart but I’m not the smartest person out there in the world,” LaMar said candidly.
Growing up with her sister and with many foster kids at home also taught her two important lessons in life: to “excel in your own way” and to share what you have with other people.
“Everything in my house is shared – my parents, time, toys, our lives as a whole,” she said.
All of those family values translated into achievements at school. She is graduating with a GPA of 4.413 and, at the end of the school year, will have completed 12 out of the maximum 13 AP (Advanced Placement) classes available.
Although she never outshone her sister’s athletic achievements in high school, LaMar played Varsity golf for four years and is a Varsity swimmer. She was also a member of East Union’s Bella Choir, an all-women’s advanced choir during her junior year, was a member for four years of the California Scholastic Federation and Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and was in the Aquatics Club.
LaMar is the recipient of the Marvin Arnold and Irene Jacquette Heye scholarship award of $5,000.
She explained, “This scholarship is $5,000 this upcoming year because of scholarships I have already received. The entire scholarship covers the difference in tuition after grants for all four years I will be attending Cal Poly, so in essence, my tuition is completely covered.”
In addition to that monetary award, she also received scholarships from the following: the Elks National Foundation ($1,600), CIF A. Dale Lackey ($1,000), Comcast Leaders and Achievers ($1,000), Manteca Federated Women’s Club ($500), Manteca Children’s Foundation ($400), and Daughters of the American Revolution Good Citizen award ($150).