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GCA student Bethany Lemonds shows off her riding skills

For Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA) student and “cowgirl” Bethany Lemonds, this spring brought not one, but two separate graduations. Bethany graduated Summa Cum Laude from GCA, two weeks after she received her Associate Degree from the Newton Campus of Georgia State University’s Perimeter College.

“Participating in two graduations was an amazing opportunity,” Bethany said. “It was such a time of accomplishment.”

Bethany, who joked that she technically graduated college before graduating high school, was extremely involved in her GCA graduation. She introduced the commencement speaker, Georgia Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, and she also accepted the AJC Cup Award, an honor presented to high school students who show excellence in leadership, academics, and community involvement.

After the 6th grade, Bethany began online schooling and worked tirelessly to maintain a 3.5 GPA. While Bethany said her workload was larger at GCA than in her original “less-than-ideal public school situation,” she found that the increased schedule flexibility ultimately gave her more time.

“My experience with GCA was nothing less than wonderful,” Bethany said. “It opened doors I didn’t even know were there.”

Because of this flexibility, Bethany was able to fuel her love for horses. Around age 12, Bethany began horse showing, and at age 13, she started her first job as a manager for a neighbor’s horse barn.

Bethany takes time to enjoy what she loves: horses!

Bethany learned to ride both English and Western style. While learning Western-style riding, Bethany was introduced to the Interscholastic Equestrian Association through her trainer. It was through the IEA program, which supplies horses for competitions, that Bethany began competing in reining and earned the title of “cowgirl.”

What, exactly, does being a “cowgirl” mean in Bethany’s case? Reining, a division of Western riding, was originally used by ranches that work cattle. Reining takes some of the maneuvers helpful in herding cattle and makes them into patterns. Bethany performs these reining patterns, which involve moves such as sliding stops, spins, and rollbacks, in show arenas.

In addition to juggling high school, college, her many extracurricular activities, and showing horses, Bethany works for Barrow Veterinary Service as a veterinary technician. She loves this job so much that she hopes to enter into an equine-only practice like this one after she finishes her education.

Bethany will continue her academic endeavors at Georgia State Perimeter this fall before transferring to the University of Georgia, where she will combine her schooling and her love for horses by applying to the veterinary school.

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