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“When my mom and I came to live with my dad in the US, I knew I was here for a larger purpose.” That is what Keystone student Hayat Cherif wrote her sophomore year in an essay titled “What Keeps Me Going,” an essay inspired by her passion for helping others.

Her powerful essay made her one of ten winners of the Creative Communication’s national essay contest– the same writing contest pop superstar Taylor Swift won back in 2008!

Now a junior at Keystone, Hayat is able to use the flexibility of online schooling to realize that larger purpose: helping others.

Originally from Mauritania, a small country in West Africa, Hayat now lives in Louisville, Kentucky and places high value on family and helping them with their needs. Being the only member of her family that is fluent in both spoken and written English, Hayat is often called upon by her family and community for assistance in understanding and communicating in English.

Having the flexibility to take a pause from her schooling, help someone in need, and then return to her schooling is of great benefit to not only Hayat, but also her community.

“I’m almost always needed and online classes give me the chance to answer a call for help which is very rewarding,” Hayat said. “I always volunteer to help my parents with applications, letters, and other paperwork. This is also the case with members of my small community of Mauritanians, who mostly have the same problem. I’ve helped families other than my own and individuals understand letters they get in their mail, fill out applications, apply to English programs, prepare for the Citizenship test, communicate concerns to their employers, and sometimes I’m called on to order pizza!”

While some high schoolers may want to focus more on their friends or themselves, Hayat sees family as her number one priority.

“Family means everything to me,” Hayat said.  “It is the pillar that remains standing when everything else is in ruin. It is the shoulder to lean on and the hand to hold regardless of what life throws at you. My family is the dearest part of life to me and I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for my loving parents.”

Tremendously helping her family and community is what inspired Hayat to write her award-winning essay. Realizing how supportive her family is and how grateful she is to be able to receive a quality education, Hayat realized that she needed to use her abilities to give back.

“I am very grateful to God for blessing me with wonderful parents who have brought me to the land of opportunity and given me the chance to realize my dreams,” Hayat said. “I come from a small village in Mauritania and as an impressionable child I saw many people suffer due to lack of quality healthcare and education. I should aim to help others on a large scale with my abilities.”

Having personal encounters with the consequences limited education and healthcare can bring, Hayat used those experiences as inspiration and motivation for her career path and future endeavors.

“I lost a brother who was born in Umm An-Nuwar and who died from spina bifida because of limited access to quality healthcare,” Hayat said. “This has led me to want to become a family doctor so that I may help the children and families in Mauritania where a dearth in medical professionals plagues many communities.”

Online schooling at Keystone is leading Hayat on the right path to achieving her goals. Allowing for the flexibility she needs and supplying an engaging education, Hayat feels that Keystone is helping her grow and prosper.

“Online school has helped me grow in so many life-changing ways,” Hayat said. “My parents note that I’ve become much more responsible and goal-driven since whether I succeed or don’t is now clearly dependent on what I do with my time. As a Keystone student, I get to set my own schedule and work hard to finish the work according to the due dates on my schedule. This has taught me discipline and has helped me set my focus on the greater goal of getting accepted to top-notch universities and becoming a doctor instead of wasting time.”

Hayat plans to be the first member of her family to attend a university. She then plans to go on to pursue a master’s degree in family medicine. She credits Keystone to helping her prepare for her future and allowing her to pursue her goals while staying true to her values.

“My experience with Keystone has taught me to be independent and goal-driven,” Hayat said. “It’s flexible enough to allow me to help my family and community whenever the need arises. I’ve also learned discipline and that hard work pays off since I’ve maintained a 4.0 GPA since 8th grade, my first year with Keystone. It has given me the flexibility that I need to help others, which has helped me grow as a person.”

With the support of her parents, the flexibility of Keystone, and her immense amount of passion, Hayat is able to realize her dreams and pursue her passion for helping others.

“I think it’s important to help others because it shows that you care about them,” Hayat said. “It’s important to let people know that you care about them because, at a time when suicide and depression are on the rise, it can save lives. I also see it as a sure-fire way to spread happiness through kindness and altruism, and there’s nothing that makes me happier than seeing a smile on someone’s face and knowing that I played a role in making it happen.”

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