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Humility is an ideal that many people claim or pursue, but many do not meet. Susanna Gaither aims to be the exception.

The Mechanicsburg Area Senior High School senior is first in her class and headed to an Ivy League college in the fall. However, without prompting when asked to explain why she was selected for Teen of the Week, Gaither credited her parents, Milton and Elizabeth Gaither, family and friends with helping her reach all of her achievements.

Gaither said her drive to succeed in school comes from a love of learning, saying she had just finished a test in chemistry that she enjoyed and was excited to be learning about the French Revolution.

Her drive does not come from a desire for personal accolades, she said.

“I think I have a lot of motivation because I want people to be happy,” she said. “Being successful is a way to make people happy.”

When asked to describe a time when she failed or was not successful at a task and talk about what she learned from that experience, Gaither said, “It’s hard to pick just one” with a smile on her face, a smile that she wore the entire interview and that staff said is nearly permanently affixed to her.

Gaither carries a 98.7 GPA while taking a full slate of advance placement and college preparatory classes.

In the fall, she will attend Cornell University where she plans to study environmental engineering. During college, she said she plans to be part of the Naval ROTC program and join the U.S. Navy after college.

Gaither found her love for the environment while attending a summer camp at Journey’s End Farm Camp in Newfoundland, Pennsylvania.

“It was amazing,” she said. “It was pretty much living outside 24/7. That’s when I really started to enjoy being outside.”

She said that studying environmental engineering puts her on a path to make a tangible difference in combating climate change and becoming a good steward of the environment.

“I think right now, during our time, it’s hard to not notice the environmental degradation,” Gaither said. “For example, at the camp, the maple syrup production has gone way down. I think I feel very interested when someone expresses to me that climate change is real and happening.”

She said she is interested in raising awareness of climate change and through her education she hopes to help change things like building practices to better the environment.

Gaither is a four-year varsity member of the high school cross country team, a two-year varsity member of the track and field team, as well as a member of the debate club, model UN, National Honors Society and National Spanish Honors Society.

Gaither wants to change the world, and she is doing it by making a difference in the lives of local residents.

She is the president of the Glamour Gals club, which provides makeovers for elderly women at a senior community.

“I feel proud when I can do something different,” she said. “I think I’m just most proud to recognize that my life is not like the people during the French Revolution. I’ve been given a lot of things that they weren’t and that people today are not. I feel proud of just the civilization that I live in. I don’t feel proud of everything in it, but I feel proud that I can recognize things and know what needs to be changed.”

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Email Joshua Vaughn at jvaughn@cumberlink.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Sentinel_Vaughn.

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