Nautica Billingslea’s road to Lanett salutatorian

Published 9:00 am Saturday, May 6, 2023

The road to salutatorian has been a long and winding one for Nautica Billingslea. 

Lanett High School’s salutatorian this year said at first she couldn’t believe that she had earned the honor. The years of hard work in and out of class have finally paid off at graduation time.

“I needed to appreciate myself and how much I put into it … I came a long way from where I started,” Billingslea said. “I was really proud of myself.”

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Billingslea learned early in her education that she didn’t want to slack off. Since fifth grade, she decided to try to keep her grades up rather than “goofing off” in class.

In high school, one of her hardest classes was anatomy. It reminded her of her early days in elementary school when she faced that challenge.

“Looking back on it, I liked Anatomy,” Billingslea said. “It was hard and challenging, but it was the good hard.”

Eventually, she came to appreciate the challenge. Now, she looks back on it as her favorite class. 

Billingslea also learned to handle a disappointing grade. Instead of letting it get her down, she learned to accept it and work hard to do better next time. 

“When you get a bad grade, it’s not the end of the world,” she said. “It’s how you treat it.”

Billingslea had a lot of support from her mother, Edith, and sister, Jasmine. She was tutored by Trudy Goodsell and the whole tutoring system. When she was younger, her cousin, Camesha Meadows, tutored her too. 

Billingslea continued to push herself in her extracurricular activities. For the last two years, she has been in the athletic training program. She also played trumpet in the school band. These team-building clubs got out of her comfort zone. 

“Being in band and athletic training, you have to ask. You need to ask the question, if you need to know,” Billingslea said.

Her favorite club is the chess club. She pushed herself to learn the complex game recently and enjoys playing it. 

Like most high school students, Billingslea is still exploring her career options. She has taken the initiative and begun looking into internships and job shadowing opportunities. 

After she graduates, Billingslea plans to attend the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Though she hasn’t decided on a pathway yet, she knows it will be a practical choice.

“I know I want to go into a field where I’m going to be financially stable,” Billingslea said. “I’ve also gotta like it too, though.”

As she gets ready to move on, Billingslea reflected on the lessons she would pass on to other students. 

“Don’t give up, and try hard. I know everybody says this, but when you actually do it, it works. And ask questions,” Billingslea said.