Sarah Phipps: A president with goals, direction and a caring heart

Published 9:29 pm Friday, March 20, 2015

By Mark Schmerling


Yogi Berra was fond of saying that one can observe a lot by just watching.

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Polk County High School students can observe a good deal, and be inspired by, the example set by Sarah Phipps, senior class president. Involved in high school sports and academically very accomplished, she also finds time to give back to her high school, to her community, and to her brothers and sisters in faith.


Phipps served as president of her class during her sophomore and junior years, said her involvement “really began the summer after my sixth grade year.” That was the year she went on a mission trip to China.


“It really sparked an interest for me to help others. That’s when my faith in Jesus was truly established. It was the first time I saw the difference he makes in people’s lives,” Phipps states.


Back at PCHS, Phipps notes, “It’s really an honor that my class trusts me.”


Traditionally, Polk’s senior class donates a gift to the school. But this year’s gift will be a little different. Instead, the seniors are donating a water well to a poor village; Samaritan’s Purse will determine the location. That village will display a photograph showing the school’s involvement.


Before making their gift, student officials first ran the idea past their advocate teacher, before going to Principal Mary Feagan.


Phipps pointed out that when village residents have access to clean water, their sanitation, hygiene and hydration all get better. Residents can focus on things other than long treks in search of clean water.


Senior class vice president Samantha Metcalf and class secretary Anthony Marino “both helped tremendously with the project,” Phipps remarks.


Phipps said that this senior class of 166 students contains 12 advocates, who are present at meetings throughout the year. Senior class projects include designating a senior song and senior class shirts. Phipps and her fellow class officials are “constantly raising money,” she says, for the prom, for the senior picnic and for senior awards night, which is held shortly after commencement.


With an athlete for father, and a teacher for a mother, Phipps has been the beneficiary of much talent and guidance. Whether competing in volleyball, basketball, soccer, or working hard in class, Phipps is a quiet example of steady effort.


Her father, David Phipps, played basketball for UNC Asheville. He got Phipps, her two older sisters and two younger brothers into sports as soon as they were able. They are “really awesome athletes,” she notes with pride.


“My mom is more of a key for academics. They’ve always supported me,” Phipps says. Her mother, a first-grade teacher, taught all five siblings.


Playing basketball and soccer since recreation league, and volleyball since sixth grade, Phipps has a high regard for the benefits of team sports.


“It teaches me discipline, teamwork. The family aspect comes into play. You laugh, cry and sweat . . . They have your back; we have their backs,” she says.


Academically, Phipps is a junior marshal, with one of the 12 highest grade point averages in her class. She won the stage charisma award in a Chinese speaking competition at NC State, and has also received a Presbyterian academic award.


In 2012, Phipps went on a mission trip to Serbia arranged through Samaritan’s Purse. With a background of helping those in need, Phipps holds non-profit organizations in high regard.


“I really saw the effectiveness of NPOs,” she says.


Phipps plans to attend UNC Chapel Hill to major in global business. Eventually, she’d like to manage a non-profit that focuses on improving the physical and spiritual conditions of others.


In this philosophy, her church, Cooper’s Gap Baptist Church, has always been supportive. She traces the formation of her faith to her involvement in the church.


Her faith has led her to become a leader in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes where, in that role, she coordinates meetings on Friday mornings.


“It’s really awesome on Friday mornings, to see students from different groups of friends come together around one common love of Christ,” she says.

FCA sponsor, Will Pack, Polk’s assistant soccer coach, helped coordinate Sarah’s first mission trip in the summer of 2011. She has a great deal of gratitude for Pack and others who have supported her activities.


“They saw something in me that others didn’t see the possibility of. I’m really thankful for the opportunities.”


Other activities in which Phipps is involved include Key Club, with class co-president Emily Kocher. Key Club is an international organization affiliated with Kiwanis Club.


Many Key Club activities raise money for Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry, which provides tangible support for hundreds of Polk County residents. Faculty member Angie McCammon is the school’s Key Club liaison.


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