School: North Mecklenburg High School, Huntersville.
Class rank: No. 2 of 488.
College: UNC Chapel Hill.
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Parents: Grady and Karen Cathey.
Emily's words: "I worked so hard getting back (after a major injury on an athletic field). ... I got through it. I got my grades back up by the end of the year. ...I also learned that it's best to stay a few feet back from the sideline...."
Superlative: Worked hundreds of community service hours.
A concussion and surgery marred Emily Cathey's years at North Mecklenburg High School.
But challenges and setbacks have not stopped the graduating senior from reaching her goals.
Emily came across her first set of challenges in 11th grade, when she suffered a concussion in October while working as an athletic trainer for the junior varsity football team.
During a play, two players running out of bounds knocked her to the ground, giving her a concussion.
A week after the accident, her mother, Karen Cathey, said Emily could not speak in complete sentences, reduced to about 40percent of her cognitive abilities.
After recovering slowly, Emily faced another challenge when she had surgery on her ankle later in the year.
"I don't know how, but she came to school every day, never complained and never asked for special treatment," said Kristi Eglody, the IB counselor who nominated Emily.
"She remained positive in her outlook and met each challenge with a quiet resolve to maintain excellence in all things, which she accomplished."
After graduating, Emily plans to attend UNCChapel Hill and major in biology. She hopes one day to practice emergency medicine or become an orthopedic surgeon.
"She spent the third quarter (of 11th grade) working harder than I have ever seen her work, she was so determined to get back," Karen Cathey said.
Emily said her father, Grady Cathey, jokes about her accident-prone life and says she is trying to decide what field of medicine she should enter.
During high school, Emily spent two years playing the violin in the orchestra and was goalkeeper on the soccer team.
"I was really happy to finish up my junior year and get my grades back up to what they used to be," Emily said.
She said she is looking forward to summer, because she will work as a camp counselor. Then at Chapel Hill, Emily hopes to join a club soccer team.
"She is a bit the unsung hero, always giving 100percent, quietly achieving excellence, never seeking accolades or attention, continually supporting others and always persevering," Eglody said. "She is the student every teacher dreams of having and the child every parent hopes to have."
As for people who influenced her most, Emily said her parents gave her inspiration.
"I couldn't ask for anything better. (My parents) are amazing, and they've supported me so much," Emily said. "I'm just so glad I have both of them in my life."