BURLEY — Emily Hepworth graduated in the top 10 of her class Thursday at Burley High School after undergoing three surgeries in three years, including a brain surgery that caused her to miss numerous days of school.
Hepworth, 18, was one 210 students to cross the stage in the school gymnasium to collect a diploma.
“I’ve worked really hard and it’s nice to be recognized like that,” Hepworth said about finding out she was graduating in the top 10 of her class. “I went to school for years with many of the students in the top 10 and we’ve been in the same classes. It’s really exciting.”
Hepworth overcame health challenges that included having brain surgery at the end of her junior year to correct an abnormality where her cerebellum extended into her spinal cord.
She will now continue to have headaches for the remainder of her life due to the condition.
“But, they’re treatable,” she said.
She also had gallbladder surgery last year, and as a sophomore she had endometriosis so severe she could not sit during her classes.
“I had to stand up, but the teachers were really great about it,” Hepworth said. “The teachers at Burley High School are incredible. If you are invested in your work, they’ll work with you to help you succeed.”
Prior to her brain surgery, Hepworth’s teachers allowed her to take her final exams early, which helped her to stay on track academically.
“I’m doing really well now,” she said.
Hepworth is the daughter of Rebecca and Greg Hepworth.
“Emily has been a very determined girl ever since she was born,” Rebecca Hepworth said. “She just pushes through and there are no excuses.”
On the day she took her AP English exam, she was having such a severe headache she could hardly see, Rebecca Hepworth said.
“She still rocked that exam,” Hepworth said. “We are so very proud of her. It’s been a pleasure to have her in our home. We just have to remember to step out of her way and see where she goes.”
Craig Mills, Burley High senior American government teacher, taught Hepworth in a College of Southern Idaho dual credit class.
“She is an incredible student,” Mills said. “She is one of the sharpest kids I’ve ever taught. She works so hard and it just comes naturally to her. I think because she’s so intelligent, everything just sticks.”
Rebecca Hepworth said the teachers at Burley High have been “unbelievably understanding and kind.”
“They have just bent over backward to help her,” she said.
For Hepworth, the best part of high school was participating in the school clubs like the Business Professionals of America, the speech and debate club, and drama, where she was in six plays, including “Suite Surrender” and “Terror by Gaslight.” Her favorite role was playing Claudia McFadden in “Sweet Surrender.”
“It was a new character for me and I got to sing. It was a lot of fun,” she said.
Prior to the health concerns, she was also involved in sports.
Hepworth was accepted to Brigham Young University, which she plans to attend this summer. She also plans to go on a mission for her church.
“I am really excited to move forward with my life. It’s going to be great and it’s time to be done with high school and move on,” Hepworth said.