The Capstone Project is the senior project for Christian Academy of Knoxville high school students, a requirement for graduation. But before I begin to explain, I first would like to ask the question: what is a capstone?
A capstone, when taken from a life standpoint, is the high point or crowning achievement of one’s life, or in our case, our high school career. Our assignment was to pursue our passions, and use our gifts, whatever they may be, to help others in our community.
It has been said, “He who buries his talent is making a grave mistake.”
In class, we were given a spiritual gifts test. This test gave basic statements, such as “I enjoy doing little things to help people,” and we were instructed to evaluate the statements and decide on a scale of 1 – 5 whether we agree or disagree with the statement (1 meaning disagree and 5 meaning agree). When we were finished, we were given our results. My highest spiritual gifts are server and encourager. Keeping this in mind, I was told to list out several passions I have. The first thing that came to mind was soccer. Being an avid soccer player since the age of four, this was no surprise. Putting together my passion for soccer and my gift for serving, I thought about being a coach for an inner city soccer team, or even running a little soccer camp with some friends. But this just didn’t seem right.
I listed out another passion of mine: flying. I have always dreamed of flying, and since it is my life goal to attend the United States Air Force Academy and later serve in the Air Force, this seemed like a good idea. So I researched the topic a little. It just so happens that flying lessons cost a great deal of money, money that I did not have. I could raise money, but who would want to donate money for a kid wanting to get his pilot’s license? It wasn’t helping anyone, so why bother? Another plan out the window.
The last passion I wrote down that day in school was hiking. Every summer since 5th grade, when we went to visit my family in Gig Harbor, Washington, my uncle would take all the cousins out for a hike. It was never a difficult hike, considering I had cousins who were four or five years old at the time. Nevertheless, I enjoyed every minute of it. You could say that hiking is a passion of mine. In the summer of 2012, my uncle asked me a big question. He wanted to take me on a hike up Mt. Rainier, a 14,411 ft mountain in Washington. I of course, immediately agreed. It did take a little while to convince my parents that I was absolutely serious about this and I most certainly would take up the training to prepare for climbing a mountain. I knew that after discussing with my parents that this would be my capstone project, but I was missing one vital piece to the project. Somehow, I had to tie in a community service aspect to my project.
The Peak for Parker
How does Parker fit in to all of this? I am so glad you asked. Parker and I were very close friends in 6th grade. We hung out as much as my soccer-committed life and his baseball-committed life would let us. After 6th grade, I ended up changing schools, as a result for the poor performance from a teacher and the desire for a Christian education. Parker and I rarely saw each other or heard from one another after 6th grade. Freshman year at CAK, I did hear some talk about Parker, about how he was diagnosed with some sort of disease. I didn’t think much of it, as I, too, was going through life with many medical inconveniences, resulting in two surgeries. I was ignorant of the disease from which he suffered; I figured that he would bounce back just as I had. Talk died down, and I did not hear of him again.
October of 2012, my junior year in high school, while with friends at the CAK Homecoming dance, I saw a boy about my age in a wheelchair. It’s very hard to describe what I saw, but what I saw tore a hole in my heart. I felt the sudden urge to do everything I could to help this boy. I did some asking around, and I eventually learned that this boy was Parker Smith. I could not believe it! I knew he had a disease, but I had no idea that it had taken his ability to walk and talk and restricted most his movement. After homecoming, I knew that I had to help Parker. I knew that I had to create and lead some type of fundraiser to help raise money for Parker and his family, but I had no idea how. It was at this point that my mother came to my rescue. She came up with the idea to link my passion of hiking with my spiritual gift of serving. She was the one who suggested the idea of me being sponsored to hike up Mt. Rainier and to donate all money collected to Parker and his family. Once I began researching my project, I knew that this is what God was leading me to do. This was the beginning of the Peak for Parker.