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Sophomore pursues volunteer hour record
4 Volunteer pic
Katelyn Hardegree, 17, volunteers with Dawson County Emergency Services. - photo by For the Dawson Community News

A sophomore is well on her to way to breaking the volunteer record for students at Dawson County High School.

As of Tuesday, Katelyn Hardegree had clocked more than 1,000 service hours.

"I was told the record is about 1,250, but I'm not going to stop there. I'm going to continue to push myself," the 17-year-old said. "By the time I graduate, hopefully, I'll have 4,000 hours at the max or about 3,000 in the minimum. I want to set a higher bar."

Mother Donnia Hardegree has no doubt her daughter will far exceed that goal.

"I'm extremely proud of her," she said. "I'm proud of all my kids and how they've overcome with what they have been through."

The family adversity to which she was referring has, over the past four years, included a house fire, divorce, foreclosure and suicide.

"I've always told my kids that God won't give you what you can't handle, and she's handled it," Donnia Hardegree said.

Katelyn Hardegree said the obstacles, as well as negative comments afterward at school, have boosted her drive to succeed.

She set out to prove she could be something more by becoming involved in numerous school activities.

"I started by managing soccer, because my brother was on the soccer team," she said.

She later expanded her reach to the football and basketball teams, the Health Occupations Students of America and the Explorers, a program sponsored by Dawson County Emergency Services that introduces youth to the fire service.

After just seven months with the program, Katelyn Hardegree was named Explorer of the Year.

It was during her time as an explorer that she found her latest volunteer passion: a position with the department known as third rider. It allows her to experience and learn life-saving techniques.

"Once we get a call, I jump in the back in the captain's seat in the ambulance," she said. "I'm normally the person that grabs the jump bag that's sitting there right beside me. I open the door and I go with them on anything they do."

Riding along on emergency calls has increased her interest in pursuing a career in the medical field, a notion that makes Chief Lanier Swafford proud.

"We are happy as a department that we can provide an opportunity for our young people to learn about what we do and how we serve the community," he said.

"Hopefully, this will entice them to come on and be a part of the department whether it's as a volunteer or as in a career position."