Holland, Decker to remain in Va. for college

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 13, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Like brother, like sister.

Just as her brother Colin was last year, Laura Decker will be the Lakeland High School salutatorian this time around. &uot;My parents always encouraged my brother and I, but there was never real pressure,&uot; says Decker, who finishes her high school career with a grade point average (GPA) of 4.30. &uot;I did well because I could, and anything less wouldn’t have been to my full potential.&uot;

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She certainly hit that on almost every level. Besides making straight A’s all the way through high school, Decker has maintained a 100 average in English this year, and was named the top science student by the science department (she took advanced placement [AP] environmental science and physics in her senior year).

A member of the band club, yearbook and newspaper staff and anchor club, Decker starred on the Lakeland fields, captaining the varsity soccer and volleyball squads, and running cross-country.

Unlike her brother, who headed to William and Mary, Decker plans to attend the University of Virginia (which also carries the Cavalier moniker). &uot;When I went to U.Va., I just felt like it was where I belonged. I have lots of ambition, and I’m just waiting to see what strikes my fancy.

&uot;High school was the best four years of my life,&uot; she says, a trace of emotion creeping into her voice. &uot;I was perfectly happy the whole time. I’ve made some of the best friends I ever had, or will ever have. I got as much as I could get from Lakeland. Hopefully, when I get to college, I’ll have the new best four years of my life.&uot;

Though Decker and Mercedes Holland were classmates at Lakeland, they’ll become inadvertent rivals in college; Holland, who carried a 4.31 GPA to the valedictorian honor, will be studying environmental science at Virginia Tech.

Afterward, she might go to Yale University’s law school. &uot;I always liked politics, and I’m interested in science,&uot; says Holland, who found inspiration in the story of Erin Brockovich, the woman whose investigations revealed that the health of countless people in and around the Hinckley, Calif. area had been devastated by the effects of Chromium 6, a toxin leaked into the ground by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s Compressor Station.

In the end, the utility company was forced to dole out $333 million, the largest settlement in U.S. history (Julia Roberts won an Oscar for playing Brockovich in a 2000 biopic).

But her influence has already been felt throughout Suffolk. Holland is the founder and president of the Heart-to-Heart community service organization, which fielded 10 members last season.

The club logged over 150 hours helping children and the elderly. Holland also tutored Carrsville Elementary School third- and fifth-graders in math and science. &uot;Sometimes all they need is a little personal help,&uot; she says.

Besides founding the Heart-to-Heart, Holland is a three-year member of the debate team and two-year member of the Forensic team and color guard. She’s on the Cavalier Community magazine staff, and was the editor and five-year member of the Kiwanis Key Club.

During her years at Lakeland, Holland took AP courses in chemistry, calculus, government, English and environmental science.

She also took dual-credit courses (those that count for both high school and college credit) in history and psychology.