A slight of a girl, Rochester sat poised at the edge of a bench as though the wind would scoop her up at any second. Her delicate fingers fluttered through pages of a notebook as the Princess Anne High School (PAHS) senior gathered her classwork and her thoughts before beginning the day.
At 18, she is a high-flyer in the International Baccalaureate program at PAHS; a member of the volleyball and forensics teams; is in the National Honor Society; volunteers with Operation Smile; participates in the Student Council Association and the Class Council and has earned her Gold Award from the Girl Scouts. Rochester has already been accepted to Howard and James Madison universities and is seeking a presidential nomination for the Air Force Academy. She dreams of being a diplomat or an ambassador.
But that’s only a small part of what makes this self-proclaimed “military brat” a dynamo. Rochester’s true mark has been made through her work to educate her fellow teens about depression and suicide. Early on in her high school career, Rochester lost someone she knew to suicide. She got involved with the I Need a Lighthouse organization and began reaching out to let struggling teens know they are not alone.
“I Need a Lighthouse taught me that I have a voice that matters and that I can hopefully make a difference in someone’s life,” she said. “I kind of made it my mission to get out there and let my voice be heard.”
Still, Rochester didn’t feel she was doing enough and wanted to get more PAHS students involved in the cause. Last year she started the PAHS Lighthouse Psychology Club with a mission to fight the stigma of mental illness and to raise awareness of community resources for those in need – especially teenagers.
Nurturing the organization and using it to shed light on mental illness and teen suicide for her fellow Cavaliers has become Rochester’s true passion.
“It is so important that people recognize that teenage depression and mental illness are real problems and not something to hide or be ashamed of,” she said. “Who better to be there for teens than other teens? We need to help each other and make it known that it’s okay to speak up and speak out.”
The Lighthouse Psychology Club works with established organizations such as the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) and I Need a Lighthouse to bring speakers to Princess Anne on topics related to mental impairment and mental illness. As president, Rochester is the impetus behind the club’s community outreach activities and earlier this year single-handedly organized the city-wide event “A Mob with a Cause”. The well-attended event brought in guest speakers and provided yet another educational outreach to the teen community.
Humble and unassuming, Rochester smiled and waved away any mention of her leaving a legacy at PAHS.
“I found my passion and I pursued it,” she said. “I want to inspire people to live their lives to make a difference. I didn’t do anything that other students wouldn’t do given the opportunity.”
Princess Anne faculty member Betsy Fuqua, however, see’s Rochester in a different light.
“This club will continue after Alexia’s graduation next month because of her hard work and dedication to its establishment at PA,” said Betsy Fuqua, IB psychology teacher and I Need a Lighthouse sponsor. “Alexia definitely keeps PA on ‘true North.’”
Compass Keeper Q&A:
What is your favorite book?
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
What is your favorite television show?
It’s a tie between CSI Las Vegas and Criminal Minds.
What is your pet peeve?
I hate it when you are driving and the person in front of you has a taillight out — I just want to run up there and tell them!
What is your strength?
I think I am pretty good at understanding people and where they are coming from, even if we are different.
What is your weakness?
Mint chocolate chip ice cream — I could eat it all day every day!
*Do you know someone who should be featured as a Compass Keeper? Send your nomination to firstname.lastname@example.org.