LEE CHRISTIAN SCHOOL: Katie Thomas looking forward to what 'God has in store' at Liberty

Jun. 04, 2013 @ 06:31 PM

For one senior at Lee Christian School, it's all about spreading the message.

Katie Thomas, 17, knows that she's going to Liberty University in the fall to study graphic design. What comes afterward, she said, is up to God. But she said she thinks he will use her to get the good news out to people all over — something she's fairly familiar with already.

Thomas was drawn to Lynchburg, Va.-based Liberty — founded by Jerry Falwell in 1971 as an evangelical Christian college — specifically for its focus on evangelism, she said. As for graphic design, she has always loved art and has also always been curious about the behind-the-scenes work in special effects, advertising and more.

In addition to studying graphics and immersing herself further in her conservative Southern Baptist roots, Thomas said she would also love to work as a youth minister. She has spent the past several years going on week-long mission trips to poor areas in the Southeast with other teens, where they repair dilapidated houses and conduct worship services.

That experience, she said, convinced her to try to keep working to spread the Gospel and also help others, whether in her personal or professional life. The details aren't ironed out yet, but she's not worried.

"I'm pretty much letting God handle whatever opens up for me after college," Thomas said.

Her mom, Leigh Ann Thomas, a gym and health teacher at Lee Christian, started working at the school 12 years ago — right when Katie began kindergarten — in order to be closer to her youngest child. She said the family has always been tight-knit, but she didn't want to talk about how she's anticipating being an empty-nester. Instead, she said that wherever her daughter ends up will be a better place for having her, whether it's Lynchburg, Sanford or elsewhere.

"Katie has a unique, creative flair, especially in how she communicates with people," she said. "She has a kind, tender heart, and she always knows what someone needs to hear."

And as much as Katie jokes about being more than ready to leave Sanford and explore somewhere new, she said one of Liberty's key selling points was that it's only about three hours away, and that she already knows several people at the school from her church, Cool Springs Baptist, and Lee Christian.

That Lee Christian family will certainly be missed as well, she said, especially because about half the 17-person senior class, including Katie, has been together since kindergarten. She also said her dad is at Central Carolina Community College continuing his education, and he suggested one day that he'd actually join her in Lynchburg, but she gently let him down.

"When I decided to go to Liberty he said, 'Hey, maybe I can enroll and come and live there with you,'" she said. "I was like, 'How about you take online classes instead?'"

But whether they're physically together, connected online or staying in touch via phone or weekend visits, Leigh Ann said she knows the family will always be close due to their shared love of Christ. And because Katie's leaving to learn how to better spread the message of Christ's love, she said, she's confident her daughter will find success and happiness.

"That's just my plan," Katie said, considering whether she would combine her academic skills with her faith-based goals, into something like a Christian film or advertising campaign. "We'll see what God has in store for me."