Editor's note: This is the first installment in Senior Thesis, a series that follows three Lowcountry students throughout their final year of high school as they navigate the ins and outs of senior year and plan the next steps in their journey.
At 17, Rodniqua Brothers seems to have it all figured out.
"Senior year, I just want to go out and have as much fun as possible," she said.
But it's a wonder the St. John's High School student has any time for fun. She's always on the go, balancing her role as co-captain of the varsity cheerleading squad with a long list of other school-related activities: president of the Interact Club, Miss STJ, yearbook committee, softball, track and field, and gospel choir.
When she isn't busy with those extracurriculars, Rodniqua still finds time to serve as a youth usher at St. Stephen AME Church, where she sings in the inspirational choir, completes service hours and undergoes training so that she can represent the church as a debutante in the Edisto District.
Despite it all, Rodniqua insists that school is her first priority.
She decided not to play volleyball this year so that she would have more time to focus on classes, time she's going to need as she's taking on the added challenge of dual-credit courses in biology, math and English.
"I feel like I'm easing into it (college), having taken college classes in high school," Rodniqua said. "By February, I want to have what college I'm going to already planned out and have everything set. I'm hoping that it'll be the wind down from my senior year so that I can have a break and go into college with a big bang."
Sharing a focus
Rodniqua's mother, RoQuelle Saxby, said she's proud of all that her daughter is doing, but she doesn't want her to feel like she's taking on too much.
"As a mom, you want your children to have advantages that you didn't have, and she's definitely heading in the right direction. I just don't want her to get overwhelmed, and she has a problem saying, 'I'm overwhelmed,' " Saxby said.
She said the close-knit environment at St. John's has given her daughter a chance to blossom. She hopes Rodniqua will find a similar environment in college, so they are focusing on smaller schools.
Rodniqua said her first choice would be to attend Coastal Carolina University, where she would study to become a neonatologist.
"I always had a goal, even when I was little. You know how most kids say they want to be a mommy or something? I always wanted to be a doctor," Rodniqua said.
Rodniqua said she draws much of her motivation from her mother, who went back to school as an adult, receiving an associate degree in business in 2009. She currently is pursuing a bachelor's in organizational management that she expects to receive in May, the same time Rodniqua will graduate from high school.
"I must say I'm really proud of my mom because she started her going back to college venture when I just started middle school. After school some days, I would go with her, and I just saw she was working hard," Rodniqua said. "I was so proud because I was basically there with her the whole time -- doing my homework while she was in classes. I think that's what made us so close."
Like a rock
The relationship that Rodniqua shares with her mother and stepfather, Christopher Saxby, isn't strained by the typical angst that comes with the teenage years.
They are close, so much so that Saxby said her daughter feels like she can talk to her about most anything.
"I don't want her to feel like when she leaves home she's free, and to think, 'Mom's not here so I can do this, that and the other.' I want her to be comfortable enough to be able to balance and know, 'I'm in school, and I still have this responsibility, but yet I can still go and have fun.' And to know what her boundaries are," Saxby said.
Saxby said her husband is very protective of Rodniqua, but he agreed that his daughter knows that she can come to them for anything.
"I'm nervous when she just walks out the door, but I know the values we instilled in her. We always taught her there's nothing you can't talk to us about," he said.
Rodniqua said though she's close with her mom, she wouldn't go so far as to say they are best friends.
"Right now, I wouldn't say she's my best friend because your parents aren't supposed to be your best friend. There has to be boundaries. ... I still need her to tell me, 'You need to do this, and you need to do that.' "
However, Saxby said that one day when Rodniqua is older, she suspects that their relationship will grow to that point.
"Rodniqua's been like my rock," Saxby said. "She's always been there for me."
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908.