This the sixteenth of 20 profiles about The Gazette's Best and Brightest Class of 2014.
Savanna Smoker feels she's a stronger person because of her mother's rocky childhood.
"A life of hard work and happiness, not hardship, is the message my mother embodies," she said.
Her mom's struggles included her parents divorcing by the time she was 5, her father dying from leukemia several years later, and surviving an abusive stepfather.
"Despite difficulties, she faces her past with determination by creating a stable, supportive and loving environment for my dad, my brother and me," Smoker said. "It has been made clear to me how a life of struggle can become a privileged life - the privileged life I have been given."
Her mom has been open with her about her struggles, which Smoker says has strengthened her emotional awareness and shown her how to use humor for levity.
"My mom - over the past 10 years or so - realized the importance of discussing emotions, to not be so guarded. She's instilled that into me," she said. "And I really want to emphasize my sense of humor. It's quirky like my mom's. It's almost a play on logic. We laugh a lot."
Besides her mom, 18-year-old Smoker has several aunts who have impacted her. One aunt has trouble building relationships with people because she suffers from schizophrenia, "demonstrating to me the necessity and value of human connection," Smoker said.
Another aunt has an impoverished life after an abusive marriage, which has taught the teen compassion and empathy.
Another aunt has undergone 17 major surgeries, a coma and forced retirement, "displaying to me the necessity of perseverance and finding purpose in life," Smoker said.
She is grateful for the insights her mother and aunts have given her.
"I am driven despite the hardship experienced by these women. They are happy. We are strong," she said. "And it is with this strength that I challenge myself for more in life, something bigger than myself, built on the lessons of the women who I love and admire."
AIR ACADEMY HIGH SCHOOL
Parents: Daniel and Michelle Smoker
College plans: Committed to Case Western Reserve University; scholarship-University Scholar Award; intended major, biochemistry
pre-health and minor in Spanish.
Other: Summa cum laude speaker for graduation ceremony; AP scholar with honor; Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council; Track and field, varsity letter; Varsity cross country, team captain.