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LIZTON, Ind. — Even before the coronavirus pandemic, high school was known for having ups and downs, but there was always one constant for Maddie Elam.

“I had a really great group of friends,” she recalls. “I think just having those relationships really helped get me through everything that was thrown at me.”

Maddie has many reasons to be proud. The recipient of the school’s distinguished young woman award is also a National Honors Society member and winner of a state volleyball sectional.

However, if you ask Maddie what she is proud of the most, it is not any award or accolade.

“The organizations I was a part of, obviously they’re important to me and I think they’re important for my future, but what matters most to me is my relationships,” she says. “No matter what life throws at me, I know I always have those people beside me.”

Over the last four years, she’s worked to be that friend to others. It started with the freshmen she mentored.

“I really wanted to make it a priority to reach out to the underclassmen and let them know they are loved and they are cared about,” she explains. “If they ever needed anything, they could reach out to me.”

She didn’t stop at the school. On the day of the week, seniors are allowed to arrive late, but Maddie got up early.

She volunteered at local middle and elementary schools teaching Spanish.

She served on mission trips to countries like Guatemala and St. Vincent.

For Maddie Elam, high school was about focusing on the things that are important, the things that will last. A practice that came in handy during weeks of prolonged isolation.

“My advice is to rely the people close to you whether that’s your family, whether that’s your friends if it’s a mentor,” she says to those struggling through the pandemic. “It’s okay to rely on others and let them encourage you and the support they give you is a game-changer.”

Maddie will head to Cedarville University in the fall. She says the bonds she formed with her friends, whether in school or in church small groups, will last for years to come.