Hannah Fischer had one final test on the day of her graduation, and it was timed.
The Kelly Gene Cook Foundation gave her the option to interview for its scholarship in Jackson on either the Saturday of her graduation from Starkville High School or Sunday of the same weekend, Fischer said. At midnight Saturday, she would be departing for Costa Rica on a mission trip with First United Methodist Church, so Sunday was ruled out.
The only option, then, was a test of both endurance and speed: an early departure from Starkville for an interview in Jackson at 1 p.m., then a rush home to the Humphrey Coliseum for graduation preparation at 4:30, followed by a long ceremony starting at 6 p.m. and the trip to Costa Rica at night. Fischer is no stranger to tests of endurance, however, and she said they have all been worth it.
Fischer is now attending Mississippi State University on a full scholarship from the Cook Foundation that not only covers her room, books and tuition but also pays half the cost of medical school.
Starkville School District public information officer Nicole Thomas said this scholarship, valued at more than $84,000, is highly competitive, but Fischer had an equally competitive resume. Not only was Fischer a member of the SHS Madrigals, the Key Club and more organizations, she said, but she was also co-captain of the cheerleading squad, earning her the titles of Senior of Distinction, Outstanding Senior, and Miss SHS 2012.
Hannah’s mother, Sonya Fischer, said Hannah has also immersed herself in FUMC, not only singing in the church’s youth choir but also going on mission trips every summer since ninth grade. Hannah said one thing has always come before any of her studies or activities, and when she had to write an essay for her scholarship application, she chose that one thing as her topic.
Hannah Fischer wrote about her family — specifically, her mother.
Hannah is the oldest of four sisters, and she was 7 years old when Sonya suffered a heart failure after giving birth to her youngest sister, Maggie Fischer. The incident left Sonya Fischer’s heart permanently limited to 40 percent of normal capacity, Hannah said.
“I remember it being really scary, not really knowing what was going on at the time,” Hannah said. “I remember my parents asking me to be responsible and help out with my younger sisters.”
With one newborn and two twin 2-year-olds to help Sonya Fischer with, Hannah said her home life taught her to manage her priorities and her time. The skill would later serve her well in high school, but at the time, she said, she was primarily focused on living up to her mother’s example.
“My mom is pretty much my best friend,” Hannah said. “She supports me in everything I do. Watching her from when I was a child and she had her heart condition, nothing stops her. She’s shown me the exact kind of person and the exact kind of mom I want to be one day.”
Sonya Fischer said Hannah did not tell her about her essay topic until Hannah asked her to proofread it.
“It brought tears to my eyes the first time I read it,” Sonya Fischer said. “I was very touched that she decided to write it about me. It meant a lot. She was just a really big helper to me with me being as sick as I was. She has just always been that way. It also helped her to be an independent person. She’s very well-rounded.”
Hannah’s father, Tate Fischer, is also a biology teacher and football coach at SHS. He said being both a father and a teacher to Hannah has shown him just how independent and well-rounded Hannah is.
“As her father, I am very proud of the young lady she has become,” Tate Fischer said. “As her teacher, I was highly impressed with how truly intelligent she was. She has the ability to defend her opinions and form her own.”
Tate Fischer said the essay touched him, because it gave him insight into Hannah’s relationship with her mother. Hannah and Sonya have a strong value system and sense of genuineness in common, Tate said, and their hard work at home and dedication to family inspires him.
“They both give (selflessly) of their time and (themselves) to home, church and community,” Tate Fischer said. “Because of all of the medical dramas we’ve had over the years, we’ve had to rely on Hannah to be a rock for her sisters. She has proven over and over that she can be trusted with great responsibilities around the house.”
Hannah said family also shaped her choice of career. One of the twins, Sarah Fischer, had meningitis twice, at the ages of 6 and 7. Children’s doctors in Jackson and Memphis worked with Sarah Fischer, and Hannah said they inspired her to pursue medicine herself.
“The scholarship basically just kind of gave me a chance to go after my goals,” Hannah said. “I want to do something in the medical field, and this is really going to help me. It shows me that hard work and dedication really pay off.”