You’re going to have to find a new gear if you’re going to outwork Christian Duplayee, Class of ‘23. There’s just no ‘quit’ in this Senior Vandal. He learned the value of hard work from his family and from his community, and he’s made it a priority to give back by paying it forward.
His Eagle Scout project, for instance— a memorial garden at Lighthouse Pregnancy and Health Services— is just one example of Christian’s giving heart. He tells me he wanted to create a special place where people hurting from the loss of their infants could go to hold them in prayer or in their memories. That says a lot about this young man. But when I asked him how he’d describe his community to a hypothetical stranger in, say, Florida ten years from today, he confirmed that empathy and compassion were among his core values, explaining how the people of Vandalia come together for one another and how much he appreciates that. Best of all is that he is seemingly unaware— or too humble to acknowledge— just how much he has become part of that tightly-knit community fabric.
It’s May 11th, and when I notice his Vandalia Track and Field t-shirt, our conversation turns to athletics. I remember from our first meeting, during his late April portrait session, that he is a pole vaulter and I ask him how his season is going. He tells me that he’s moved from 10’ 3” to 11’ 6” since we last spoke, but that progress didn’t always come so easily. To my surprise, he tells me that when he was younger, he wasn’t much of an athlete, but that, thanks to his youth coaches in the community, he learned to work hard at it. “They pushed me to be my best, even when my best wasn’t very good,” he told me. And that’s when it got interesting. “As a freshman, I broke my hand at wrestling practice, which knocked me out of sports for the rest of the year. Then, as I came back in my sophomore year,” he tells me, “I broke my left thumb 14 seconds into my first match of the year. That was my dominant hand, but I held on to win the match anyway. I just wasn’t going to give up.” Indeed, his habit of persisting has served Christian quite well across the entire spectrum of life, not only as an athlete. This past Spring, he represented Vandalia in pole vault at the State track and field competition, and came within 1.25 inches of the finals round. He’ll be back next year. Because he persists. Because he never quits.
He keeps his academic shoulder to the wheel, too. Christian credits Mrs. Marlow for his success in College Algebra and for his ability to use math like a second language. Growing up around automotive tech, teardowns, and builds has inspired an interest in solving mechanical problems, and math almost always plays a role. His grandfather drag races at Gateway, and Christian loves helping him get the car ready. He says he’d like to stay in the area, once he graduates from high school, and has hopes of pursuing a future in mechanical engineering. It’s easy to see why— he’s been tinkering with cars and other mechanical doo-dads all his life and he has a real knack for spotting and resolving problems. Wherever Christian’s path may lead, it’s a fair bet it will be paved with empathy, compassion, and persistence.