Emma Chapman
Reminder Publishing submitted photo

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Emma Chapman was in the car with her mother on the way to being dropped off at West Springfield Middle School in June when mom told Emma the principal wanted to see the eighth grader that morning.

“I got all nervous because I’ve never been sent to the office before, but she told me it was a good thing,” said Chapman. “I walked into school all stressed out. But Dr. [Peter] Gillen walked into my homeroom, took me out and told me I won an award. I didn’t even know there was an award for eighth graders,” she told Reminder Publishing.

Chapman had become only the fourth student at the school, in the last 50 years, to win a Distinguished Student Award from the New England League of Middle Schools. The award recognizes grade 5-8 students who demonstrate exemplary qualities such as teamwork, positivity, dependability, productivity empathy for others and respect for diversity.

“I was very excited. It took me a while to register, because I didn’t realize how rare it was, but I was very proud of receiving the award,” she said.

The league bestows honors to students nominated by their teachers. Gillen said a number of them raised their hands to nominate Chapman.

“Multiple teachers noted she is one of the kindest students they had ever met. That’s part of what put her over the top,” he said. “I’m incredibly proud. Our school and community are bettered by Emma’s presence, by the way she carries herself and by her contributions.”

Honored to win

Chapman and school officials said the 14-year-old has just been inducted into the National Junior Honor Society, earns straight A’s and very often wins student of the quarter for her academic performance. She plays several sports and rides horses as a hobby. She also treasures the volunteer work she does as part of the honor society.

“Emma is phenomenal. She’s always winning all kinds of awards and recognition because she’s such a special girl,” said guidance counselor Amanda Hernandez. “She has always been exceedingly kind, gone out of her way to do the right thing and to be nice. She has a glow about her that’s really special. She excels academically and is always crushing it. There’s not one thing that isn’t better because Emma has touched it.”

Chapman said being involved in so many activities, and driving herself to perform at such high levels, not only inspires her to go even further — it’s just good for her.

“I like being busy, because I get really nervous and anxious if I’m not. Having something to work on really helps me because then I’m not just thinking I should be doing something. I really focus on my grades, because it’s important to me, and if something bad happens, I always try to fix it,” she said.

Cool to be kind

Sometimes it is the so-called mean kids that bully their way into the news. Chapman, however, is finding kindness is a better way.

“If you’re positive, it will make situations better, because not all situations are bad. In this generation, a lot of things are negative, there’s a lot of stuff that’s happening in the world that’s not good,” she said. “I try to stay on the positive side, because even if most things are bad, there’s always something good, like friends or experiences.”

Chapman said she is excited about entering West Springfield High School in the fall. She wants to meet new people, take different classes and enjoy the freedom that comes becoming a young adult. But while she lives in the moment, she is always planning ahead.

“There’s so much to live for. Creating a base and a structure and getting everything ready when you’re younger will help you a lot when you’re older. You’ve got to live your life to the fullest, it’s important,” she said.

Chapman’s ambition is to attend Tufts University and become a veterinarian. There’s only thing standing in the way of that dream.

“I’m not good with blood, so I really have to think that through. But I do know I’m going to try to work with animals, because I’ve always had a love for them,” she said.

It’s unlikely a little blood will derail Chapman’s dreams — she’ll figure out a way around the problem. She always has, said Hernandez: “I’m really excited to see everything Emma accomplishes in her future.”

Three West Springfield Middle School students won the NELM award last year. They were Abel Varzeas, Madison Laster and Yanellys Nunez, who were eighth graders at the time. a