If you ask Butte Central High School Principal J.P. Williams, 17-year-old junior Sophie “Sully” Sullivan stands out in his fold. “Everything that’s right about young people today you see in this young lady,” he said. Williams describes Sullivan as a “quiet leader” whose actions inspire others. In times calling for positive impact in our cities, nation, and world, Williams foresees Sullivan as an agent of change. “I’m extremely excited about her future,” he said.
Sullivan is a straight-A student and is currently being inducted into the National Honor Society. Her favorite subject is math, and she is also on the volleyball and tennis teams — helping her balance a tough academic regimen with physical activity. “It’s a way to escape. You don’t have to think about anything else — just focus on the game,” she said.
In addition to classwork and sports, Sullivan is dedicated to enriching her community and has been a student council representative and has served in a broader sense through Key Club and the school’s annual Thanksgiving dinners and clothes drives. “I think no matter where you go, you’ll get a good education, but here you are connected like family,” she said.
Earlier this year, Sullivan’s altruistic streak led her to travel to Ghana, West Africa. A family friendship with the Bartoletti family presented the opportunity for Sullivan to travel abroad with Dr. Tom Bartoletti of Sheridan and her father, Brian Sullivan. She traveled to Ghana where she served as a volunteer with the Montana Dental Outreach Teams. “I was the youngest person ever taken on one of these trips,” Sullivan said.
While in Ghana, Sullivan worked with dentists, doctors, and nurses helping with cleanings, medical paperwork, and a foot surgery. During her eight days on the continent, she spent much time at an orphanage — the Sang Village Community of the Nazareth’s Home for God’s Children run by Rev. Sister Stan Terese Mario Mumuni of the Marian Sisters of Eucharistic Love. The contrast to American life was enlightening. “It makes you very appreciative of what we have,” she said. “The material things aren’t what make us happy — because we have everything, and they have nothing, and they are the happiest people I’ve met in life,” Sullivan added. Her performance working with professionals and patients impressed the medical team and her father. “I was really proud of her,” he said.
It should be noted that throughout her secondary-school experience, Sullivan has maintained this level of excellence and community and global involvement despite facing some of her own medical challenges. Since grade 7, Sullivan has endured several surgeries, including two for a congenital joint condition that involved a lengthy recovery and extended physical therapy. Throughout the process, she remained focused and pushed herself through. “I don’t want it to prevent me from living my life,” she said. Sullivan’s mom, Shannon, was proud of her daughter’s attitude when facing adversity. “She handled it like a trooper,” she said.
As a junior, Sullivan still has some time before she chooses a career path. With her interest in math, Sullivan had been considering a future in engineering but said her time in Africa has her contemplating the medical field as well. Whatever career path she chooses, it’s certain that the field and the world will be better for her contributions.