Every student at Stone Bridge High School knows Stephen Allred. For the past two years, Allred has done the weather during his school’s morning announcements, amusing his fellow students with jokes, alliterations and his energetic personality.
"I just wanted to go in and spice it up," he said. "Give it some life."
When Allred talks about the farewell speech he gave during the announcements Thursday, June 7, he gets quiet and just a little sad.
"I am going to miss it," he said.
Allred will join the other members of the Class of 2007 one last time, at Stone Bridge’s graduation ceremony June 19. For all of his sadness, however, Allred is looking toward the future and all he plans to do. He will be the latest of his six siblings to attend Brigham Young University in Utah, the college his parents both attended as well, where he plans to study biology and genetics.
"I am excited, a little apprehensive, a little scared," he said. "But I’ve come a long way, I’ll say that."
AT 23 MONTHS, Allred was diagnosed with juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma, the most common type of childhood brain tumor, in his left front lobe. A successful surgery removed most of the tumor, but could not remove the entire mass because of danger to Allred.
"They had to cut through some of my nerve endings, which weakened my right side," he said.
When Allred was 5 years old, the tumor returned and he underwent a second surgery. His illness, however, did not slow him down.
"I can run, I can ride bikes," he said. "I could do everything."
In 2005, a cyst grew in his left front lobe, which had to be drained. That was Allred’s last surgery until last month, when the cyst grew back.
On May 30, Allred underwent surgery to drain the cyst once more. This time the doctors put a reservoir in his head, so if the cyst returned in the future it could be drained without operating. Less than a week after surgery, Allred was back at school, finishing out his senior year.
"I had a normal childhood," he said. "But I look at life in a totally different manner, very optimistically."
ALLRED’S ATTITUDE comes as no surprise to those that know him best. David Keller directed Allred, who plays the French horn, in the band for four years.
"Stephen has always been very positive," Keller said. "I’ve never seen Stephen let anything get in his way."
His sophomore year, when Allred wanted to be a part of the marching band, Keller said, he brought the idea up, saying, "I think I can do it, do you think I can?"
"We had to figure out different ways for him to hold the instrument while walking because of his weak side," Keller said. "But he came up with a way to make it work that didn’t stand out from everyone else in the band."
IT IS HIS family and their faith that has given Allred his strength and his ability to believe in the future and when he talks about them, Allred’s face lights up.
"We do everything together," Allred said of his family. "We are tied together closely by our church."
Allred and his family are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Allred said it is the Gospel that has given him the ability to persevere.
"When we are resurrected not a hair on our head will be missing and I will have use of my right side," he said. "I can’t wait for that."
The family turned to their faith again when Allred’s father, Kirk Allred, died from complications of leukemia in 2002. Allred, who was in seventh grade at the time, said it was hard for him in the beginning, but soon he came to peace with it.
"I am so grateful for the time I had with my father," he said. "He was an amazing person."
Allred said his faith teaches him that the family will be sealed together forever and so his father is still a part of him.
"I believe and like to know that my father still knows about me and still loves me," he said.
FOR ALL THAT he has faced, however, talking with Allred about his life, he focuses only on his illness and his father’s death for a short while. He chooses instead to talk about the things he loves to do. Allred sung in both Stone Bridge’s men’s choir and the chamber choir. He enjoys acting, taking part in as many plays as he can with the Pickwick Players in Purcellville.
"I love music and singing," he said. "It makes me so happy."
Keller said he is impressed with how Allred has grown over the last four years, steadily becoming more outgoing and letting his humorous personality shine through.
"He’s really just fun," Keller said. "He makes the other students laugh with the things he says."
Keller said he hopes that other students who have known Allred will look to him as a model for not letting anything stand in their way.
"I hope they look at him and see that if you set a goal and really put in the work, there’s truly not a lot that can hold you back," Keller said. "Even as a teacher, Stephen is a reminder constantly."
In the immediate future, however, Allred is focused only on college and the chance to travel abroad on a mission with his church.
"I have my life planned out," he said. "Now let’s just see what happens."