HANFORD – It's an understatement to say that Lannah Green-Smith was happy to be the homecoming queen her senior year at Kings Christian School.
The 19-year-old, who graduated last week, was positively elated to receive the honor from her peers at a basketball game in February.
She's come a long way, literally and figuratively, from her native country of Kazakhstan and the circumstances of her birth.
She has no memory of her biological parents and knows next to nothing about who they were or what happened to them.
To this day, her only memory of Kazakhstan is of the orphanage where she lived before her American parents adopted her at the age of 5 and brought her to America.
For her, family is the household she was raised in the U.S.
Currently, she lives in Lemoore with her older sister, Talia.
Her dad, Mickey Smith, lives in Hanford.
Her mother, Rhonda Green, died of cancer in 2015.
The two divorced before Green died. Lannah hyphenates her name as a way of honoring both parents.
Together, Green and Smith adopted a total of nine children, meaning Lannah has eight siblings.
Lannah's life has given her some extraordinary experiences.
She was born with fingers and toes fused together. After several surgeries in the U.S., she can move them independently, but it can be a challenge to do things like note-taking that require manual dexterity.
Nonetheless, she's learned how to, for example, shoot a basketball. She was on the team at Kings Christian.
Lannah has difficulty processing language, meaning school work can be a struggle.
She was home-schooled through her freshman year, then transitioned to Kings Christian, where she found support and encouragement.
She needed it. Her mother died during her sophomore year.
The cancer came out of the blue.
"Nobody expected that to happen to her," Lannah said.
Lannah moved into her older sister Talie Risley's Lemoore home (Risley had gotten married).
Lannah struggled to cope with her mother's death.
Her attention at school wavered, and her grades suffered. She needed total focus and had to constantly seek out other's help. Things started to slip.
Lannah formed a special bond with Diana Reynolds, her English teacher at Kings Christian.
The two prayed together regularly.
Slowly, Lannah stopped dwelling on her mother's death and started focusing more and more on what she needed to do in her own life.
"I sort of stopped thinking about it," she said. "I knew that my mom was going to heaven and that I'll see her again. I really hold onto that."
While she has struggled in language-heavy subjects, math and numbers are one of Lannah's strengths.
Ask her when something happened, and she gives specific dates.
She can pretty much tell you the birthdays of all 47 of her fellow seniors at Kings Christian.
"I really enjoy numbers," she said, flashing the patented Lannah Green-Smith smile.
Her senior year, she buckled down and got serious about her grades.
The result was a 4.0 in her final semester.
To get there required a lot of extra work, including FaceTime sessions with study mates.
Lannah admits to feeling a bit stressful about going to college, but that hasn't stopped her from planning to attend West Hills College Lemoore in the fall to take accounting classes.
"I have a lot of opportunities ahead of me," she said.
Her final semester at Kings Christian included one more challenge thrown her way.
As an athlete on the team, she collapsed at a basketball game in Farmersville with a perforated stomach ulcer.
She was in the hospital for a week.
Teachers and friends wanted so badly for her to attend homecoming and receive the award, they somehow got her released briefly to attend the event.
She went right back into the hospital after the ceremony.
Once she got out, she was still out of school for weeks.
To teacher Dawn Sparks, it makes Lannah's 4.0 GPA that much more remarkable.
"She was able to come back from that and work her tail off," Sparks said.
The unknowns of the future make Lannah a little nervous, but her hopeful spirit – well, that can't be repressed.
"I want to become an accountant," she said, grinning.