The top student in this year’s graduating class at Coastal Christian School said she plans to study nursing, which she said will help her not only in her career but in future overseas missions trips.

Jaclyn Merrill, 17, of Jefferson has been named the valedictorian for Coastal Christian School’s class of 2011. She is the daughter of Kenneth and Bonnie Merrill.

The four members of this year’s senior class graduated May 26.

Merrill said she is headed to Husson University in Bangor in the fall to study nursing. The graduate hopes for a career as a neonatal nurse.

“My aunt has always been a nurse and I look up to her,” Merrill said. “And I love babies.”

She added that nursing experience would be useful in overseas missions trips.

Merrill already has some experience serving in missions, having traveled to the Dominican Republic in November 2010, where she helped build housing for missionaries and visited a school for children there.

The graduate has a 3.89 grade point average and said her favorite subject in school is Bible.

Her other activities included playing volleyball as a freshman and serving on the yearbook staff.

“I like the fact that it’s a small school, a Christian school,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot more than academics here. I’ve learned the importance of love and friendship, and that’s just as important in life as everything else.”

She said she studied hard and worked for her grades, but she also is grateful to her parents.

“They’ve always been there to support me,” she said. “I couldn’t have gotten where I am without them. They always encouraged me to try my hardest at everything.”