Local students were among nearly 350 from all across North Carolina who graduated as members of the residential Class of 2019 of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics on the school’s Durham campus Saturday, May 25.
Students with high abilities in math and science began their studies at their local high school, then as sophomores applied to the selective world-class public high school with statewide reach. Those accepted lived on the Durham campus in dormitories during their junior and senior years, taking high-level classes in not just science, technology, engineering, and mathematics but also in the humanities. The state of North Carolina and private, philanthropic donors made this possible at no cost to the students for tuition, room, board, or books.
Student Preethi Konduri of Morrisville delivered the student address and will be attending UNC-Charlotte in the fall.
“The state has invested so much in me throughout my elementary, middle, and high school education,” she said prior to addressing her fellow graduates. “It doesn’t make sense for me personally to go to a different college [out of state] and work somewhere else.”
Each year the graduation ceremony at NCSSM provides a concentrated snapshot of the intellect found throughout North Carolina’s schools. Three-quarters of the state’s counties and every region in the state were represented by the graduating class, with the student body hailing from 181 urban, suburban and rural high schools.
Konduri said she experienced a range of emotions as she grew personally and academically during the last two years as part of a community of smart, caring, and motivated peers.
“We reached out to each other, empathized with each other’s backgrounds and struggles, and received a glimpse of the lives of other driven students from all over the state,” she said to her classmates gathered under the sun on the school’s Watts Lawn. “We had three-hour conversations with teachers who truly care about our futures and provide compassionate advice. From the mountains in the west to the beaches in the east, our stories have converged and blossomed into a narrative that we should all be proud of.”
In his remarks to the graduates, NCSSM Chancellor Dr. Todd Roberts expressed greatest pride not in the impressive academic accomplishments of the students under his charge, but in the bonds they forged with one another in their time at NCSSM. “Whether you recognize it at this point or not, many of these experiences and friendships will be ones that you will carry with you and for years to come, with many only growing more meaningful over time.” Dr. Keith Gray ’90, from Snow Hill and now the Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of the University of Tennessee Medical Center -- Knoxville, delivered the commencement address. With new opportunities set to unfold before the graduates, Gray cautioned them against losing themselves in pursuit of academic and professional accomplishment, saying that if he were given the opportunity to relive his academic life, he would seek more balance and cultivate more friendships. “[NCSSM] taught me I could be as good as anybody else,” said Gray, who grew up cropping tobacco as a high schooler and credits NCSSM with propelling him to college and then medical school. “It taught me that I could run with the big dogs. Can I do it? Can I hold my own? It taught me that I could. It got more challenging as I went along, the stakes kept getting higher and higher and the competition kept getting stiffer, but I still was able to hold my own, and I attribute that to the confidence I gained at NCSSM.”
NCSSM’s graduates now look ahead. Come fall, they will head off to 81 different colleges and universities. Nearly 70 percent of those graduates will remain in North Carolina to begin their collegiate careers. It was the 38th graduating class of the Durham-based residential program.
Graduates from Cabarrus County were:
- Raymonde Elizabeth Council, Jay M. Robinson High School
- Jack Jiguo Fan, Hickory Ridge High School
- Annika Genevieve Foret, Discovery High School
- Rachita Gowdu, Cox Mill High School
- Joseph Yihyun Kim, Hickory Ridge High School
- Austin Thomas Krum, Hickory Ridge High School
- Aarushi Vishal Patil, Cox Mill High School
- Kennedy Lee Poppler, Hickory Ridge High School
- Seth Holland Thomas, Central Cabarrus High School
Graduates from Rowan County were:
- Tamia Sherece Brown, North Rowan High School
- Jorge Lopez-Nava, Jesse C. Carson High School
- Rachel Elizabeth Lopez, Heritage High School
- Jordan Marie Watts, Jesse C. Carson High School