Whiz Kids

BY Courtney Houston

New Hanover County supports four public and two early college high schools. This year we again challenge principals and guidance counselors to select one of their graduating seniors to honor as Wrightsville Beach Magazines Class of 2012 Whiz Kids.

Victoria Harvey
John T. Hoggard High School

From the age of 5 one thing has been on Victoria Harveys mind.

“I want to become a lawyer ” she says. “I am very passionate about becoming the best person I can be and also helping others and volunteering. I love being in the community and as an attorney I know that I will have to be involved because my clients will be from the community.”

A senior at Hoggard High School this future attorney references her home life as a motivating factor. With a mother and grandmother that have careers in education Harvey values the lessons shes been taught and will carry them with her as a freshman at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University.

“My mother has always instilled in me that education is first ” she says. “She and my father explain the importance of studying which will help me at the next level.”

Harvey listens to jazz and orchestral music to help her focus. She even composes songs to help remember her study notes. For her senior project she led a panel discussion with many local educators about the Afro-Perspective of African Americans in Americas schools.

When not studying its hard to keep up with Harvey. If shes not busy with Legacy Club Student Council National Technical Honors Society or National Beta Club shes likely to be involved in her church youth group playing the piano volunteering at a homeless shelter or volunteering for Meals on Wheels.

When she sets aside time for herself you can find Harvey in her room nose deep in a good book.

“I must say that I am a complete nerd ” she says. “I love to open a good old-fashioned book no Kindle no laptop just a hardback cover feeling the pages flip through my fingers. You learn so much from fictional books and thats what I do to relax.”

Stephen Cone
E. A. Laney High School

If youre already accepted to the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill as a Morehead Scholar during your senior year of high school it may be hard to focus on classwork. Yet Stephen Cone student body president at Laney High School has it under control.

Cone credits the schools atmosphere and teachers with making it easy to focus and learn.

“There are so many distractions in high school but I feel like we have teachers that can really get you motivated to do the work and make it enjoyable ” Cone says.

The environment at school and home go hand in hand. Like his teachers Cones parents instill the same hard-work ethic.

“My parents were polar opposites while I was growing up ” he says. “My mom made sure I got my work done and really made me who I am in the classroom while my dad made sure I still had a normal balanced fun life. Honestly I got the best of both worlds.”

With study habits that include wearing headphones without music to tune out background noise Cone notes AP biology as the subject he studies for the most although U.S. history is his favorite. For his senior project he conducted research at UNCWs aquaculture facility and developed a documentary film about the aquaculture process creating an aid to protect the environment by reducing commercial fishing impacts on wild fish.

Looking to study economics or marine science in college Cone is motivated by goal setting.

“You really have to picture yourself achieving your goal and that will definitely help you get there ” he says.

In addition to schoolwork Cone enjoys many extracurricular activities. Hes the assistant director of the Wilmington Junior Golf Academy an organization that teaches golf and life skills to underprivileged youth and is also a soccer player. Although he is in love with soccer Cones latest passion is fishing. Hes even interested in starting a fishing club on UNCs campus after he touches down in the fall.

Arianna Nasser
Isaac Bear Early College

I like building things designing things manipulating things but I also really like people.”

Parks Scholar and future engineer at North Carolina State University Arianna Nasser works hard to bundle everything she loves.

Nasser enjoys helping others. For two consecutive summers she spent a month working in Guatemala at a maternal clinic where she observed infrastructure challenges faced by other countries. Her thoughts are now occupied with electricity and other basic necessities.

“The idea that you can make a difference no matter what career youre in is amazing ” she says. “It really struck me that biomedical engineering is not just about designing really high-tech buildings but also about designing things that are most sustainable and friendly to the locations theyre in.”

Her solid determination is grounded in a long family history of overcoming adversity. Nassers grandmother was a bank teller in Afghanistan a major accomplishment in a society in which many women did not hold professional positions. Her father escaped from Afghanistan to come to America to earn a college degree and now owns business interests in Wilmington.

“I have the most amazing family in the world ” she says. “My parents are great about teaching my younger brother and me the importance of finances and being well-rounded individuals.”

These values also help Nasser in her schoolwork. Philosophy ethics and history are a few of her favorite courses. Active in Science Olympiad for which she created a hand-cranked helicopter she advances to the state final competition this year. She is a member of her schools yearbook staff and president of the National Honor Society chapter which allows her to participate in many community activities to help others including a food drive for Students Against Hunger.

“Im passionate about people meeting people the conversations you can share and the things that you can learn ” she says. “Whether its engaging in a conversation with a peer or a professor or someone you meet on the shuttle bus its really phenomenal what you can learn and gain from other people.”

Alex Johnson
New Hanover High School

Unlike many students Alex Johnsons favorite subject is physics.

“I really like science ” says the New Hanover High School senior. “Its pertinent to the real world and is just very interesting.”

While this love of science influenced the topic of Johnsons senior project Environmental Myths a study of combating stereotypes about recycling nuclear power and more its also helped him realize hed favor a career in engineering.

Deciding between North Carolina State and Georgia Tech Johnson understands that a positive outlook about his future goals will help his success.

“Im going to college very open minded ” he says. “There are a lot of different directions that I can take and having an open mind is best with all sorts of new experiences present.”

The positive inspiration at New Hanover and the influence of his family keeps Johnson in check.

“The learning environment at New Hanover is great as far as all students wanting to learn ” Johnson says. “My mom keeps me in line about my procrastination while my dad helps me be a well-rounded person through being a role model for helping others.”

Johnson tutors classmates at New Hanover volunteers with his father at the Wilmington Wheelchair Golf Association is president of the Math Club vice president of the National Honor Society chapter and member of the Spanish and Heritage clubs. But thats not all.

“I love sports. I play soccer tennis and basketball. I think it helps with schoolwork. While my off-field activities are motivation for on the field I think that the drive and hard work that I learn in sports are beneficial to my studies.”

Ping-pong is one sport in which Johnson excels.

“My ping-pong abilities are amazing! I am really good.”

Starr Laton
Wilmington Early College

When Starr Laton thinks of focus she thinks of music.

“I like listening to indie folk music; it helps to get me in the right mindset ” she says.

The senior at Wilmington Early College walks to the beat of her own drum in her academic and personal life taking a nontraditional outlook on typical schoolwork.

“I dont necessarily like to study ” she says. “I am a very visual learner and when taking notes I jot down key terms and remember what the teacher is doing which helps me to learn the information better. I retain things very well.”

A member of a National Guard youth program with basic training around the corner Laton can see herself taking many different paths in the future.

“Eventually I will attend school possibly the University of North Carolina UNC Greensboro or Pembroke. Im looking at several different options ” she says.

English is her favorite subject. Laton likes to write stories and poetry. One of her favorite pastimes is styling herself in the latest chic fashion hair and make-up trends.

“I enjoy being creative ” Laton says.

This helped influence her senior project on teen dating violence during which she researched domestic violence statistics contributing factors and possible preventative measures. She organized a clothing drive for teens and everything collected was donated to the Domestic Violence Shelter and Vintage Values thrift stores.

Laton credits her family and favorite teacher as motivation.

“My mother has never put too much stress on me and my grandmother has always been there for me. Shes such a strong woman. No matter what she goes through she keeps going ” Laton says. “Also my teacher Brooke Hazelwood has pushed me to do things that I did not know I was capable of academically.”

Latons goal wanting to be the first in her family to achieve academic success is what truly drives her.

“I want to set an example for family members after me. I want to break the generational cycle and complete college in order to succeed.”

John Hare-Grogg
Eugene Ashley High School

On the tennis court in the band room or leading a student government meeting Ashley High School senior John Hare-Groggs schedule doesnt interrupt his focus on the future.

With social studies and English as his favorite subjects Hare-Grogg is deciding between rival North Carolina schools for college in the fall Chapel Hill and Duke University where he sees himself studying environmental law and possibly public policy.

His high school study habits are sure to benefit his college workload.

“I like to isolate myself because I feel thats when I can concentrate best ” he says. “When I need extra help I like to have one-on-one time with teachers which I think is really important when offered to students as a resource.”

Involved in Ashleys Beta Club and his churchs youth group Hare-Grogg attributes his interpersonal growth to Youth Pastor Chris Eason.

“My dad is a pastor at Carolina Beach Presbyterian Church so I get to make a lot of different community connections ” he says.

Living in an environment thats conducive to his success Hare-Grogg says his family is a positive influence.

“Theyre very supporting and very encouraging. My little sister Clara has always been like my best friend so its really cool ” he adds.

His senior project which focused on aquatic pharmaceutical pollution offered the opportunity for those in Hare-Groggs community to dispose of expired unwanted medications through a drug take-back drive rather than flushing the medication which results in environmental degradation.

“I would love to have as impactful of a career as possible ” he says. “Its a sense of determination and the philosophy that my education is supposed to take me other places.”