05/30/04 — Graduation -- Striving to be Number One

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Graduation -- Striving to be Number One

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 30, 2004 9:16 AM

When Marsha McCoy learned that she ranked third in her junior class, she set her sights on making it to the top spot when she finished high school.

She shared her goal with students at Dillard Middle School when she spoke at their graduation last year. This spring, she was named salutatorian, the No. 2 position in a class of 103 graduates at Spring Creek High School.

"I'm not sad that I made number two," she said. "I got a full ride to Campbell University."

The 18-year-old was referring to the four-year scholarship she will use to study pre-dental and Spanish in the fall. Eventually, though, she says her goal is to enter the ministry full-time.

Her parents lead Second Birth Ministries in Goldsboro, and Marsha has also become a minister.

Marvin and Sandra McCoy each completed 18 years in the Army before settling in Wayne County when Marsha was in the fourth grade. Marvin had been a pastor, and Marsha says she felt the call to enter the ministry in 2001.

"Being a Christian is the most important thing I do," she said. "That prompts a lot of actions that I take."

She preaches at the church on the third Sunday of each month, teaches a Bible study, works with the youth, and frequently appears on "Gospel Perspectives," broadcast on the Christian cable channel.

She has been a prosecuting attorney for the Teen Court program, tutored middle school students and volunteered for Helping Hands Missions in Mount Olive, which is similar to the Meals on Wheels program. She has done all of this while taking advanced honors courses and serving as president of the National Honor Society and vice president of the Student Council.

In all she does, though, she says it is important to stay balanced.

For her, that comes down to her passion for young people. She says she hopes to provide inspiration, motivation and information for her generation and recognizes the importance of being a mentor and being an example.

"A whole lot of people need support," she said. "They need people they can look up to."

The self-described "40-year-old in an 18-year-old's body" says she always does the best she can and has her own inner motivation. Much credit is given to her parents, with whom she says she has a good relationship.

"I came up in a middle-class military family," she said, which includes her 14-year-old sister, Marcia. "My parents instilled a whole lot of values."

She did her senior paper on "The Power of a Double Minority," prompted by the fact that the school had been predominantly white when it first started. "Now it's one-third white, one-third black, one-third Hispanic," she said.

She said one of the underlying reasons she had pushed so hard to be "Number One" was because she wanted to make history. And she did.

"I got to know without a shadow of a doubt that I was a top-ranking African-American woman in my school," she said.