08/08/04 — Sterling Tadlock wins Duke scholarship

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Sterling Tadlock wins Duke scholarship

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 8, 2004 2:14 AM

Faith and hard work have taken Sterling Tadlock to the threshold of his dreams.

For years, the teen-ager has known he wanted to go to Duke University and one day work in the field of medicine

This spring, he learned he was the recipient of a four-year scholarship to attend Duke in the fall. He starts Aug. 18.

Born and raised in Grantham as the only child of James and Rita Tadlock, he has long set his mind to doing his best at whatever he attempted.

At age 12, he joined the junior rescue squad, earning his EMT certificate his junior year of high school.

That introduced ignited his interest in medicine, he said.

Academically, he began laying the groundwork throughout his high school years at Southern Wayne.

He was the academic excellence award winner in math, social studies and English every year since ninth grade. He earned a Woodmen of the World award for the student with the highest academic average in advanced placement U.S. History, and last summer he attended Governor's School for natural science.

He also held leadership roles in such organizations as the Fellowship of Christian Students, Beta, Future Business Leaders of America, Student Government Association, National Honor Society and Science Club.

He is a study in contrasts, articulate but a typical teen.

Ranked number one in his graduating class this year, he chose to use a Britney Spears poster to illustrate his valedictorian address to his classmates.

He credits friends like James Vickory with keeping him grounded in the midst of his aspirations.

"He has helped me try not to grow up so fast and maintain that teenage status," he said. "My friends have helped me realize that I can do anything that I want to do and yet try not to take life so seriously."

Still, he can't shrug off the importance of all his efforts to reach this point.

"It's very meaningful," he said. "Hard work does pay off."

He said with each reward has come an increased sense of determination as he has moved closer to the college stage. But he never took it for granted he would have the means to accomplish it.

"I was worried that college was going to be a strenuous expense to my family," he said.

Those fears were allayed after he applied for a merit scholarship to Duke. He received a Benjamin N. Duke Scholarship, valued at $29,000 a year for four years. It covers tuition, but not books or room and board.

That's where other financial aid kicked in, from Coca-Cola, Target, Wal-Mart, Tri-County, ABWA, a Robert C. Byrd scholarship, an Emmett and Mary Robinson scholarship, and a rescue squad award.

Altogether, $160,000 in scholarship money to ensure Tadlock's education. His plans are to major in either biology or psychology.

"I never knew I'd financially benefit from studying the way that I have," he says now, "but it was a great relief to me and my parents."

The scholarship money also covers two summers abroad to study. Tadlock, who has not traveled very much, says he especially looks forward to that.

"I want to learn about other cultures, other beliefs, to get a sense of humanity," he said. "I want to be open and form those ideals, be convicted about things."

In the meantime, getting ready for the transition from Grantham to Durham is a big enough move.

"I don't like the thought of the relationships formed in high school being weakened," he says of leaving behind friends and family. "But I can't wait for the academic change, the social change.

"I know when I step out on the campus, my life will never be the same."

He says he looks forward to growth and change, but admits he has been on sensory overload lately with all the new directions his life is taking.

"I try to stay grounded and down to earth," he said. "I try to have goals in mind but I try to live here and now."

He embarks on the beginning of his future with more than financial aid. He also carries a a wealth of gratitude.

"Southern Wayne has just been an awesome school," he said. "It's provided the academic basis, all the educational opportunities, extra-curricular things. I wouldn't have been able to be here, to be going to Duke, without that."

He credits his parents and his grandmother, Janet Williamson, with their love and support. And he can't forget his spiritual leaders.

At Falling Creek Baptist Church, where he has served as student youth leader and been on mission trips, he calls pastor Ron Varner "an awesome man," and says of youth leaders Joey and Debbie Robinson, "I'd not be spiritually defined without them."

He cannot know what the future holds. If things go well, he would like to have his own practice, start a family and once he is financially stable, do something with missions.

He does, however, know Who holds his future.

"With my faith in God, I knew He would take care of me," he said. "I just had that trust in Him that it was going to pay off."